Book Review: Femme Fatale

I’ll be blunt. This anthology fucked me up.

Femme Fatale: Erotic Tales of Dangerous Women, edited by Lana Fox and published by Go Deeper Press, is a petite but walloping anthology about women you really don’t want to fuck with. Fuck, sure, but not fuck with. Its pages are full of theft, murder, love, and power, and its stories are difficult to swallow and exceptionally written. That’s exactly the sort of intelligence and daring I’ve come to associate with Go Deeper Press.

I knew I’d love this anthology from Fox’s introduction alone, which starts with the line, “Just like many other women who have written erotica, I have often been viewed as a femme fatale of sorts.” Excuse me while I snap my fingers in agreement like a pretentious slam poet. According to Fox, femme fatales are rebellious, witty actors who deliciously subvert expectations of femininity. The characters of this anthology pick up where the famous femme fatales of hard-boiled detective films left off, some abandoning gender identity altogether. They are queer, smart, determined, and complex, satisfying my hunger for difficult characters in erotica while bowling me over with the sheer holy shit violence and bite of plot.

This fall has been all about the femme fatale for me, starting with seeing the head-trip that was Gone Girl. I need a regular fix of fictional female rage to keep my inner demons happy, and it was such a pleasure to read characters who might as well have it coded into their DNA. In Lana Fox’s imagination, everyone has a femme fatale inside of them—it’s the part of you that says, “I don’t give a damn what society thinks, because I’ve been hurt, and I’m done with that.” Femme fatales are more than dark, beautiful women existing for the sexual enjoyment of film dudes. They are forces to be reckoned with, often with a personal history twisted by patriarchal shittiness. Instead of letting pain boil them alive, they thrust it outward, owning the sex appeal given to them and using it to achieve their means. The femme fatale is a trope, but a slippery one.

Every story in this anthology is strong and worth its own review, but the one that truly haunted me was Bracken MacLeod’s “Some Other Time.” I love it when I can tell an author had a blast working on a piece, and there is so much glee in MacLeod’s prose. His characters play with gender and sexual identity even as they grow, and several of my favorite tropes are reinvented here: the cheating boyfriend, the revenge fling, and—so hard to get right but so worth it when you do—the nightclub setting.

Each time she opened her eyes, it was like seeing someone different. A male gesture, a female posture, a man’s hairstyle, a woman’s jawline. He changed like fluid, filling the small spaces around her. He was suffocating water and she wasn’t struggling.”

This is smart, bold, challenging erotica at its best, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into another Go Deeper Press anthology. Get the ebook here.

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Femme Fatale

  1. Reblogged this on Confessions of an Adversary and commented:
    What a wonderful review. All of the stories in this book are tremendous, but to have mine singled out is a special treat. I did have a great time writing this story, and I have an even better time every time someone tells me that they enjoyed reading it. Color me happy!

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