Below are a small sample of reviews from Ashley Lister's fiction.
(Please note that the copyright for these reviews belongs to the original author and they are reproduced here through kind permission and are not to be reproduced or reprinted without express permission from the original authors.)
Steven Hart (from Erotica Revealed) reviewing Cuckold
The first part of Amber Leigh’s Cuckold is both excruciating and hilarious to read, and that is precisely because she writes as well as she does. The book is relentless in creating the exquisite suffering that Ms. Leigh’s protagonist, Sally, brings down upon her husband Edwin. Her infidelity -- real and imagined -- provides the agony that haunts his every moment, crushes him with its revelation, and uplifts him on the cross of his own ignominious, gross penchant for being abused.
By way of contrast, Emma Bovary uses her dullard husband’s bourgeois self-satisfaction as a springboard to betray him. He responds with the sweetness of a dumb ox. That sweet dullness is what feeds her will to exploit and torment him. Sally captures and torments Edwin with all the dispassion of Pinhead. Defiling his trust heightens her pleasure. As perhaps the prime example, she lavishes a deep throat kiss on her husband with her mouth still full of his own brother’s dripping, thick, and reeking come. Edwin reacts in two ways: he is utterly revolted, and as a result, he has a mind blasting orgasm.
Who are these people anyway? Edwin talks, thinks and behaves in the manner of a repressed, prim, middle-class compulsive out of D.H. Lawrence. Strangely though, given the people around him, Edwin’s passions and desires are not off-putting. They spring from the classic problem of all men in literature who have married women they cannot sexually master. The difference is, ‘Eddie’ likes it that way even though it takes him a while to realize it. It slowly dawns on him that he craves Sally’s dalliance more than even she does. His mania is scarifying in its total obsession -- not so much with his wife -- but with the need for her to betray him. She is a kind of monster Stepford wife. Her perfection is his undoing, but not forever.
Edwin may seem a petit bourgeois bean counter, and he is, but that is not the sum total of him. He is canny, as the ironic resolution of the book shows. Nor is Edwin Joseph K. with an erection, forever pursuing his accusers to be forgiven for he knows not what. He is the perfect post-modern artist who -- having lost all faith in ordinary communication and human contact -- is creating only one work of art. That is himself, and he slowly emerges from the clutches of his beautiful and unbelievably awful wife to be the master of the situation and all those who have tormented him at her behest.
Who is Sally? Naturally Ms. Leigh has made her an artist
too. Sally is a painter, who creates very salable works that appeal to the
likes of Edwin’s boss, Jake, an old-moneyed, callous, and crudely
manipulative boor for whom consumerism is all. Jake is not so much a
henchman to Sally’s devices as he is her tool, and a blunt one at that. His
very loathsomeness makes his conquest of Sally that much more erotically
gratifying to Edwin.
Sally herself is everything the artist-as-commodity must become and therefore nothing like an artist at all. She makes and sells consumer goods for customers who she herself intends to consume. If her stable of males were American, they would be the familiar, beefy, self-serving frat boys who are still cute as a bug’s ear (and about as bright), but who are doomed to sclerotic decline and disillusionment in their late thirties. Not to worry, Sally will find replacements.
What is it that makes Cuckold so captivating and haunting? First, the obsession is never a source of genuine pleasure to Edwin. His experience of “pleasure” is a bleak, snake pit of sexual denigrations that few if any would willingly descend to share with him. Even he doesn’t like it in its raw form, despite the fact that he cannot stop himself from pursuing it. It leaves him pawing through garbage hoping for a clue, any clue, that Sally is unfaithful. The fact is that she really is fucking a half-dozen men on the side. That is strangely a relief for the reader. It affirms some sort of reality because, like Raskolnikov’s pawnbroker, Edwin’s wife is just as vile and deceitful as he imagines her to be.
What makes Sally so grotesque is not that she is cuckolding Edwin. He truly is a lousy lover and besides she is really doing to him out of “love” what she knows he wants her to do. It is not that she is truly a sadist. That is part of the deal with Edwin and he cannot have what he wants if she does not give rein that part of herself.
What divides Sally from Edwin is that she is a boor, and he is not. She stuffs her every opening with cocks (or their equivalent) in the way that Homer Simpson hordes and consumes doughnuts. Having found herself a license to behave like an insensate numbskull, she revels in it. She plunges in tits deep with never a moment’s reserve. Her beauty, which she holds over Edwin as a totem of her absolute power, becomes his talisman of her fleeting substance. He comes to prefer Sally at a distance so that he can fantasize about her boorish excesses, rather than have them slathered and dripped all over him. I can see why. Sally is the ultimate expression of bad taste, and that is the source of the humor in Cuckold.
Edwin, you see, always was a man of reserve, unflinching dedication (and how!), and good taste. He has the Englishman’s decorous sense of social restraint. Those around him lose all control in their pursuit of eroto-consumerism, and so Edwin becomes the ultimate master of the situation. Why?
The answer is delicious. Edwin’s obsession has put him forever at a distance from others, a fact that has given him a degree of consciousness and self-awareness that no one else around him possesses. Unlike anyone else in Ms. Leigh’s novel, he knows not only who he is, but also what he is, and that, ironically, is the tool Sally has given him to take control of her.
Much credit is due Ms. Leigh because she can actually write in fluid, deft and complex English, something which is rarely present these days and on the decline in erotica. It allows her shades of meaning and deliberate ambivalence that few eroticists are able to achieve. She is truly witty. I will leave you with an example that demonstrates how wonderfully this author has captured the dreary horror of obsession:
“Crazy,” he muttered. The word echoed hollowly from the kitchen tiles. It was slurred by the remainder of the third scotch. Forcing himself not to talk out loud, sure the verdict of craziness could only be confirmed if he compounded his present problems with a solitary conversation, he sighed and decided it was now long past the time to put the obsession behind him.
Of course he does not because he cannot, but Edwin learns to use his obsession to control others. Ms. Leigh demonstrates that, once again, there will always be an England, however anally retentive.
The Bloodlust Chronicles:
Reviewed author and editor Gary Russell
“The dark one is the cruellest of all vampires, renowned for his evil deeds and notorious for his depraved appetites. When a gypsy foretells his demise at the hands of the virtuous, Faith, he plots to avoid the fate by robbing the girl of her virtue.”
Reads the back cover of ‘Faith,’ the first in the trilogy of S/M vampire erotica comprising of the eponymous ‘Faith,’ ‘Hope’ and ‘Charity.’
Faith is the lead choral singer in a production of Tosca touring Rome. Hope works as a croupier in Paris, and Charity is the singer in ‘Bloodlust’ a mock vampire rock/Goth band situated in London.
The trilogy’s anti-hero, Todd Hunter, manages and employs all three sisters and acts as a go-between for the vampires, the Dark One and his voluptuous sister, Lilah, and their business interests in the mortal world.
Populated with the same ensemble of lecherous, amoral vampires led by the superbly forbidding dominatrix Lilah and her quixotic evil brother, The Dark One, the novels share similar plot lines. Each sister has to be seduced into losing her virtuousness by either the vampires, or the sister’s mortal friends, and each is subjugated by corporal punishment, usually at the hands of the irascible Todd Hunter.
But, and quite rightly, the Bloodlust plots cannot be separated from the prevailing erotic element, which flows, pulsates and drips from almost every page. Ashton’s erotica is effectively and sensuously detailed, from straight sex and lesbian seductions to the more bizarre and extreme- with whip happy vampire vixens trying to out-dominate one another. Ashton has the most fun with her spanking scenes, the emotional turmoil that accompanies the sting of a hand meting out punishment to a reddened behind, and she yields her pen with a sadistic savour-faire. The sisters are often appalled, and ashamed of their sexual yearnings. They surrender with grudging delight to their awakened, masochistic desires. Here, for example where the heroine, Faith, finds herself bent over the knee of the choir mistress, Mrs. Moon:
“Mortified by shame, Faith could only remain rigid as the hem was inched higher. The woman’s cool hands brushed the backs of her knees, then grasped the smooth flesh of her upper thighs, but Faith was struggling to ignore every disquieting sensation. She knew her skirt was being lifted and she didn’t doubt the exhibition of her bare legs and bottom would make for a humiliating spectacle, but she felt helpless to resist or complain. But when she heard the harsh growl of a seam tearing, she couldn’t stop herself from crying out in complaint.”
The vampires too, although thoroughly amoral and unpleasant characters, are darkly compelling as sexual beings. Partly based on medieval concepts, sunlight kills them, crosses burn them, and they don’t like garlic. They can take or make their victims, either by draining all their life’s blood or drinking just a little. But Ashton wisely avoids the animated corpse route of other vampire writers. She defines her vampires as beings in thrall to their supernaturally insatiable libidos.
Very cleverly, with the vampires Lisette weaves an arousing erotic spell that equals that of her more conventional sex scenes. The vampire’s victims go willingly to their deaths, in orgiastic bliss. The vampires feed off sexual energy, and excite their victims before biting them. Not unlike, to be glib, mere mortals popping a meal into the microwave before eating it.
“The redhead snatched her breath, her hands clawing at Helen’s back in a way that could have been pushing her away or might have been pulling her closer. She ground her hips more urgently in Nick’s direction, encouraging him to bite her with the same vital passion. He hesitated, clearly torn by other considerations, but eventually his arousal got the better of him and he deigned to press his lips against her. The couple locked their mouths on either side of the redhead’s throat and twin ribbons of scarlet trailed from their kisses down to her exposed breasts. The redhead’s furious need seemed momentarily boundless as she surrendered to them both, and Hope was stung by another rush of envy as she watched the woman reach climax after climax.
It was while she basked at the pique of euphoria that her colour began to fade. The excited blush that had rouged her cheekbones paled until her complexion was ashen. She groaned, an anguished wail, and then she trembled through the satisfaction of a final orgasm. Drained, she slumped back against the wall, and as soon as Helen and Nick released her from their hold she fell gracelessly to the floor.”
Heady stuff, but the Bloodlust trilogy doesn’t devote too much space to the gorier aspect of vampirism. This is no serious attempt on the author’s part to write a bone fide horror book. This is S/M erotica, with a vampiric theme. Ashton’s creatures of the night seduce, ‘feeding from forbidden fruit because it tastes better.’ These are vampires as sultry tempters as hungry for their own pleasure as they are for blood. The horror is described in terms of cruel kisses, dangerously cutting, promising pleasure beyond imagination. The vampire’s feeding habits are couched in either subtly erotic language, (penetrating kisses, crimson, hungry smiles), or with more obvious sexual zealotry.
The tone is tongue in cheek, and there’s a wry vein running through the novels. The vampires are hot tempered, arrogant, obnoxious rather than suavely evil as with Stoker, or philosophical, as with Ann Rice’s vampire legacy. Ashton’s vampire mythology has more in common with Whitley Strieber’ s ‘The Hunger,’ than Rice or Stoker. Although mischievously, Ashton cocks her thumb at Stoker by giving her heroines the family name of, “Harker”.
Targeted at both men and women, with characters that dominate rather than adorn the page, the Bloodlust trilogy makes for a stirring, hot-blooded read. Ashton’s unerring ability to write an arousing and convincing sex scene infuses the sensuousness of tentative sexual encounters, of the ‘smouldering light of torch beams held under bedcovers,’ to the squalid catacombs where vampires fuck with pornographic glee, the dank squalor hanging in the air ‘like the fetid breath of a gargoyle.’ The plots are uncomplicated, but keep the reader guessing. The writing is evenly paced, and balanced. Alluring and provocative- an erotic tour de force that really is, very sexy.
(A copy of this review first appeared on the Erotic Readers & Writers Association web pages. The author would like to thank Gary for his kind words and permission to reprint the review on this page).
For further information on any of these titles, please use the email address at the bottom of this page.