Red Velvet and Absinthe - book by Cleis Press Inc. - review by hybridinsurge

Gothic-inspired Erotica with a New Age Twist

Red Velvet and Absinthe is great for fans of heterosexual erotica and romance. Edited by experienced author and editor Mitzi Szereto, this collection includes fifteen erotic short stories describing mainly vanilla, heterosexual sex. Unfortunately, the lovers in this anthology are not as varied as they could be. About half of the stories are about vampires or werewolves. I still really enjoyed this sexy bunch of stories.
Varied styles and content
Mainly heterosexual relationships
Fairly vanilla sex
Rating by reviewer:
extremely useful review

About author

This anthology was edited by Mitzi Szereto, author, blogger and Internet television show producer. She has also edited several anthologies of erotic short stories including Wicked: Sexy Tales of Legendary Lovers, In Sleeping Beauty's Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales and The New Black Lace Book of Women's Sexual Fantasies.

Several European and American authors contributed to this collection, and the majority of them have other published erotic works. One of the contributors is New York Times Bestselling Author Kelley Armstrong, who wrote the Women of the Otherworld series.
    • Multiple contributoring authors

Content / Style / Audience

The foreword and introduction to the book explained the history of Gothic literature well.

Overall, I found the sex scenes very effective. The sex was vanilla, for the most part, with the occasional roughness or hungry vampire thrown in. Although, "Bitter and Intoxicating" surprised me with a female character using a dildo to penetrate a man. It has been a while since I read a piece of erotica dealing with anal penetration, let alone anal penetration of a man.

The stories had enough plot and character development to make me feel like I was reading a well-written, well thought out story and not a teenager's wet dream. I did not notice any typos or errors with the grammar or spelling. There were more stories with the standard supernatural scaries than I liked, but there were some more unique lovers. Aside from vampires, werewolves and ghosts, there was a fallen angel, a not fallen angel, a golem, the spirit of a painting, and Death itself. Death is, obviously, the sexiest lover in the book.

This book deals mainly with heterosexual relationships. One story involves lesbian erotica directly (Milady's Bath) and another alludes to a lesbian relationship (The Persistence of Memory). All the other stories are about straight couples. If you are looking for homosexual erotica, you should definitely try a different book.

This book is also not for those looking for hardcore BDSM. A couple of the stories have a little bit of this kind of thing, but not much. "Snowlight, Moonlight" has some Master/werewolf action, and it hints at pain or blood play during sex. The female protagonist of "Cover Him with Darkness" likes a man who is tied up.
    • Erotica
    • Fiction
    • Hetero


The cover art of the book is pretty and mysterious, which fits with the overall feel of the book. The cover does not scream sex book, so you can get away with reading this in public around unobservant people. The book itself is a paperback and lightweight.
    • Discreet cover
    • Small size
    • Soft cover


Just a warning, the next sections includes extremely brief summaries of the short stories in the anthology. If you are opposed to any type of spoilers, do not read on.

I enjoyed about half of the stories in the book enough that I will be sharing them with my lover. In "The Queen," a vampire queen turns her bodyguard in order to avenge her dead lovers. In "Benediction" an angel rescues a man from Hell. "Snowlight, Moonlight" is about a mad scientist and his pet naked, sexy werewolf chick. In "La Belle Mort," a woman set to be hanged falls in love with Death. In "Scratched," an arguing couple suspect they have become werewolves and then make up. "Cover Him with Darkness" is about a young woman who cares for, and eventually lusts after, a fallen angel her family is sworn to keep imprisoned. In "A Rose In the Willow Garden," a serial killer gets his comeuppance thanks to a lonely ghost.

"Blood Moon Kiss" uses the reincarnated lover plotline, which drives me nuts. The main characters also have sex on the grave of the male protagonist's dead wife! This is not made magically okay because the woman he was having sex with is the reincarnation of said wife. For these and other reasons, this story was my least favorite of the bunch.

I had no strong feelings about the remaining short stories in the collection. In "Painted," a young man is seduced by a woman in a painting. "Dolly" is about a woman who becomes the lover of a man she made of coal and straw. "The Persistence of Memory" deals with a vampire who keeps erasing a human woman's memory after sleeping with her. In "Bitter and Intoxicating," a mysterious woman seduces and inspires a young painter. In "Tea for Two," a husband and wife deal with the aftermath of the wife's death. "Milady's Bath" is about a noblewoman's maidservant caring for her mistress after she has been with a werewolf. "The Way Home" details the relationship between a drifter and her distant lover.
Follow-up commentary
Honestly, I found some of these stories a little too stiff or a little too creepy the first time around. As I've read it again, I am enjoying more of the stories. I stand by my initial rating.
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  • mandaj
    great review!!!!! thanks
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    Great review!
  • limitless
    Thanks for the great review!
  • ellieprobable
    Sounds pretty good. Thanks!
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    Thank you!
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