Erotic fiction is difficult. Badly written, it is smutty, embarrassing or just plain boring. Too much sex and it becomes the opposite of erotic. I am reminded of the over-achieving couple who doggedly set out to have sex every day for a year. Ho hum, I bet the champagne corks were popping at the end of that year. Anais Nin, anyone? Let’s face it, if you can do this genre well you’d be mad not to build a career around it. Tobsha Learner, a part-time Australian, is the bestselling author of four novels and two previous collections of short stories, Quiver and Tremble. She’s good with titles too.
Not only erotic, many of the stories in Yearn play with magic and fantasy. Ink is the story of a young biographer using ancient sex magic to get revenge on an older and more famous rival. In Fur, a girl is transformed by the visits of a fantasy lover with some connection to her cat. In The Alchemy of Coincidence a sculptor conjures up her dream lover while preparing for her new collection.
Other stories are more romantic. In Barrow Boy a self-made man has an epiphany after reuniting briefly with his childhood sweetheart. Pussy and Mouse is a surprisingly moving account of a lonely call centre worker finding love online and in Flower, an older woman learns to appreciate her body’s beauty. There is sensuality as well as sexuality; ‘The woman didn’t walk so much as flow… an assemblage of fluid molecules seamlessly gliding through space.’
I enjoyed the way Learner plays with sensuality – fur, porcelain, weather… Who hasn’t been stirred by a warm breeze or a sudden storm? In Weather, a woman fantasises about the TV weatherman. ‘Fog was interesting – a short push with both hands… suggesting that … he might be capable of a little rough play…’ There is also humour; ‘…don’t forget the patches of fog in the north-east… oh yes, oh yes, sweeping rain, and yes! The breaks of sunshine!’ Weather has never been so sizzling.
Learner’s writing is good enough to avoid the perils of purple prose. Plenty of variety, no ho hum. Read this one in private.
This is my seventh review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.