Review – Agony/Ecstasy Anthology – Part 1

When Jane Litte first asked Has if she wanted to review the new Agony/Ecstasy anthology, Has knew right away she wanted to read it, and asked myself and E to join in. This anthology is divided into two halves: the agony and ecstasy of pain, dominance, submission and love. This morning we will be reviewing the first half, otherwise known as the Agony half of the anthology. (We recommend you start reading these stories first, as one author has tie ins to both halves.) Later today we will be back with the second half and stories from the Ecstasy part.


Transfixed – Anne Calhoun
E: Ms Calhoun provided exquisite detail that doesn’t just focus on the physical but draws the reader into the story.  I wanted to know the why behind the characters’ motivation.  I loved how neither one really fit into the common stereotypes of leather, whips, and chins.  I also really enjoyed how it was private not in a “club” with observers. B+

MinnChica: For a FemDom story, I actually really liked this one. I thought it was so much fun and sexy. It was obvious there was a connection between them, and when the story continued on the second half, it was that much more. This story definitely needs to be read before the Ecstasy half. (I made the mistake of reading this 2nd, and I was SUPER lost in the other story….)

Has: I agree that reading the Ecstasy  part of the story first  wouldn’t have made much sense, or made a better impact with reading that first. The set up incorporated S&M themes but did it in a fantastic and unexpected way and I really liked how Calhoun presented the twist on the dominant heroine as a 50s housewife. I also loved the emotional cracking of the heroine at the end when the hero challenges her. B+


Siren – Jean Johnson
E: Wanted to see more world building.  I was more intrigued by the culture then the relationship between the two main characters.  I did find it fascinating that the Seer’s connection with her Goddess was via pleasure rather then drugs/pain etc.  I also don’t necessarily agree with her reasons for punishing him but that could be because of the limited backstory demanded by the short wordcount. C

MinnChica: I didn’t feel super strongly about this story one way or the other. I’ve never enjoyed FemDom books for some reason, so that aspect of the story turned me off a bit, but the world-building was interesting and I think the author has a great voice and the capability to write a good full-length novel in this world.  D-

Has: I wished there was more worldbuilding too with this story. I did like the setting and the relationship between the hero and heroine was complex but for me the dominant and pain theme didn’t really work for me. I just didn’t get her reasons for punishing him and that had to be expanded. But I agree about the voice of the author which was engaging but the sex scene felt too awkward and just didn’t gel well with the tone. C-


Caged – J. K. Coi
E: Very interesting twist on the need for pain that I was not expecting.  Unless something changes drastically this relationship is only going to make things worse on both individuals involving physical and mental/emotional pain.  I actually didn’t like the heroine. D-

MinnChica: I actually thought this story had some potential, but didn’t think there was enough time to really develop everything. I thought the storyline with the paranormal aspects were interesting, especially with the werewolf change and all the grief that came along with it. I do wish that we would have been given a chance to see where the characters were going in the future though, the novella definitely left me wanting more (well, happy more!)  C

Has: I really liked this story and I wished it was much longer, because the angst and the pain and how that played out with the relationship between the hero and heroine was great. But I hoped the ending was more hopeful or there is potential for more because I think this might be a gem of a story if it was expanded upon. B+


Each Step Sublime – Bettie Sharpe
E: A very very wicked twist on The Little Mermaid, not Disney’s sweetness and light version but the much darker Hans Christian Anderson version.  I really enjoyed the way she ended the fable. B-

MinnChica: Ugg, I am not a fan of taking my happy and favorite childhood movie and turning it into a little bit of an F-ed up BDSM erotica. I finished the story, but scowled and rolled my eyes the whole way through.  F

Has: I thought it was dreamy and romantic but the romance wasn’t as strong as the tone and setting of the story which was due to the story length. But I love the fairytale aspect but heroine falling for the Prince who just seemed too distant didn’t work for me. She was going to have to pay a major sacrifice and there was no real reason on why she was in love with him and the ending felt too rushed but overall I did enjoy the retelling. C+


Safeword – Delphine Dryden
E: WOW this was really good.  Talk about taking everyone dream of that one person who you wish was into you and your kinks and making it a reality.  I really enjoyed their journey short as it was and the inclusion of bits of humor.  Ms Dryden made them seem real.  BTW I want a novel *grin*. A

MinnChica: I really liked this story. I’m a huge fan of the friends to lovers stories, and especially when those friends realize that their kinks work together. I will definitely be looking for more books by Dryden, because I thought she had a wonderful voice and a great story to tell.  B+

Has: I really liked this one too, although I wasn’t too sure of the beginning but as the story progressed, I really got engaged with it. I really liked how the theme was explored and it was definitely exciting and fun as well as very sexy and I am not a huge fan of S&M stories. So its a solid B+


Stitch and Bitch – A. L. Simonds
E: Rather diverse characters that I think actually need to talk more.  I liked how knitting drew them together and became the center-point of their relationship.  I think this would have been better as a longer length story. C

MinnChica: I wasn’t a huge fan of this story as well. I didn’t connect with either of the characters, and never really felt drawn into the story. I did like the knitting aspects though, really just added to my desire to go out and learn to knit.  D

Has: I have mixed feelings on this one. I really liked the setting and the knitting aspects too,  but the romance felt a bit off and disconnected because I found Priya too stand-offish with Luisa and the reasons behind it didn’t gel well with me. Although I liked how different the story was different and Luisa the skate-boarding girlfriend was fun!  But it has definitely made me more open to FF romance which I haven’t really had read before. C-


Bachelorette Party – Jessica Clare
E: I was really worried that this one was going to push one of my “chuck the book across the room buttons” but I am glad I kept reading because Ms Clare made it all come out alright in the end. C+

MinnChica: I was a little worried about this one, but holy hell I ended up loving it. In the hands of any other author, I think it could have been awful and really disheartening. However, I thought that the novella was both sexy and romantic and sweet and totally hawt.  A-

Has: LOL I had the same fear at the beginning too, but then I sussed halfway through it that it wouldn’t be the case. I really loved this story and it is one of my favourites in the anthology. It was definitely sexy and fun and I will certainly check out more of Jessica Clare’s stuff in the future.


Wicked Wedding Night – Margaret Rowe
E: Ok I want a novel! I love how Ms Rowe was able to take some familiar tropes and spin them on their heads in such a short story. B+

MinnChica: I loved this as well, which surprised me a little because I’m not usually a fan of historical erotica. However, this one just really worked for me. Both the hero and the heroine were such great and well developed characters. I think the short length took a little away from the story though, this could have been so much more with a little extra word count.  B+

Has: I wasn’t too keen with the beginning of the story but if it was longer I think that would have helped to expand the story as well as establishing. It reminded me a bit of Anne Stuart’s historicals but as the story went on, I really liked the melancholic tone but the changes and acceptance that the heroine faced was too swift but again that is due to the short length. I liked the voice of the author too and despite the short length – the emotions between hero and heroine packs a punch. B


Shameless – Edie Harris
E: Interesting lesson the hero passed onto the heroine at the end of this story, probably the only thing I liked about this one.  The entire story struck me as a moment in time that at least one character would remember but it would remain disconnected with both before and after.  C-

MinnChica: This is an example of one historical erotica that just didn’t work for me. I thought the heroine was flighty and a little annoying. I didn’t really find the story all that sexy either. Like E, I felt like a complete outsider to the story, and I can’t really say that I cared one way or the other.  D-

Has: I really liked this, I didn’t read as a romance as such but an interlude which was something the heroine needed to get out of her situation. I felt the interaction she had with the hero was very cathartic – and I was taken aback how the story unfolded. I love the emotional intensity that was presented and I think it linked perfected with the overall theme of the anthology. B


Taken – Rebecca Lange
E: Flashback to the old western romances involving a woman and her captor.  It was like the author unromantized that entire subgenre. D-

MinnChica: I tried to get into this story, but I only made it through about 5 or 6 pages before I just stopped and moved on. It didn’t hold my interest at all.  DNF

Has: Yep, it felt like the old skool, and I couldn’t engage with the story at all or with the characters.


Wetwire – Sunny Moraine
E: Exploring the mysteries of how our brains process nerve stimulation and what happens if the interpretation is switched around.  Makes me glad I don’t live in an entirely jacked-in world. C-

MinnChica: I also hate to say that I gave up on this story as well. I was more confused than anything, and there wasn’t anything in the first few pages that really called for me to keep trying to chug through. DNF

Has: I really liked the setting, and premise of the story but the characters and plot, it just didn’t work. I need some element of romance and the main characters were selfish and I couldn’t connect with them. It felt really cold and unemotional and that made the sex unsexy and cold too. If there was stronger element of romance it may have worked for me better as a story. D+


Be sure to check back later today for Part 2 of the review!

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6 thoughts on “Review – Agony/Ecstasy Anthology – Part 1”

  1. Loved Calhoun. LOVED freaky and intense and dark. And I didn’t know exactly what was going on which added to my enjoyment.

    Loved Rowe’s the best out of all of them.

    I dnf’d and didn’t like many of the same ones for you too…although including the Ecstasy side, overall I liked this collection.

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