“Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance” edited by Mitzi Szereto

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance” edited by Mitzi SzeretoRed Velvet and Absinthe by Mitzi Szereto, Kelley Armstrong, Zander Vyne, Charlotte Stein, Ashley Lister, Sharon Bidwell, Claire Buckingham, Giselle Renarde, Cary Williams, Tahira Iqbal, Bonnie Dee, Rose de Fer, Janine Ashbless, Elizabeth Daniels, Anna Meadows, Even Mora
Published: 2011 by Cleis Press
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Erotica, Romance
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: the publisher
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Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance is a collection of fifteen erotic short stories featuring ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and things that go bump (see what I did there?) in the night.  The stories draw on the gothic literary tradition, which at its heart has always paired romanticism with apprehension of the unknown.  This is one of those books that I’m not sure I’d have been drawn to in a store, but was gifted to me as the nice folks at Cleis Press were packing up their booth at Book Expo a couple years back.  I’m so glad I got a chance to read it, and ended up enjoying it a lot!

Usually when I read short stories, I have a hard time transitioning from one to another.  My immersion gets broken as one story ends and the next begins, and so I end up reading a collection over the course of several months, reading a story here and a story there, but not at the same pace that I’d read a novel.  Red Velvet and Absinthe was completely different.  While each of the stories was unique, they all shared a sense of mystery and sensuality that kept me reading even as one story ended and the next one began.  I finished the book in three sittings, which is so much faster than usual for me when reading short fiction.

Now let’s look at the stories themselves.

Snowlight, Moonlight by Rose de Fer

This was one of my favorite stories in Red Velvet and Absinthe.  A mad scientist tames a newly turned werewolf woman into submission.  It reminded me of something that ought to be a Jonathan Coulton song.

Cover Him with Darkness by Janine Ashbless

A girl grows up in a tiny village, and her family has a secret.  They’ve been guarding a man who is chained to a rock for thousands of years, and now it’s Milja’s turn to take over.  Milja is attracted to him, but has been warned about the consequences of unleashing such a being.  Weird and dark and wonderful, Cover Him with Darkness leaves you asking questions and begging for more.

A Rose in the Willow Garden by Elizabeth Daniels

A vampire falls in love with a woman whom he’s about to turn, but maybe he’s wrong about who is the predator and who is the prey.

The Bood Moon Kiss by Mitzi Szereto

A crew is filming a show about a vampire turning his human lover.  The lead actor is actually a vampire, and is about to turn his leading lady.  So meta.

Painted by Anna Meadows

This is the story of a mysterious painting and the woman who lives within it.

Dolly by Charlotte Stein

Delightfully bizarre.  A woman creates a golem and begins a relationship with it, while feeling a sense of guilt about sleeping with her creation.

La Belle Mort by Zander Vyne

This one is weird.  Through a series of encounters with a visiting stranger, a condemned woman learns how to (sexually) welcome Death.

The Persistence of Memory by Evan Mora

One common idea you see in vampire literature is whether or not a supernatural creature should become involved with mortals, or whether they cause more harm than good.  A vampire struggles with this as he has several encounters with one woman, but each time causes her to forget.  Meanwhile, she feels that there is something missing in her life that she can’t quite put her finger on.

Scratched by Ashley Lister

More sexy werewolves!  The protagonist’s boyfriend thinks he’s been turned into a werewolf, so he secludes himself in the woods.  Of course, his girlfriend doesn’t believe him and comes to him right as his transition begins.

Bitter and Intoxicating by Sharon Midwell

An artist is inspired by his muse.

Tea for Two by Claire Buckingham

Another strange one.  After reading some books about the occult, a professor tried to sacrifice his unborn child to give his wife immortality.  Now she’s a lonely ghost.

Milady’s Bath by Giselle Renarde

This was one of my favorite stories in Red Velvet and Absinthe.  Each month, a woman sneaks out of her home for a violent sexual rendezvous with what is presumably a werewolf.  After each encounter, her maid/lover prepares her a bath and nurses her wounds while wondering what compels her mistress to deliberately seek that pain.  Quite lovely.

The Way Home by Carrie Williams

A motorcyclist stops at a bar and ends up banging the bartender, who happens to be a vampire.  While the story had a strong start, the ending was weak and left far too many unanswered questios.

The Queen by Tahira Ibqal

Can this one please be a full-length novel?  Pretty please?  Amelia is one of the vampire King’s mistresses.  One day, the King and other mistresses are murdered, and Amelia sets off on a journey to take her place as the vampire Queen.

Benediction by Bonnie Dee

Set in the afterlife, a man learns to let go and to forgive himself for his sins.

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