Last week I had the pleasure of reading Seductress: Erotic Tales of Immortal Desire, a Cleis Press anthology of tales of that most erotic of mythological creatures, the succubus. I'm not unfamiliar with the lore of the daughter of Lilith who seduces men (and sometimes women) in their sleep, stealing their essence through pleasure. In fact, I already have a favorite succubus book: Hell's Belles by Jackie Kessler (and its sequel The Road to Hell - I have yet to read the third book, Hotter Than Hell, about Daun the incubus). It's fun to get a new book on a topic I already enjoy. Wherever folklore and erotica meet, there you will find me.
Honestly, I loved just about every story in this collection, and even the ones I didn't love, I liked. I really love a "bad girl," a lady of the night with claws and fangs (literally, in some cases) who might seduce her lover into the illusion that he's in control, but dominates him stealthily, or the vixen who takes control outright. Her lover might be a momentary amusement, a means to an end or her truest love, but there's always an edge of danger to her affections. It's not that I don't love an alpha male, but sometimes femdom is exquisitely satisfying.
The anthology begins on a high note; Aurelia T. Evans' "Harvest" is scorching hot. It's your classic "boy summons succubus into a pentagram drawn on his bedroom floor" tale, expertly told. "In the Service of Hell" by Michael M. Jones is the anthology's first "succubus meets girl" tale, and it has a nice twisty ending. I enjoyed the setup of Kannan Feng's "Before a Fall:" a spirit of lust vs. a spirit of pride.
I was highly looking forward to "Star-Crossed" by Canadian author Evan Mora, because she really impressed me with "Real Boy" in the Cleis Press anthology Lustfully Ever After. I wasn't disappointed. "Star-Crossed" turns Romeo into a vampire and Juliet, through a last-minute deal with the devil, into a succubus. The result is much sexier (and surprisingly romantic) than Shakespeare's "everybody dies" ending. (No offense, Will.) It was like a more adult take on Juliet Immortal.
Jay Lawrence's "Deliverance" has a nicely haunted, old-fashioned feeling to it, like a really good ghost story with an erotic twist. Anya Richards' "Minions Have Needs Too" is one of those power-play stories I enjoy so very much. Nan Andrews' "Sweet Tooth" features some nice food/sex writing that would've worked well in Hunger. It's basically about an enchanted recipe box, in a really fun and sensual way. Giselle Renarde, whose food/sex writing does appear in Hunger, contributed "Neither Love Nor Money," a guide to how to care for your succubus when she cares for you too much to suck out your essence and her health suffers as a result.
NJ Streitberger's "The Girl on the Egyptian Escalator" has an interesting perspective, in that the succubus is a manifestation of one of my favorite goddesses of destruction, ancient Egypt's lion-headed Sekhmet.
Everything that comes afterward is pretty good stuff, too. Really, there is no bad story in this anthology.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review, which represents my own honest opinion. I did not receive any other compensation.