I reviewed this book which was provided for free by the publisher. However, I do not receive any compensation for reviews. All book reviews are My personal and subjective opinion.
Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 4 by Rachel Kramer Bussel is an anthology, and like any compilation meant to have something for everyone, there will inevitably be parts that may not appeal to you. I do not "yuck anyone's yum" so I won't say which stories I didn't enjoy. Bussel included a wide range topics from tickling to clowns, non-human, gangbangs, Daddy Dom/Little Girl (DDlg), and even an Amish love scene.
One thing that I've really appreciated in the books I've read from Cleis Press is how encompassing they are, going well beyond the cis-het demographic including different kinds of loves as well as gender identifications. In fact, Bussel stipulates in her requirements for submitting to the anthology that it is ONLY open to authors who are women, gender nonconforming, genderqueer and/or nonbinary. I feel these requirements definitely leads to stories that are more approachable and inclusive than the typical off-the-shelf "romance novels".
Overall theme of the book is "The sexual allure of outsiders who take risks". It was interesting reading erotica with the same theme and seeing the different forms that it took. The writing in each entry was solid; at times I was lost in the reading and forgetting there was a theme, had to go back and find it in the story.
Best Women's Erotica started strong with "Take the Shot" by Mica Kennedy. A story about an amature model posing with a forbidden love in a photoshoot with a fantasy theme with BDSM overtones was a wonderful transition for me from my previous reading, Legends of Lust. From there, we attend a voyeuristic scene in "The Dressing Room" by Alessandra Torre with a deliciously naughty twist at the end. This led directly into possibly my favorite story in the whole book, "Mark" by Rosie Beth Randall.
I really appreciated "Mark" and how it showed how therapeutic and transformative BDSM can be. The healing aspects of BDSM are not often talked about and seems to be a difficult concept to understand for most individuals who are not in the scene. Having this included and so strongly portrayed was deeply meaningful for me. Randall includes so much in such a relatively short writing, I was amazed at her skills at character development and storytelling. The story was hot, yet included nuggets of flashback throughout, so the reader could experience the transformation with her characters. I will definitely be on the lookout for more by this author. From the About the Authors section, "Rosie Beth Randall is a debut author from Southern California. "Mark" is her first attempt at erotic short story writing. She is currently crafting her third novel."
I consider my local club to be like a second home, and as such I enjoyed "Belonging" by Tamsen Parker. Parker describes her character's first visit to a BDSM club, which hopefully makes these clubs seem approachable, welcoming, and will embolden readers to visit their local establishment. In "Belonging" we experience pickup play ending a sensual spanking scene. For non-spanking enthusiasts, Parker's writing may change your opinion about impact play.
You can buy a copy of Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 4 here.
For those of you who are aspiring authors, if you'd like to contribute to a future edition of Best Women's Erotica of the Year, you can learn more about how to do so here.
About the Editor
Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) is a writer, editor, event organizer and erotica writing instructor. She's edited over 60 anthologies, including The Big Book of Orgasms; Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica; Dirty Dates; On Fire; Spanked; Please, Sir; Please, Ma'am; and is Best Women's Erotica of the Year series editor. Her nonfiction has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Marie Claire, O, The Oprah Magazine, Elle.com, Salon, Slate, Time.com, The Village Voice and numerous other publications. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and learn more about her writing workshops and consulting at EroticaWriting101.com.