Book Review: Hot Summer Nights


I was hanging out on Twitter a few weeks ago when I caught a Tweet from author Freya Lange. She was talking about a new anthology of erotic shorts, Hot Summer Nights. I told her I’d love to read it, so she sent me an .epub and just like that, I was off and reading.

This is an interesting anthology. It’s not juried, which means no one judged the submissions before they were accepted for publication. To some readers, that means something about quality. As someone who’s in a number of unjuried anthologies, it means these are good friends who are smart enough to capitalize on an opportunity to widen their readership.

However, the quality of the stories varies. Collection lead-off story The Endless Summer, written by Steve Williams, screams that it’s written by what we call a young writer. Had I been the editor, I would not have let this one lead off the anthology; it’s almost as if it signals that this is going to be a rough ride. Of course, if I were the editor, Mr. Williams and I would have done more work on the story before it was published, to bring it up to the level of the best in here.

That’s not to say the other stories aren’t strong. They are, and a few are exceptionally so, including Freya’s own Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday, which is the story of a young woman on a road trip in the late ’60s who learns an awful lot about love … and marriage, from a complete stranger and a cooler full of Coke.

Further kudos for creative settings and situations go to JC Winchester for Tryst in the Trail Shelter, a fun, steamy read. What struck me most about this story was the narrator’s understanding and love for her partner. I know… it’s supposed to be about the adventure, which is pretty much what it sounds like, given the title. But what we as readers respond to isn’t always what we’re supposed to, and that primary relationship is what I took away. It seemed so very real, so very realized. Kudos for pulling that off in a space so small. I would not be surprised to learn the author has worked with these two women before.

Bucky Duckman’s I’m not Gay wins for most humorous story and most clever manipulation of the main character. This story has stayed with me and makes me chuckle every time I think about it. A player finds a young woman to spend his summer nights with, but somehow, it becomes not only a threesome and his first experience with another man, but something addictive, too.

The story I think I had the most problems with, though, was Hole in the Basement Wall, written by TT Tales. From point of view shifts to a lack of tension in the story, this was one story I’d have loved to work with the author on. The potential in this story is huge and incredibly ambitious, but it simply wasn’t handled well. And the concept? Absolutely fabulous.

That misstep is offset by the collection’s standout story: Shea Mara’s Keys to the Sun. The least erotic of all the stories, this story, I felt, belonged in a major literary magazine. It’s a science fiction story about a colony on Venus. Issues of longing, of domination, of relationships, of hope are all brought up. Characters are well-drawn, and while the bad guy is pretty stock, he needs to be for the story to work as well as it does. The author understands this. She clearly understands what makes good fiction and while most of the authors in this anthology do, Ms. Mara is an unusual talent. And she’s not the only one.

Overall, yes, this anthology is one to pick up. Despite the weaknesses, every story has something redeeming going for it. Watch out for the typos –oh, how I’d love to give this entire anthology a good proofread. Interestingly, their number varies with the success of the stories, so proofing continuity is a bit of an issue. But remember, I have high standards; I edit for a living.

So ignore the typos and settle in for a good and hot read. One thing I didn’t mention: with the exception of Ms. Meara’s story, this collection is hot. Steamy hot. Don’t-read-in-public hot unless you like to squirm.

Which, of course, is a large part of the fun.


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