Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance
Edited by Mitzi Szereto

Cleis Press 2011

"Once glimpsed, one cannot turn away and in that we have the essence of all that is human- the truth of all that is horrible beneath the sublime..."

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

"Paranormal romance" is now a popular horror subgenre with a devoted circle of fans. To make love to a vampire, a werewolf or even a zombie (not to mention demons and alien creatures)seems to be a fashionable sin.

In addition, if you push hard on the button of eroticism, you get "paranormal erotic romance" as the present anthology promises. But, when all is said and done, regardless of one’s personal taste in terms of relationships and of literary labels, what really counts is the quality of fiction.

I’ve approached this book with an open mind, looking, quite simply, for some good stories. And I’m happy to say that, in spite of some tale in poor taste and some other of poor quality, there is a fair amount of good material included therein.

Snowlight, Moonlight by Rose de Fer is a well crafted werewolf story imbued with a strong sense of eroticism and masochism, while Cover Him With Darkness by Janine Ashbless is a solid, compelling piece where a mysterious creature chained to the rocks under a church, becomes the erotic obsession of a young girl.

Evan Mora contributes The Persistence of Memory, the vivid portrait of an impossible love story between a vampire and a young girl, physically attracted by each other beyond the limits of their different natures.

Claire Buckingam’s Tea for Two is a passionate tale of paranormal romance in which the ghost of a woman manages to keep company to her affectionate husband.

In The Queen Tahira Iqbal brings to the extreme the obvious link between erotic ecstasy and vampire bites, while in Dolly Charlotte Stein describes the ardent affair between a woman and the doll she made.

The best, however, is yet to come.

Elizabeth Daniels provides A Rose in the Willow Garden, an enticing mix of eroticism and lyricism served with a touch of paranormal.
"You understand what it is like, don’t you?" she asked. "To love someone so much you want to possess their very breath?”"

He thought of the women he had cherished into their deaths. "That’s it." he said "That’s it, exactly."

Pained by Anna Meadows is an excellent story about the portrait of a fascinating, alluring woman more lively than what expected.
She was unlike the other portraits in the Lawrence house… Once he’d reviewed every curve and color, he tore his gaze from the fallow shade of her skin and the folds of her dress. He shouldn’t spend the night staring at her.
In the vividly decadent Bitter and Intoxicating by Sharon Bidwell, art is nourished by extreme eroticism:
She’d removed her cloak, revealing a luscious body barely concealed in a green diaphanous gown. Beneath the filmy layers of her dress her body undulated.
My favourite story is the enticing Milady’s Bath by Giselle Renarde, a great piece of exquisite eroticism where a maid sharing her mistress’ bed has to suffer the recurring love meetings of the lady with a werewolf.

No sense asking me why she does it. Why scamper out the window every time the moon is full? Why flee the comforts of a warm feather bed, knowing she’ll return with her gown tattered and her flesh torn to shreds?

Like I said, I’m not the one to ask.
In short, if you’re not too prude and if you appreciate good fiction, I’m sure you will enjoy this book.

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy. Most likely the only Italian who regularly reads (and reviews) dark fiction in English, his book reviews have appeared in a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, The SF Site, The Agony Column and Horrorworld.

Mario's other Short Reviews: Simon Stranzas "Cold to the Touch"

Cern Zoo anthology

Deborah Biancotti "A Book of Endings"

Joseph Payne Brennan "The Feaster from Afar and Other Ghastly Inhabitants"

Paulo Bacigalupi "Pump Six and Other Stories"

"Null Immortalis anthology"

Steve Redwood "Broken Symmetries"

Rosalie Parker "Old Knowledge and Other Strange Tales"

Michael Kelly "Undertow and Other Laments"

Gwen Davies (ed) "Sing Sorrow Sorrow"

Alice Perrin "East of Suez"

Bite-Sized Horror

Robert Aickman "Cold Hand In Mine"

Nicholas Royle "Best British Short Stories 2011"
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Authors Rose de Fer, Janine Ashbless, Elizabeth Daniels, Mitzi Szereto, Anna Meadows, Charlotte Stein, Zander Vyne, Evan Mora, Ashley Lister, Sharon Bidwell, Claire Buckingham, Giselle Renarde, Carrie Williams, Tahira Iqbal, and Bonnie Dee.

Mitzi Szereto is a prolific author and anthology editor of erotic fiction, whose previous books include, just to mention a few, Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts; In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales; Dying for It: Tales of Sex and Death as well as a number of Erotic Travel Tales anthologies. She has her own Web TV channel, Mitzi TV. Originally from the USA, she lives in Greater London.