Chemical [se]X 2: Just One More
Passion Works Press, 2019
Which is better: sex, or chocolate?
You know that’s a trick question, right? Because why should you ever have to choose? For one thing, everyone knows that sex and chocolate go together like Laurel and Hardy – peanut butter and jelly – Batman and Robin – hamburgers and fries – love and marriage – okay, scratch that one! Certainly, erotic stories featuring chocolate aren’t exactly new. The sensual decadence of good chocolate almost naturally suggests other varieties of pleasure. Consuming chocolate can be used as a kind of foreplay, one form of indulgence leading to another.
But what if chocolate actually had aphrodisiac properties? A secret ingredient that reliably kindled irresistible lust? This is the unifying premise of Chemical [se]X 2: Just One More, a new erotica anthology edited by Oleander Plume, Dr. J. and Mischa Eliot, and published by Passion Works Press. Each of the thirteen authors represented in this delicious collection starts with this basic assumption – aphrodisiac chocolates that actually work – and explores the repercussions.
You might think this common plot element would lead to a sameness among the stories. On the contrary, the tales in Chemical [se]X 2 present a wide range of voices, situations and especially, sexual orientations. In “Beast”, Angora Shade creates an uptight, perfectionist heroine whose careful plans for an outdoor seduction disintegrate in the face of pure, literal, animal passion. In Sally Bend’s “Vanilla Frosting”, a dominant male uses the aphrodisiac sweets to pry his shy twink roommate out of the closet and into his bed. Ria Restrepo’s protagonist gets stuck in an elevator in “Elevator Confidential”, with the much older man she’s desired for decades – plus a convenient supply of the wickedly lust-inducing chocolates. F. Leanora Sullivan uses a company wine and cheese – and chocolate – event to break through the barriers between a career woman and her annoying co-worker in “Team Building”. Dr. J and Mischa Eliot pen tales of sizzling lesbian lust in “My Blu Valentine” and “Because She Hates Me”. I particularly enjoyed the characters in the latter story, a butch biker chick and her trouble-prone femme housemate, each of whom believes she’s hated by the other. Oleander Plume gives us a gorgeous homoerotic encounter between a famous black athlete and his skillful Hispanic tailor in “Well-Suited”. There are indeed times when being dressed is sexier than being naked.
While in many cases the notorious chocolates lubricate (so to speak) relationships between acquaintances, in some stories they bring strangers together. “For the Record” by Kristi Hancock is an example. The company responsible for the aphrodisiac chocolates (“Acme”, just like in the Road Runner/Coyote cartoons!) is testing their efficacy. A woman who volunteers finds herself nearly out of her mind with sexual need, so much so that she picks up the first guy she meets. However, her zipless fuck partner has his own secrets. Rachel Woe’s “Making Waves” gives us a warm-hearted but transient encounter between a middle-aged, overworked hotel housekeeper and a barely-twenty rich kid, a brief connection that nevertheless changes them both.
“Come Away with the Sweet Fairies” by Jayne Renault and “Season’s Change” by Delilah Night are two of the most unusual tales in the collection. The latter is a lusty revisit to the myth of Persephone. The former is set at an outdoor midsummer festival called Kablamfest, reminiscent of Woodstock or Burning Man, where sexual fluidity and magic reign. It brought me back to the days of my youth, before AIDS or terrorism or global warning, when sex was pure joy no matter who happened to be your partner.
I haven’t mentioned every story; I want to leave some for you to discover on your own. Overall, this is a fun collection that manages to transcend what might seem a rather narrow theme to provide a delightful diversity of characters, perspectives and orientations. Every story is well-written, and the editing is superb. The manuscript I read was labeled as an uncorrected proof, but it was much cleaner than many published books I read. In the entire 144 pages, I noticed only one minor typographic error. And as an editor myself, I would notice mistakes if they were there.
Unfortunately, I happen to be allergic to chocolate. (Really!) This anthology gave me a vivid sense of what I’m missing!