I didn’t entirely consider that I would be writing a review of erotica for the Cannonball Read audience when I requested Rachel Kramer Bussel’s Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 6 from NetGalley. I just thought about how much I wanted to read it. I got a copy of this arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I don’t generally review erotica because to do so in a meaningful way would get rather more revelatory than I usually do. With an anthology though, I can maintain a little more distance.
Rachel Kramer Bussel is a very good editor. Every one of the stories in the anthology is well done, even the ones I didn’t like. I would say of the 20 stories in the anthology there were a few I loved, most that were well done but didn’t stick with me, and a couple that made me say, “next, please.” None of them made me wonder why they were there. The theme for this anthology was adventure and each of the stories explored that in different ways.
Three of the stories I particularly liked were about women reclaiming themselves. In Mia Hopkin’s “The Eighth Wonder of the World,” a newly divorced single mother goes on vacation with her sister and her child to a Disney-esque park. After mutually eye fucking a tour boat guide, she steals some time to be alone. The encounter she has with the tour guide isn’t at about an emotional connection and there’s no sense that there will be any pining in the future. It’s about physical desire and autonomy. It’s the flourish at the top of the page to show she’s starting a new chapter.
Tysha, in Katrina Jackson’s “Easy Ride” is coming off a messy divorce. Her ex-husband made her feel like she had to be smaller to fit into his life. Now free and in a new city with a new job, she goes looking for adventure at a motorcycle club bar. The ending here is more ambiguous about what her ride means. Whatever happens in the future, Tysha won’t diminish herself again.
Olivia Waite’s “Cabinet of Curiosities” is both a breaking away from being made small and a start to a romantic relationship. Two widows explore toys when one refuses to be the tool of her controlling brother. Phoebe and Harriet find sexual freedom with each other, a thing not easily granted to women (not even today).
Whether these women are having sex with a stranger, a friend, a lover, or a spouse, they are taking a risk and exploring beyond their usual boundaries.
The Best Women’s Erotica series is a great source for finding new authors. I’ve read a couple of the collections and trust Rachel Kramer Bussel to pick good stories. Even if i don’t like one of the stories, I can see why it was chosen.