Caramel Flava
featuring Tracee A Hanna, Teresa Lamai, Pat Tucker, Niobia Simone, Michelle Robinson, Nikki Sinclair, James W Lewis, Naleighna Kai, Susan DiPlacido, William Frederick Cooper, Curtis A Alcutt, Keeb Knight, Petula Caesar, Geneva King, Sydney Molare, Anne Elizabeth, SékouWrites, Michelle De Leon, Jocelyn Bringas, and Zane; romantic erotica (2006)
Atria, $15.00, ISBN 0-7432-9727-X


Caramel Flava is a compilation of short erotic fiction that first appeared on Zane's eroticnoir.com website. Like the title would suggest, every short story here features at least one Latino character, with the majority of these stories featuring an interracial relationship between a Latino and an African-American. Interestingly enough, there are many stories here that have a strong romantic bent to them, although since this an erotica anthology, there is a refreshing lack of attempt by the authors to force the stories to conform to the expectations of the romance reader.

I don't really know how to review this anthology because a blow-by-blow review of each story will be pretty pointless as they are short. My overall impression of Caramel Flava is that I like it, strengths and flaws combined.

Its biggest flaw would be that there is noticeable lack of variety in the stories as most of them are centered around a relationship between two people that may or may not end with a certain happy ever after ending. But if there is no certain happy ever after ending, most of the time it's certainly a happy for now ending. I would like a little more variety in my erotica anthologies, so it would be nice if the editor Zane has mixed things up more.

But still, I do like many of the stories here. I find that the ones I like outnumber the ones that I don't. The one that I remember the most in this anthology is the one that dares to be different the most - Michelle De Leon's On The Temptation Tip, where two female best friends decide not to let the fiancé of one of them come between them only to spend the rest of the night in a one-time-only lesbian clinch. This one is short but sweet and funny as well as erotic. Imagine my surprise when I learn that Ms De Leon is working on a full-length inspirational story. James M Lewis serves it up hot yet romantic with Open House, featuring a happily married husband and wife who like having sex in public spaces.

The heroine in Naleighna Kai's Just Damn Good Sex! is as dumb as a brick as well as unbearably irritating, but thankfully, the story is short and therefore Niyah doesn't become too unbearable here. Niyah decides that, after so many things have gone wrong in her life, she'll turn to God and start life anew as a born-again Christian. This means, of course, no sex until she's married. Alas, this also means that she has to end her affair with Mario. Mario keeps chasing after her and Niyah can only remember too well how good sex was with him. Can she hold strong in the face of temptation? Mario is really sweet and adorable, I tell you, as he's genuinely in love with Niyah in all his bumbling if well-endowed glory. But it is the neighbor character Shari that steals the scenes with lines like these where she eggs Niyah to go for what Mario is offering so that Mario will stop knocking at Niyah's door and waking up the neighbors:

"Girl, you're passin' up a lickin'? I know you're losing your damn mind! Church or no church, girl, if it'll soothe your damn conscience, don't look at it as oral sex, just consider it baptism - by tongue. Give that boy some ass, so we can all get some sleep around here!"

I also like Petula Caesar's It Is What It Is, which is about a handsome white man whose affair with a Latina get so heated that they realize that they have gotten under each other's skin without realizing how or when that happened. While I'm not sure if Ms Caesar has successfully gotten the male first person narration voice completely right - William does come off at times like a therapist on Oprah's talk show when he's in deep psychoanalysis mode - I love the story because of the way the author breaks down the characters' feelings, lets them yell at each other, and then has them snuggle and make up and get married. How sweet, really. Curtis L Alcutt's Not Tonight has a plus-sized woman flirting with the attractive possibility of having an affair with the janitor, especially since her marriage had long become stale and unexciting. This one is pretty good too, especially with the two characters driving each other into frenzied lust as they play with themselves while in communication with each other over the intercom.

There are some missed opportunities here. Geneva King's Saints And Sinners has a nun having an affair with a man she is supposed to supervise as he performs his community service sentence. This one could have been good, except for the fact that the nun never once behave like an actual nun. As a result, the story is not at all believable. SékouWrites' Tie Rack, where a mysterious shop girl turns the table on her womanizing supervisor, could have been good too except for the fact that it is too long. The story just goes on and on until I'm more relieved than anything else when it's finally over. This is a pity because the author has an interesting story buried under meandering prose.

There are other stories, of course, but the above are the ones that I remember the most at the end of the day.

Caramel Flava is all in all an enjoyable and unexpectedly romantic collection of erotic short stories. I like it, although I still wish that the stories are a little more varied in nature. Readers who are looking for nitty-gritty naughty stories featuring taboo subjects have best look elsewhere, but if you are looking for stories of erotic sex as well as love and romance, most of the stories here may just be the thing for you.

Rating: 85


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