So I’m spending winter break reading the massive heap of erotica I collected through fall semester. Most of the anthologies are from the 80s and still struggling to figure out what ‘women’s erotica’ is supposed to look like, so it was awesome picking up a brand new book from Cleis Press where the genre is clearly established. It had been sitting on the coffee table of my apartment for a few weeks and countless curious friends picked it up and chuckled at the George Clooney-lookalike on the cover holding a kitten. Seriously, this cover is gold.
I tend to shy away from reading erotic romance as a genre because as readers of my fiction will know, I like my smut realistic and a little messed up. That being said, this book is an adrenaline rush. In Smokin’ Hot Firemen, the sex ranges from rough to tender but the men are certified heroes, red suspenders and all. With seventeen stories written by different authors, the fireman fantasy is explored from all angles, making it a must-read for anyone with a thing for lifesavers.
I enjoyed some stories more than others: Rowan Elizabeth’s ‘Fire Extinguisher’ flushed out its leading man into a haunted sub in need of relief only his partner can provide, and two coworkers fight their mounting sexual tension in ‘The Fireman’s Rescue,’ giving a lady a turn saving her love. If the damsel in distress is more your style, the classic plotline is very present here (several kittens get lost in trees or under sofas). The book is full of variety but every story had the same high-stakes heat to keep me warm over my winter break.
I would recommend Smokin’ Hot Firemen to anyone who likes their men masculine and sooty, and to readers who prefer their erotica loving and idyllic. This collection is quintessential erotic romance. As someone drawn toward the coarse and realistic, I got a bit tired of angelic women and the men who fall in love with them at first sight. But reading Smokin’ Hot Firemen was a great way to unwind on vacation and I dog-eared a few favorites to return to in the future. Overall this was a wonderful anthology to add to my collection.
The book also got me thinking about masculinity and casual sex. Clearly the ideal presented here are virile, adventurous men who also cook dinner and want to see you again the next morning. Almost all of the stories end with a future for the couple, and often the sex scene serves as a realization of the couple’s love and potential. This is an expectation of the erotic romance genre, so to a certain extent it’s just the way the narrative has to work.
But the stories that appealed to me most were the ones where sex seemed casual or fraught with other conflict. At one point I wrote in the margin, “Is there room for casual relationships in erotic romance? Is there room for romance in casual sex?”
The second question has turned out to be central to the fiction I’m writing for my thesis. In a hookup culture sending the media into monthly panic (gotta love those trend pieces), college relationships in particular are increasingly blurry. But even the most clear cut one night stand can be intimate and tender, and sex in a committed relationship can be brutal and empty. Those moments of in-between sex are most interesting to me as a reader and a writer, and I want to see more of them in erotica. Erotica and erotic romance do not need to be fiercely divided categories.
Check out Smokin’ Hot Firemen. It’s funny and light and almost campy in its play with the tropes of firemen kink. Pick it up on amazon here.