IT STINGS SO SWEET by Stephanie Draven

BLURB:

They vibrated with incendiary Jazz. They teemed with sexual abandon. The Twenties were roaring and the women—young, open, rebellious, and willing—set the pace and pushed the limits with every man they met… In the aftermath of a wild, liquor-soaked party, three women from very different social classes are about to live out their forbidden desires.

Society girl, Nora Richardson’s passionate nature has always been a challenge to her ever-patient husband. Now he wants out of the marriage and she has just this one night to win him back. The catch? He wants to punish her for her bad behavior. Nora is offended by her husband’s increasingly depraved demands, but as the night unfolds, she discovers her own true nature and that the line between pain and pleasure is very thin indeed.

Meanwhile, Clara Cartwright, sultry siren of the silent screen, is introduced to a mysterious WWI Flying Ace. If Clara, darling of the scandal sheets, knows anything, it’s men. And she’s known plenty. But none of them push her boundaries like the aviator, who lures her into a ménage with a stranger in a darkened cinema then steals her jaded heart.
Working class girl Sophie O’Brien has more important things on her mind than pleasures of the flesh. But when her playboy boss, the wealthy heir to the Aster family fortune, confronts her with her diary of secret sex fantasies, she could die of shame. To her surprise, he doesn’t fire her; instead, he dares her to re-enact her boldest fantasies and Sophie is utterly seduced. One party serves as a catalyst of sexual awakening. And in an age when anything goes, three women discover that anything is possible…

RHL CLASSIFICATIONS

Roaring Twenties

Heat Rating : EROTICA

Reviewer rating: Unrated due to strong erotic content

REVIEW BY: EMERY

When I first heard about this title set in the roaring twenties, a period that is very under-represented in fiction, I was immediately intrigued. This era, immediately preceding the great Wall Street crash of 1929, was an age of growing prosperity and radical social change. In America and abroad it was a time of decadence  and debauchery with  jazz music , speakeasys, and the first Hollywood film stars.  Pleasure-loving and attention-seeking women known as flappers, bobbed their hair, shortened their skirts, and further defied convention with drinking, smoking, and sexual promiscuity.

This fast-living era is the setting for Stephanie Draven’s, It Stings So Sweet, a collection of three highly erotic novellas whose characters intertwine to connect them.

To be honest, this book turned out to be far more erotic than romantic  in nature, which put it quite beyond my personal comfort zone.

Having said this, however, I found a number of merits to the work from a strictly literary perspective. Although first person narrative is by far my least favorite, I found the writing immediately engaging. The setting and characters, to include a number of real people as well as fictional ones closely modeled after real people, were exceptionally well done.

The author’s attention to historical accuracy and detail puts this erotic work in an entirely different class from most of what is currently being produced in this sub-genre. The author nailed the slang, the clothing, social issues, and mores of the era.

As to the stories themselves, while there is a romance of sorts in each, but the emphasis remains on the respective characters’ sexual journeys which in each case passes the bounds of convention.

The first story features a married couple whose relationship is on the rocks due to a misunderstanding that I won’t go into. They have been living virtually separate lives and Nora is growing desperate to keep her husband who hasn’t come to her bed in a year. The story opens at a party where Nora goes to humiliating lengths to win him back.  While I was immediately pulled into this story, I later found Nora’s compulsion to be “punished” extremely disturbing.

While I had expected a bit of BDSM— maybe in the form of blindfolds, handcuffs, or spanking, the sexual encounters went far beyond the bounds of “playful” into actual beating. I really couldn’t wrap my mind around this strong element of sadomasochism.

The second story features a movie actress named Clara Cartwright whose personality and “sexploits” closely mirror those of legendary silent film star, Clara Bow. I certainly give the author props for having done her research on this character. Once more the story is well-written and engaging, but a bit too sexually adventurous for my taste once Clara’s aviator lover desires to share her with another man.  While there is an element of romance, the sexual encounters that follow include a very graphic ménage that is unlikely to appeal to traditional romance readers.

Lastly comes Sophie’s story. I found her the most likeable/relatable character, but thought her journal of sex fantasies was not believable for a woman with no prior sexual experience. While I enjoyed the start of the relationship with Robert Aster that begins as a sexual game, it once more escalates  outside the boundaries of the couple to include a third person.  Not my cuppa java.

In summary, while I cannot recommend this book to romance readers, I have no doubt that those who enjoy historical erotica will find It Stings So Sweet an engaging, titillating, and well-executed work.

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