It’s not an understatement to say that M Christian has a well-deserved reputation for excellence. He is the author of more than 300 short stories, the editor of 20 anthologies, four collections of his own short fiction and the author of four (or five) novels. (There is, as yet, no official confirmation as to whether he is the M Christian behind ME2). M Christian’s Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker column is one of the most popular parts of ERWA and this is probably because he speaks with authority about erotica as an author who knows his craft.
However, for anyone needing proof that Christian knows what he’s talking about, they need look no further than Licks & Promises. Licks & Promises is a collection of Christian’s scintillating erotic stories, published by Phaze books, and the contents will not leave the reader dissatisfied.
Sage Vivant provides an Introduction to this collection, relating her appreciation of Christian’s work and acknowledging the breadth of his skill. As Vivant explains:
Christian knows that sex is not purely about bodies, desire, and sex toys. He goes deeper, much deeper, dispensing with the puerile, predictable situations so common in erotic literature these days. He entreats his readers not to settle for the obvious clichés and the usual storylines where two (or more) people end up with their clothes off. Instead, he forces readers to consider the behaviors and thought processes that got those people naked in the first place — because that’s what the story is really about. The trembling, sweating, engorged body parts are just a bonus.
My favourite story in this collection comes early in the book. ‘Dead Letter’ is a tale about an author, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. Filled with humour, irony and a richness of character, ‘Dead Letter’ introduces us to the story’s protagonist/writer through the eyes of his bored-but-besotted wife. The complexity of their relationship is vividly relayed, without hampering the pace of the story. The humour is sharply observed, only a little cruel, and tinged with empathy for the human condition. The denouement is as clever as it is moving. The following passage illustrates the depth of character, detail and humour.
Helen of Troy — diaphanous, luminous, and ethereal — glided into the room and banged her shin on the coffee table.
Dammit! She bit her lip so as not to put speech to it. Hopping, balancing with a hand tightly around an ornately carved bedpost, she vigorously rubbed her barked ankle.
“W-what —?” came Randolph’s sluggish voice from a point somewhere below a mountain range of goose-down pillows.
Crap! Both feet down, ankle clearly more painful than damaged, she smoothed her sheet, adjusted her dime-store tiara, took a deep breath, and crooned out a melodious “Oooooooooooo!” Then she whispered down low near her husband’s ear, “From the great beyond, I have come!”
“W-who is there? Who is it?”
The lights in the room were dim, so much so that everything seemed washed with a brush dipped in inky shade and shadow. The bed was a pale rectangle, the pile of pillows a gray smudge, her husband’s face a pale mask haloed by silver hair — and that damned coffee table completely invisible.
There are lots to be enjoyed in this collection. The quality of the writing is outstanding and the depth of characterisation is enormous. For any serious aficionado of erotic fiction, Licks & Promises is a necessity for the bedside bookshelf.