Compilations of short erotic fiction are notoriously uneven; even so-called best of volumes inevitably have a few stinkers in the batch. Though Seductions, the new collection edited by Lonnie Barbach, who has written a handful of books on enhancing one's sex life and has edited a few other collections of erotica, isn't immune to this problem, it's still a cut above most similar books. What really separates Seductions from the pack, though, is that it's not geared toward one specific audience: The stories come from men and women, gay and straight, and overall will probably be best enjoyed by couples reading together. They all address the art of seduction in some way, but besides this common theme, Seductions comprises an extremely diverse array of tales.
Barbach writes in her introduction,
When I think about the most erotic moments of a sexual experience, I am drawn to the delicious and unpredictable buildup, the dance of seduction. A sexual experience often lodges in the memory most vividly because of the events that lead up to the actual physical lovemaking: the invitation to sensually provocative play, the anticipation of an experience charged with pleasure and delight.... I have gathered a collection of stories that emphasize these openings, stories that set the stage for the encounters that follow.Her intentions are well served by the stories she selected, which fall into five different sections. The first, "The Dance of Seduction," contains tales in which the seduction is an elaborately crafted affair in which the seducerisan artist working in the medium of sexual enticement. The second, "The Unknown," presents uncertainty as the force that drives erotic tension. "Escape," the third section, is made up of stories about people seducing or allowing themselves to be seduced as a means of removing themselves from some unpleasant reality. In the fourth section, the surrounding environment (a deserted surfing beach, a small Italian village, the sight of a terrible natural disaster) provides the sexual charge in the situation. The final section, "The Dark Side," includes unsettling tales of seductions gone bad or carried out with bad intentions (these are some of the steamiest in the book).
Breaking the selections down into these categories seems superfluous, but the stories themselves are, aside from a few dismissible exceptions, excellent. Some are as graphic as a Penthouse letter, others as literary as a short story you might find in The New Yorker; many are both, and all are good for one thing or another. So get together with someone you love or curl up solo Seductions contains some of the sexiest escapist reading you'll find.