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Reviewed by Leigh Adamkiewicz
I had the rare opportunity to indulge in two of Tobsha Learner’s erotic novels this month. And having finished Quiver, her collection of short stories, I was impressed. This collection of short stories has 12 takes on sex and sexuality. Some stories were formulaic. A woman trying to become a mother. A marriage that had grown stale. But some of the stories were a bit more interesting. A tall woman is seduced by a short gambler. The office ice queen falls in love.
It was easy to love how each story wove into the other parts of the book. You could read a story or two independently with some enjoyment. But if you read the book as a whole, it became a slow, sexy tease.
Strangely, though, the tease itself was a little too clean. And I still don’t know if that was a bug or a feature. Each love scene was like watching a world class ballet performance. I was impressed by the artistry, the grace, and the fact that someone could get their leg to bend that way. But I didn’t see anything really shocking. And with erotica, you expect a few feathers to get pleasantly ruffled.
The character’s sexual explorations felt less like a personal revolution, and more like a science experiment. But that doesn’t mean that Learner is a shrinking violet. I was impressed with the literary risks she took.
You expected each story to end a certain way. But you never quite knew how things were going to end up. And as each story came to a close, it left the characters sated but not satisfied. Longing for more, but uncertain how to get it.
While the polished restraint in the love scenes put me off, nothing else did. With short stories this good, I’m excited to see what Learner can do with a longer leash.
I’m completing my journey through Learner’s sensual series with Tremble. Like Quiver it’s a collection of stories, tied together through common themes. But unlike Quiver, Tremble is consistently compelling and a flawless gem of a book.
Tremble was published shortly after Quiver, and it shows. Learner banished any poor stylistic choices and carefully nurtured her strengths for this second book. Thankfully, she learned that stories with a short word count are not her friend. It was a joy to see her elegant prose developed to its best potential in these longer stories. And with the space to build and grow each little universe, the prose shines.
Now that the bumps and dings in her story telling have been ironed out, the stories sing together in literary harmony. The premise of every story is intriguing. I flew from the bed of a music producer’s mistress to an ultra-orthodox Jewish widow sitting shivah without missing a beat. The stories’ fantastical elements were just as beautifully told as the simple, domestic details. And throughout each story was a sensual, earthy whisper. While sex and passion run like a river through the book, they never derail the characters’ purpose – only enhance it.
This is Learner’s 1976 Chateau Montelena. Everything was pitch perfect. I can’t wait to read it again.
Leigh is a fearless writer who never met a genre, subject, or format she didn’t like. She has written professionally for the past six years and enjoys biking, exploring odd corners of Northeast Ohio, and discovering those good books she hasn’t read yet.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Plume. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.