Friday, April 03, 2015

Booknote: Darker Edge of Desire

Mitzi Szereto, ed., Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance. Berkeley, CA: Tempted Romance, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-940550-00-8

Genre: Fiction, short fiction
Subgenre: erotic romance, Gothic fiction, horror (light).
Format: Trade paperback
Source: Provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This is a collection of tales of the sensual and forbidden in the Gothic tradition. Many of the tales have a strong supernatural element; others simply have that dark feel that really does not need something supernatural to draw you into the shadows. Some of the tales may be a bit horrifying, and others can be bittersweet and even moving.

Kate Douglas' Foreword sets up the anthology. It reminds us of the appeal of darkness and how darkness can be seen as the counterbalance of light. In a tale, as in life, things can often go one way or another depending on how far you lean to one side or the other. In love and desire this is so, and things can often be twisted in dark ways even with good intentions. And yet, darkness can be alluring, and we just have to step into the darkness. Douglas is author of the Wolf Tales series. I did find it an amusing twist that Douglas, who writes about the supernatural and werewolves, is, as she states, "not by nature a fan of the Gothic tale or the truly dark story" (ix). See? The Gothic tales do draw just about anyone in. So will you accept the invitation to surrender to the darkness as well?

From there, you get a solid collection of tales to read and enjoy. These are tales to sit back, dim the lights, make your favorite beverage (hot, cold, a little stronger perhaps), and the let the authors take you into darkness. This is a perfect anthology to read in bed late at night. The strength of the anthology is how well it captures the essence of a good Gothic tale with a good bit of erotic romance. The tales are well written, and they display good attention to detail and feel. Readers who like their romance with a very dark edge will enjoy this one. If you enjoyed writers like Sheridan Le Fanu, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, and some Joyce Carol Oates even, this is an anthology for you. If you also like your erotica on the dark side as well, and you like it literary, pick this one up.

For libraries, if they already collect romance literature and paranormal fiction, this would make a very good addition. It is erotic romance; there is sex (though not as much as in a work more in the erotica tradition), so it is not for the cozy or innocent (i.e. those who prefer no sex) romance readers. Overall, I think most romance readers who like dark, haunted, and/or gothic tales will like this. I would add that you do not have to be a formal romance reader to enjoy this one. If you like dark gothic tales overall, then this is a good choice. In the end, the book has a broad appeal. Like more anthologies, some stories are better than others, but overall the majority of stories were great, satisfying, and a little unsettling. The editor definitely has a good eye, and she made some very good selections here. I certainly recommend this one.

Mitzi Szereto also edited the anthology Red Velvet and Absinthe, so readers who enjoy this one may want to seek that one out as well. 

I am giving it the full 5 out of 5 stars.

Some of the stories that I liked or stayed with me:

  • "Sister Bessie's Boys" was a favorite tale for me. It is the tale of a southern widow who runs a boarding house for students of a Baptist seminary. This is a coming of age tale with a sensual gothic sensibility. Yes, it is a tale of the older woman teaching the young man the ways of pleasure, but it is also a moving tale with a bittersweet ending.
  • Adrian Ludens' narrator in "Reynolds's Tale" has a meeting with a famous Baltimore writer. The narrator is also burdened by secrets he keeps, including one that can drive others mad. A mysterious narrator, the setting, the secrets, they all add to tale with a strong gothic essence. 
  • Mitzi Szereto, the editor, contributes "The Dracula Club" to this fine collection. A young woman, a goth girl, leaves her small Ohio town to travel to Transylvania in search of the real Dracula culture. Two local young men take it upon themselves to show her the real Transylvania and delights she just may not be able to resist. This story has a great setting, and it provides just enough of an unsettling feeling to make you wonder. 
On a final note, the publisher, Tempted Romance, is a new imprint of Cleis Press dedicated to erotic romance. If this anthology is any indication, readers of erotic romance will want to keep an eye on what they put out down the road. 

If you wish to buy the book, you can visit the publisher: Tempted Romance (imprint of Cleis Press).
If you wish to find it in a library near you, you can use WorldCat

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The book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

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