Sweetest Kiss - book by Cleis Press Inc. - review by Jenny Swallows

Sweetest Kiss

Book by Cleis Press Inc.

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The Sweetest Kiss, the Hottest Bite

One of the most vibrant and vivacious vampire-themed collections around, reminding us just what it is that's so alluring about fang bangers to begin with.
puts you in the mood for a lot more than reading
the occasional tale goes a cliche too far
Rating by reviewer:
extremely useful review
Post-Twilight, post-True Blood, post Let The Right One In, there have probably been more vampire stories written in the last five years than in all the decades beforehand. That includes the bumper crops that followed sundry other past insurrections. Dracula, The Shining, Interview With The Vampire, The Hunger ... all set the wheels of mini-industry rolling, and all added a few extra pounds to the bookshelf. The realm of the erotic book has played as much a part in the party as any other genre.

It takes more than a good story, or even a good writer to transform an industry into an ideal, and future sociologists will doubtless have a delightful time trying to figure out just what it was about the early 21st century that sent the entire western world out for a game of vicarious bitey-neck. (Cue random thoughts on rapacious government, bloodsucking taxes, predatory loans and a media with about as much finesse as a slashed artery....)

In the meantime, we simply sit back and enjoy the fruits of somebody else's labors, as The Sweetest Kiss - Ravishing Vampire Erotica (edited by DL King - Cleis Press) joins the fray with nineteen tales that go some of the way towards explaining just why the whole subject is so fascinating to begin with.

Some of the way. Nobody wants the whole story, because then what would we do? Vampire literature is possibly unique in the written world in that it's very hard for any of us to explain precisely what we like about it. What level does it really touch us upon? What primal urges or primitive stirrings do these stories actually poke? What is the true fascination with being fucked to a screaming climax, drained of all our blood, and then granted death or eternal damnation, depending upon the attacker's whim? We don't know, and so we keep reading, in the hope that at some point, we might.

Of course, understanding (or the lack thereof) also lies at the heart of the vampire's own dilemma, which is why the old bloodsucker's basic form has not changed since Bram Stoker first penned Dracula, and for myth-ridden centuries before that as well. Motives and mannerisms may shift, but they do so in relation to us, the readers; the vampire himself remains so stable he could be fossilized, and that's what raises a great vampire story from a bad, or even good one. A new voice is not enough. The best vampire writers have a new eye as well.

Half a dozen of the stories in “The Sweetest Kiss” could probably fall into that category. Remittance Girl's "Midnight at Sheremetyevo" and Thomas S Roche's "Wait Until Dark, Montresor"... one relentlessly urban, the other relentlessly urbane - both read like a bottle of very good wine. Or an especially alluring sex toy, for those of us who can read one-handed. As the opening tales in the anthology, they leave you thirsting for more, at the same time as rendering you slightly spoiled.

Kathleen Bradean's BDSM-tinted "Red By Any Other Name" is another tale that will snap you out of your "what is there possibly left to say about vampires?" complacency, if only because Bradean cannot be the only person who has ever wondered how a human Mistress might control her vampire submissive. There is more: the street waif who rolls a sophisticated vampire; the 1920s slapper whose dead brother is her savior... and all the others that affect you just as powerfully, and seduce you just as blindly.

More importantly than that however, you will emerge from The “Sweetest Kiss” as adamant as ever that there is something about vampires that makes you wish beyond wisdom that they weren't make-believe... at the same time as you grab a clove of garlic from the kitchen as you make your way to bed, and tuck it under your pillow to keep the mosquitoes away.

The question is: does it work?

Dunno. You'd have to ask a mosquito that.
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This review was edited by
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  • mpfm
    Great review. You made me want to buy the book.
  • voenne
    Wow, you've made me very intrigued! Thanks for the review!
  • faust
    nice review
  • heather-mooney
    great review...but The Shining has nothing to do with vampires!
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