In the interest of disclosure, I was provided with a PDF review copy of this anthology by one of the authors. And now, here is my review:
I have this memory from years ago – more than a decade ago – of sitting next to a lake in northeast Ohio having a conversation about the film City of Angels
. I had made the three-hour drive from Columbus at the invitation of a dear long-time friend whose fiance, or maybe he was her husband by then, had a family vacation house up there. The friend and I had known each other since high school, but everyone else in her circle at that point were people she knew from church. Being perennially on the fence about god and religion, I was the oddball in a group of people who spoke earnestly about the dilemmas of being twenty-somethings and how to make “Biblical” choices about their lives.
Seated around a fire in the evening, the talk turned to the film, which I had recently seen and enjoyed. I thought there were some interesting themes about humanity and choice, and probably blathered about that as I am prone to do on occasion. The memory is a bit fuzzy. What I recall with crystal clarity is a young woman in the group declaring that she refused to see the film because it wasn't “a realistic depiction of angels,” and internally I heard something akin to a record needle screeching across the vinyl surface of an LP. Realistic whu
? I had enough presence of mind, and desire not to insult the friends of my friend, to stop myself from assaulting the girl with my insistence that angels were only mythology, so a “realistic” depiction was kind of impossible.
So, how does that relate to this anthology? I'm pretty certain that girl would be just as offended, if not more so, by this set of erotic stories about angels and demons as she was by City of Angels
' plot about an angel choosing to leave Heaven for the love of a human. But for someone who enjoys seeing mythology twisted around and turned on its head, and who isn't squeamish about homoeroticism, this was mostly a pretty good read.
While on the surface it's a collection of, let's face it, soft-core porn, there are some interesting things going on here beyond mere titillation. Most of the authors represented here are challenging the usual ideas about what angels and demons are, about the intellect vs. sex dichotomy often explored in works of art, about gender binaries, and about Heaven and Hell themselves, and so there's something here to tickle and stimulate the brain as well as the libido.
It's a relatively brief anthology – just six stories. The three standouts for me were KJ Kabza's “Switch,” which probably was the most thematically interesting of the bunch in the way it challenges all sorts of dichotomies and binaries and traditional notions; Tanya Ashbury's “Messengers,” which blends Chinese and Christian mythology in what ultimately is a sweet little love story; and Kate Vassar's “Seduced,” which twist and turns the reader's perceptions about temptation in a way that's just as pleasurable as the way she writes about sex.
Karen Cobb's “Give & Take” offered an interesting take on notions of penance through a BDSM scene, but I'll confess that particular brand of erotic matter didn't really grab me.
Monique Poirier's “At the Crossroads” offered the most in terms of world-building, I thought. She put her angels and demons in a unique dark fantasy setting that I found intriguing.
The weakest story of the bunch for me was Theorian D. Graves' “Breathing Brimstone,” which was a much more straightforward story about a demon seducing an angel. Graves didn't really bring anything new to the table in terms of theme or mythology, and there were some grammatical oddities that had me stumbling a bit as I read the text.
Overall, Like Heaven and Hell
was an interesting, pleasurable read that I'd recommend for people who like paranormal or supernatural erotica. Other than a few hiccups, the quality of the writing was fairly good.