- File Size: 370 KB
- Print Length: 147 pages
- Publisher: Go Deeper Press LLC (July 8, 2017)
- Publication Date: July 8, 2017
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B073TLW3TH
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,394,505 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Roadhouse Blues: Erotic Fiction Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
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Cassie was born ten miles from the middle of nowhere in a town called Styx, if you can f***ing believe it…
That line is keynote and key for this collection. All these stories are set emotionally, if not physically, in the same small place somewhere deep in the wilderness of the American psyche. Styx could be practically anywhere, and this, I think, is intentional on the author’s part. There is a sense of near-mythic wide-openness about the place, like the west Texas of Larry McMurtry’s "The Last Picture Show", or the windswept plains of the lower Midwest, an arch nonspecificity invoking universality:
"A curtain dropped over her mind as Cassie walked downstage. She wasn’t in the theater any more. She was in the ugly brown heart of the dust bowl. She could taste it like a film in her mouth…"
We’ve seen these box stores, garages and greasy spoons, strip malls, strip clubs, bars and bedrooms a hundred times before, wandered through the dusty streets of stifling chicken-fried towns where everybody makes it their business to know yours, yet are utterly incurious where the secret pain of the heart is concerned. Where same-sex attraction is still the ultimate scandal, and tenderness more taboo than rage.
James shows us what’s really going on behind those closed doors and drawn drapes, inside her character’s heads. She sets her scenes with a few well-chosen details to conjure atmosphere, but it is the characters’ emotional landscape that interests her and us, that sense of being lost in the only place you’ve ever known, of fleeing the past even as you fear the future, of being trapped in a world where you are free only so long as you don’t stand out too much…
"Leigh imagined her ugly underwear, her ugly comforting armor, and reminded herself to breathe. Fumbling fingers on blue cotton hearts, pink Sundays worn on Mondays, lying so still, mismatched days of the week…"
Reminiscent of working-class portraitists like Richard Russo or Stephen King at their keenly-observant best, James’ characters are refreshingly real, down-to-earth, mostly blue collar, sometimes not quite as articulate as they’d like to be. The soundtrack of their lives is more often rockabilly than pure country western, but we recognize a lot of the same themes; infidelity, loneliness, nostalgia, regret, and desire. So much desire. An auto mechanic carries on a life-long affair with his boss, who also happens to be his sister-in-law. His wife’s longing for a baby ultimately leads her to desperate measures. Later, the new mother contemplates the passions that have been awakened within her. Another woman sets out to exact revenge on a faithless lover, only to have the tables turned, when her anger is sublimed into pure lust. The owner of the local diner comes out of the closet, if only for one glorious night. The lover of a fallen soldier is consoled by the soldier’s widow. A waitress's encounter with a creepy late-night patron triggers memories of being young and crazy-in-love, along with the unhinged abuse that followed when things got real. A sad-eyed stripper comforts a dying man who appears like the ghost of her beloved father. The bartender at the strip club meets the woman who shares the passions he cannot confess. Life goes on, little changes, but dreaming makes it bearable.
'Roadhouse Blues' is recommended without reservation!
She has left me wanting more.
This collection is full of complex characterization, strong voice, and gorgeous writing, none of which is surprising with a collection by Malin James.
My favorite story was the last one, "Good Love". It's a trans f/cis f story, and I found the portrayal of the trans woman character to be done respectfully. I was a bit surprised that Samantha told Leigh to refer to her as Sam, but that was my only moment of discomfort, and I know that folks make many different kinds of choices about their names. I appreciated this bit in the story, where the reader learns that Samantha is trans:
"Sammy! What happened? You're--"
"A girl," Sam said. Her tone was mild, like she was used to having to explain.
Leigh shook her head impatient. "I was going to say you're back. I know you're a girl. You've always been a girl."
"Good Love" is told from the POV of a queer survivor of child sexual abuse, Leigh. who has her first consensual sexual experience with Samantha, a childhood friend who has come back to town briefly. It's an intense gut punch of story about reclaiming your body and desire, that has a lot of hope and pain and trauma in it, and is also the most romantic of the stories in the book. It made me cry, out of recognition of that kind of survivor experience of reclaiming the body, which is often complicated and fraught and scary and not the simple thing that is often portrayed in media. This story held the complexities of that kind of experience better than any other survivor story about sex I've read.
This collection centers a web of characters that live in the same small town. Almost all of them are white working class folks, mechanics, waitresses, sex workers, bouncers. I especially appreciated the inclusion of stories centering queer women characters, sex worker characters, trauma survivor characters, and characters who were grieving. The first story centers a butch woman mechanic, who's heterosexual, and I think that may be the first time I've read m/f erotica with a butch woman MC. At it's core, this is a book driven by the specificity of the characters, that's what each story illuminates, that's where the beauty in this book lies.
There was one story that I was troubled by the representation in, "Truck Stop". It centers a closeted Black gay man who basically has decided that he cannot have romantic relationships at all, and that having sex in town is too dangerous because of queer hatred: "Being gay got you beat with bibles and bricks. So he kept that part of himself tucked away, under the football player he'd been and the business man he was. That's not to say it was easy. It's just what you did...thanks to bibles and bricks, sex was a dicey proposition--one he usually saved for trips out of town." The story is about a casual sexual encounter he has with a trucker passing through town. I am troubled that his queerness is presented as if it is inextricably bound up with queer hatred, especially as he is the only queer man in the book, and the only character of color in the book. I get that this kind of experience is common in queer small town life, but in this book as a singular queer men's experience, it feels unbalanced. Especially given that the queer cis women in the book find ways to access sex and relationships, and the one trans woman character does as well. So I was troubled by that, and particularly by the reference to the exact (and large) size of his penis in this story. Penis size is never named in inches anywhere else in the book (and many of the stories involve characters who have penises). This evokes the very common hypersexualized stereotype of Black men to me, and it made me deeply uncomfortable, as a white reader, like I was being invited to fetishize him because he was Black. He is the only character I felt invited to fetishize.
There are a few kinky stories in the collection, and they mostly feel both real (as in this is something that could happen) and also not as solidly and clearly consensual as I would like in my kink (in life or literature). For example, there's a bondage and pegging scene that's all about revenge, and there's a scene where two characters who are relative strangers begin punching each other in the face without much negotiation and little concern for safety. I would not go to this collection for a depiction of BDSM that reflects clear consent and concern for safety; what it contains is rawness and intense emotion and kink as an expression of those things outside those parameters. Which brings me to a larger point about this collection as a whole.
There is erotica I go to for the erotic experience, to get off. And there is erotica I go to because it makes me feel, because it centers sex as a way to explore emotion and character. Roadhouse Blues is the latter. It is the kind of erotica that’s intent on making you feel a wide range of emotions, and illuminating the ways sex can be complicated and scary and vulnerable and messy and hot, sometimes all at the same time. And it achieves what it is going for: every story in this collection made me feel a whole range of conflicting and intense emotions.
Trigger Warnings (book also has content warnings at the beginning): one character is a survivor of intimate partner violence in the past, includes trauma responses and a lengthy flashback. Sexual harassment on the job. One character is a survivor of child sexual abuse, she gets triggered during sexual activity. Several stories include themes of cheating and jealousy, including one with violence. BDSM including bondage, face punching, D/s, rough sex, pegging. One story includes a theme of grief. The spectre of anti queer violence is raised in one of the stories.