Review: Agony/Ecstasy Anthology
December 6, 2011
Reviewed by Mandi
The Agony/Ecstasy anthology is made up of “11 stories of agonizing pleasure and 10 stories of exquisite pain.” I was hesitant to read this, because I’m not huge on anthologies to begin with and I thought 21 very short stories would not be for me. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed them. Many are edgy and all are erotic. I decided to give my brief thoughts on each one.
On the Agony side:
Transfixed/Transformed by Anne Calhoun – One of the main reasons I picked up this anthology is because I wanted to read a story by Anne Calhoun (Liberating Lacey is a favorite of mine!). And she is the one author that has a story on both the Agony side and Ecstasy side. Her story features a dominatrix and a former marine who submits himself. In this story she dresses in a 1950’s housewife fashion, and whips him. It’s really, really well done. I could have read 350 pages about these two.
The Sybil by Jean Johnson – A warrior, emperor type story. Didn’t like this one, skipped most of it.
Caged by J.K Coi – A woman meets a man who has been transformed into a werewolf to fight him to learn to be a better agent. Their fighting leads to a very intense sexual encounter. The ending is very abrupt…but I liked it. Very dark.
Each Step Sublime by Bettie Sharpe – DNF this one.
Safeword by Delphine Dryden – Best friends to lovers story, or should I say, a best friends to “paddle my ass as my lover” story. It’s cute, a little more on the lighter side.
Stitch and Bitch by A.L. Simonds – A F/F romance that involves naughty nipple play with knitting needles. This one was just okay for me.
Bachelorette Party by Jessica Clare – A woman wants to be whipped before settling down, and is running out of time with her approaching wedding. Her BFF sets it up for her. This one is a little more on the lighter side as well. I liked how it played out.
Wicked Wedding Night by Margaret Rowe – Set in 1815, Viscount Lucien Ransford had a woman sleepwalk (or so she says) into his bed one night and two nights later finds himself married to her. Having spent time in a French prison, his needs have become quite….special. He needs to be the master, or else stimulation eludes him. His wedding night starts by tying up his bride – much to her horror. The heroine is “short, plump, her dull brown hair frizzed in damp weather, and she read books.” And it is a very good story – intense and dark. Loved it and my favorite of the book.
Shameless by Edie Harris – A woman attends a play with her once fiancé, who now just uses her as a mistress. Miserable in her position, she catches the eye of the man who choreographs the fight scenes in the play. She meets him backstage and she finds out he gets off on being hit by women. And she is a very angry woman. There is hitting and then smexy times. It is dark, but I didn’t connect as well with this one as some of the others.
Taken by Rebecca Lange – Hiro’s clan has brought him a woman to replace his wife that he lost in a raid the previous winter. He has bound her, more to protect her until she can trust him. Myriam wants to escape, not realizing she would be running into danger. Not speaking the same language, these two learn each other through touch and he tries to show her through physical pleasure that she can trust him. This one a little slow for me.
Wetwire by Sunny Moraine – Finding sexual play while jacked into a console. Skipped most of this one.
On the Ecstasy side:
Transformed by Anne Calhoun – See above.
Rescue Me by Meljean Brook – Jenny ends up kidnapped by a high school science teacher, who also has been murdering brunettes. He ties her up and leaves her to go someplace. Jenny knows she must escape. She had been on the phone with her friend, and detective Ian, when she was abducted…so he knows she is in trouble, but doesn’t know any details. Bound to a chair, she pretends he is there with her, doing sexy things to her, as she desperately tries to escape the cabin she is in before her abductor comes back. This one is really good. Very creepy and I love how Jenny imagines Ian there and their sexual play, but what she is really doing is trying to escape. Very unique.
The Wooden Pony by Shoshanna Evers – A former cutter, Natalie reaches out online to find someone who can inflict pain on her…in a more pleasurable way. She meets Eric and after an long online chat, they meet in person the next night. He takes her back her his place for a whipping and other fun games. There wasn’t a lot of meat to this one. It didn’t feel as emotional as some of the other stories.
Kiss of Life by Lily Daniels – This one has a lot going on for such a short story. A survivor of the Titanic disaster, Theodora is just married, yet there is another man who Theodora and Hugh must deal with before they can be happy. I liked the setting in this one, but I never felt much love for Hugh. They all come across kind of cold.
Silverhouse by Sarabeth Scott – This story is just a glimpse at a night with Christoph and Clara…where Christoph is punishing Clara for acting out against him. And although it is just a sex scene – it is so good. So dirty, and the punishment and submission works really well in this one.
Bruised Ego by Christine d’Abo – On the advice of a friend, Lee goes to see a “therapist,” but this therapist isn’t they type he was thinking of. She is a professional dom. He realizes she satisfies this deep seeded need in him. Pretty straight story of a man being taken apart, to be put back together again. I liked it.
On My Skin by DL Galace – Marnie has turned to drinking and not taking care of herself after her divorce. What she really wants is a tattoo, and often finds herself loitering around the shop, but never having the nerve to do it. Until one night the tattoo artist, Michael, won’t take no for an answer. Marnie needs that pain from the needle, as it brings her back to life. This one doesn’t have explicit sex in it, but it still is sexy and plays off the pain aspect.
Just Say Yes by HelenKay Dimon – This one is a naughty story about a boss and her assistant. They’ve started a dirty affair, but Allie knows she can’t continue to sleep with her employee. But he won’t take no for an answer. Super sexy and fun story.
Into the Red by Cameron Belle – I didn’t like this one. Skipped most of it.
Overtaken by Sara Thorn – Liz and John have been broken up for three months and Liz doesn’t understand why. Meeting with him after one of his fights, she presses him to tell her why they broke up. John wants things from her – pain when it comes to sex and can’t communicate to her what it is he wants. But Liz refuses to go away until he tells her what it really is he wants out of their sex. This one was just okay for me.
As I said in the beginning, although there were a few that didn’t work for me, I still enjoyed the time I spent reading this. It also introduced me to some new authors that I now want to try longer books from. Because they are short stories (about 20 pages each) there is not necessarily HEA happiness. Sometimes there is, sometimes it is just a brief glimpse into a sexual encounter. Overall, a nice collection of erotic stories.
I wanted to buy this book just because of Meljean Brook’s story (yep, I’m such a crazy fan-girl that I will pay $10 just to read a 20 page short story, but I’m this way just with this author, I promise) and because of Anne Calhoun since I loved Liberating Lacey (great, right?) and Versed in Desire, I wish she wrote more full-length novels.
I’m not a huge fan of BDSM and I’m not so crazy about short stories, but it sounds like I might enjoy it after all… As I said, I’m buying it regardless of the rest of the stories so I might as well read them all!
Meljean’s story is awesome.
They are not all heavy bdsm..there are def some lighter ones in there..so I think you will be good.
I reallllly wish Anne Calhoun wrote more full-length books. I’m waiting:)
Lots of stories, but, oh, do not think it is for me
No? Prob not for all :)
While I got through more stories than you did, I think I went into the anthology with higher expectations. A lot of the BDSM stories didn’t work for me. :( But there were a few stories that really were wonderful!
Looking over my notes…I dnf’d more than I realized..but I also walked away very satisfied..if that makes sense…
I just finally read Liberating Lacey last night (OHMY) and would be willing to buy this book just for something else by her! But a few other of your reviews make it sound interesting too.
Yay for LL! A favorite of mine!
Well one things for sure…this cover gives me ANYTHING but “Agony”!!
Lucy V Morgan says
I keep seeing this lovely torso cover art everywhere…I think I’m going to cave. I love BDSM but am very picky about how it is presented.
I can’t see me reading a story about a Marine who wants to be whipped… Or really most of these, actually. I guess I’m a little too vanilla these days. :/ but the Meljean story looks really good and I’m tempted to buy the book for that story, alone!