After reading Jove Belle’s new book Uncommon Romance, I’m convinced that the novella is the perfect length for thoughtful erotica. I usually dislike “erotic novels” because the plot serves as flimsy filler between sexual encounters. Too often I am exasperated to the point of flinging my kindle (gently) across the bed, then tap, tap, tapping the ebook reader screen until an erotic short story anthology gets down to business quickly and efficiently.
Uncommon Romance includes three novellas that take full advantage of the longer-but-not-too-long story length to invest me emotionally and thoughtfully into the characters’ relationships. And, of course, some crazy sexy encounters fully engaged me, too. Ahem.
“Raw Silk” asks the question “how do two women in love negotiate bringing a third woman into their bedroom?” June and Ashlyn write a full essay on this over nine chapters, in a game of pursuit, resistance, negotiation, and hot, hot sex with the “other woman,” Kat.
I loved almost everything about this story: the glimpses into June and Ashlyn’s home life, the way they initially use Kat as fantasy material, and then Kat discovering who in the relationship has the power to say “yes” to sex. I even liked how Kat is a one-dimensional character with only sex with June on her mind, because then I didn’t worry about any hurt feelings when clearly June and Ashlyn are using her for their own sexual lubricant. I was truly emotionally invested in the couple’s romantic relationship. My only quibble: June and Kat meet in the workplace, and I had to willfully ignore the career implications (a common problem in lesfic and, dare I say it, lesporn).
“On Her Knees” made me blush deliciously. This is one intense story, with Abby meeting her high school crush/nemesis Simone at a work party (cue my HR anxiety again). The viewpoint switched between the two women, and they both work through some serious anger and desire issues. I loved the short scenes between Simone and her therapist, whose observations are pointed to a painful but necessary degree. Simone’s sessions made me laugh sympathetically. Why, indeed, did she end up wanting to snuggle with Abby after their raw sex? And is Simone just continuing to repeat her history of screwing straight girls? (Or, in this case, girls who are gay men’s beards at work?)
This novella’s sex scenes are front and center: Simone on her knees after placing Abby on the trunk of her car outside a party; Abby appreciating Simone’s “serious blow job” technique; and many other moments that surround Simone bemusedly telling Abby, “Oh, the things I want to do to you.”
Yet their relationship has an honest arc to it. While I never quite grasped what happened between them in high school, their conflicts and need for each other simply work for me. I found the ending, or rather the point in their developing relationship at which the story ends, to be immensely satisfying and hopeful.
The third story, “Hollis,” had a former life in shortened form as part of the anthology Lesbian Cops: Erotic Investigations. Jen and Hollis are two confident women who know what they like, and – to both their satisfaction – Jen’s skills in following orders perfectly matches the controlling dominance of Hollis. In some ways, I prefer the short story because my imagination filled in the “before” and “after” encounters between homicide cop Jen Lassiter and FBI trainer Hollis. Like any story developed past my own mental images, I couldn’t help but feel a disjoint between the author’s vision and my own.
The original short story dropped you quickly into a “take the perps down and cuff them” training exercise that served as rough foreplay for Hollis and Jen’s private power games afterwards. While the longer novella didn’t push my erotic buttons as much as the short story, I loved it for one specific piece of dialogue between Jen and her awfully young and naïve training roommate Reeva. As I highlighted this glimpse into why Reeva was recruited by the FBI, I realized something else: Sometimes I bookmark sex scenes in lesfic romances, but I really love highlighting smart dialogue and turns of phrases in erotica. Using that standard, Jove Belle’s Uncommon Romance is smart erotica, indeed.
Oh, and thank you, Jove Belle, for the scene where Hollis makes Jen say aloud “You do not have the power to ruin my career.” Finally, safer workplace sex.
You can purchase or download a sample of Uncommon Romance by clicking here.