Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Review: 18th & Castro by Karin Kallmaker

18th & Castro
by Karin Kallmaker
18th & Castro is an erotic anthology by Karin Kallmaker. Set in and around the apartment building 18th & Castro in San Francisco, it follows the Halloween encounters of the large number of lesbians either living there, or visiting the party in one apartment.

Most of these sixteen stories involve explicit sexual encounters, with a few exceptions - but that, and the location, are really the only thing they have in common. There's a wide variety in the pairings and encounters...

The shy girl coming out to her crush on the roof opposite, who starts and ends the anthology, as they spend the night up there watching the festivities - and seeing a bit more than expected through the windows of 18th & Castro.

The older women, long friends, both frustrated with the stereotypes of dykes and femmes, who finally fall into each other's arms at last.

The woman who remembers her dead partner, killed on duty.

The couples who never make it out the door - the pair who dress up for a pirate roleplay, the long married couple who have a night without children, the ex who gets invited over for a threesome that isn't quite the personal triumph she expects, the bondage play that requires a neighbour to rescue them - and the neighbour's own interrupted tryst. The sad but sexy encounter between a woman and her lover who's suffering from MS.

And then there's the party - from the mystery woman in costume who reveals herself as another woman's crush, come to throw herself into her arms, the couple who spend the night teasing her and then have sex in a carwash on the way home, the woman who borrows a leather jacket to dress up as a dyke and finds herself in bed with a stranger - and the jacket. And the devoted couple hosting the party.

I really liked the way little events linked the stories, and it was quite fun spotting them - the couple who stormed out of the cafe watched by one woman, later become their own story. The married women learning to have sex after pregnancy and the people in the apartment below. Characters passing in the hallways, overheard windows banging, and the pair of voyeurs on the roof opposite.

 I did feel that - while the characters were different, and the roles, a lot of the sex was obviously written by the same person. It was occasionally frustrating not to see more of each little excerpt, as some of the backstories sounded very interesting. It's a pretty good collection of stories, and I read them a few at a time over a week - it was easy to get in and out of, due to the anthology format. A pretty good choice for lesbian erotica with a bit of a twist, basically and I found most of the anthology more enjoyable than the previous books I've read by this author.

- 2006 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Lesbian Erotica
- Karin Kallmaker was an Alice B Readers award winner in 2004.

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