This collection of five stories is not your traditional erotica. There is no sex when you want it, and more than you can handle when it comes. These are dark tales inhabited by regular people who slide into the fringe without fully knowing how or why. The author (male/female?) drags you along eyes wide shut. Told with style, and lacking the cliches of most erotica, Fringe Desires entertains by being sometimes funny, and at other times frightening. If you’ve ever had a rape fantasy, it will forever be colored by one of these stories. Likewise for the last story about the fantasy of college freshmen everywhere of endless opportunities for sex. Like all of the previous ones, it surprises and pleases on many levels. The language is opulent, the settings are gritty, the characters are worth knowing. I recommend it.
I am not a huge fan of historical fiction, and it was the last thing I expected from Eastonfield after his contemporary novel, ‘Devoted.’ However, after I came across this sentence in the first chapter as the protagonist reflects on a woman in his office: ‘Eli’s father used to contend that all an unhappy woman needed was a thorough fucking. His mother’s prolonged melancholy reflected either a defect in the philosophy, or in his father’s application of it.’ I was hooked on the brash and stylish language.
The premise seems to be that although people in those times were constricted into seemingly stolid lives by Victorian morality, that didn’t stop them from expressing their sexuality. I wouldn’t consider this erotica, although there is plenty of sex, because it is not written to titillate, more to heighten the drama, and there is plenty of that, too.
Like all good main characters, Eli has an obsession; Elizabeth, the haughty daughter of a gentleman. Eli is not a gentleman, but a mere merchant, so naturally, she hates/loves him, and their repartee is about as entertaining as it gets. There are plenty of other willing women, but he holds them at arm’s length (one slips under his guard), in favor of his one true love. Elizabeth gets herself into trouble, and with the help of interesting London characters, Eli tries to rescue her. You might guess how this is going to end, however, Eastonfield seems averse to being predictable, and their situation at the end is surprising. It is only book one, so perhaps their bliss is only deferred. I am looking forward to book two.