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Longing for more sizzling stories of sexy demon lovers, seductive vampires seething with oral metaphor, kinky succubi ready for nameless sins? Are you slavering to taste the obscene forked kiss of tales that titillate and terrorize? Well, forget it.

But if you want something a little dangerous, stories that take a chance, and -- instead of opting for the safety of the now-accepted subgenre of "erotic horror" -- draw blood with writing that goes a step further, and inch deeper than before -- read on. --from the Introduction by Paula Guran

OK, I must admit I like kinky succubi...and in fact, keep three chained up at any given time for my own pleasures and nameless sins. But, I also love writing that takes chances, pushes back, bites harder, and leaves a bruise. These 20 tales do just that with dark, warped, exciting results. One of these little gems even caused this humble reviewer to have a lovely, very intense and violent dream one evening that lingers with me still. Don't worry, I have my meds prescription and try to take them on schedule.

This anthology follows several different paths, many of them bloody and gruesome, some confronting and transgressive, surreal and speculative, or humorous with tongue-tucked-firmly-in-cheek, all of them told with imagination and depth. There are no "classic" monsters lurking...or for that matter any "classic" sex. The monsters that do appear are for the most part those that are the most horrifying; those viewed as a reflection of the monster within. The terrors included are often societal, or personal. And the sex is often the cause, a symptom, or the result, of terror.

In David J. Schow's "Saturnalia," an aging movie actress pays perfect porno star Colin Freehand to perform, time and again, each performance more intricate, complex, and gruesome than the proceeding, ending in a certainly surprising finale. This is the Sunset Strip they didn't film.

In Charlee Jacob's vivid "Torpor", a man tries to breathe life into his lifeless cock by visiting a carnival sideshow with a pal. One oddity after another fails to get a rise. With flashes of the man's past trauma, and ultimate destiny met, this graphic and gory story is brilliant. And you guessed it -- finally, he finds himself aroused.

M. Christian's "Blue" is a fantastic flight into the future where "blues" are bred for enjoyment, sex is easy, and killing is free, cheap, and expected as a way to release tension -- at least against those born as "blues."

Thomas S. Roche's addition to Embraces: Dark Erotica is the fast and furious "Payback's A Bitch." A sticky, wet, lesbian, rock and roll, torture and gore-fest, inspired by too much Rolling Rock and repeated viewings of the movie "Reform School Girls."

Robert Devereaux's archangel Michael sneezes at the wrong moment, unleashing simultaneous orgasms upon the unsuspecting world. J.R. Corcorrhan's online sex partners meet in the real world only to find things aren't always what they seem and when someone says, "I want to see you," you might be surprised at what they really mean. Jay Russell conjures a house of erotic pleasures that allows a man to fully realize his first love as he unbirths himself.

The writing is strong, surprising, and imaginative. To successfully meld the world of erotica and horror, the authors featured have found a way to subvert convention and take us someplace that we haven't been before. Or at least to a place most of us haven't been. There are no formulas, no cliches, and many strong images, such as in Ian Grey's "Matchbox Screamers":

I recall lying in my bed as a child, masturbating. Although orgasm would bring temporary relief, it also lent this coiled thing in me more energy, more...mass.

When I hit puberty. I would actually see it, floating in mid-air, mocking me like a demonic, smoke-filled Cheshire Cat, although its actual shape was far more terrible than that. It was my hope, were I ever able to give that scream form, I could capture it.

One night, desperate, almost gagging with its implication, I attempted to capture the dark, floating apparition. I clawed at the air, wildly, made a sickening contact. The shape burst into a million gaseous bits, which still floated above me, as though considering their next manifestation. Suddenly, the darkness, the legion pieces of my scream crawled down from the air and surrounded my soft prick like a black glove of toxic smoke.

My orgasm was indescribable.

Other featured authors include Poppy Z. Brite, Dominick Cancilla, Samuel Cross, Stephen Dedman, Rob Hardin, Nancy Holder, Lorelei Shannon, John Shirley, Julia Solis, Steve Rasnic Tem, Anne Tourney, and Connie Wilkins.

Editor Paula Guran originally had this anthology placed with another publishing house, and lucky for us, fate soured that deal and it ended up with publisher Cara Bruce of Venus or Vixen Press, whose Viscera (published earlier this year) also went for the jugular with hybrid horror and experimental erotica. It was worth the wait. Guran has selected an amazing collection of stories by an impressive list of accomplished authors not usually associated with the erotica market, but most of them quite familiar to those of us who love horror.

Guran states in her preface that "I'm not sure anyone, other than me, is perverted enough to like every single story in this anthology any more than any individual can be expected to respond to the complete gamut of sexual stimuli or indulge in every single kink they come across." She's met her match in this pervert; I liked every single sick, twisted, gross, and hilarious story. And like the 14 year old boy -- drawn most easily to horrific and erotic stimuli -- that I sometimes still think I am. I enjoyed curling up in bed with a blanket to read them while playing tent with the hard to ignore boner that reared its ugly head through many a tale. -- Greg Wharton

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