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Book Review - Cautionary Tales: Voices from the Edges by Emmanuelle de Maupassant
Every once in awhile, I stumble across a writer who seems to come from another time, a time before Fifty Shades of Grey and the endless stream of imitators that followed. Back to the days when strong, intelligent women with darkly-woven souls wrote thought-provoking, deep, and literary works of fiction.
Women like Sylvia Plath, Anais Nin, and Mary Shelley. The kind of women men feared and desired, repelled and attracted. Women who often wrote in secrecy, many of whom are still put down today by those who fear the power of their original voices screaming out into what remains largely a man's literary world. The kind of voice you cannot help but notice, penning prose that makes you shiver, think about your inner landscape and demons, and inspires writers to be better themselves.
Most of you know I have been fighting a medical condition for the past several years, one that has prevented me from writing as I once did. I've filled the gap, and my craving for words, by reading and listening to audiobooks when my vision will not allow written words to be seen.
So, though I may be late to the party, I want to introduce you to Emmanuelle de Maupassant, author of Cautionary Tales.
“We are the voices in the shadows …”
Inspired by Eastern European and Russian superstitions and folklore, here are twelve tales. Darkly delicious imaginings for the adult connoisseur of bedtime stories.
Listen with your eyes,
and your lips.
Be drawn into a world where the boundaries between the everyday and the unearthly are snakeskin-thin, where the trees have eyes and the night has talons, where demons, drawn by the perfume of human vice and wickedness, lurk with intents malicious and capricious.
Listen with your skin
and your blood.
Here, the touching of your coat button as you pass through a graveyard can mean the difference between great fortune or eternal misfortune.
at the edges.
Tread carefully, for here the dark things best left behind in the forest may seep under your door and sup with you; the lover at your window or in your bed may have the scent of your death already on their breath.
We are the shiver on your uneasy flesh,
The creep of the unknown on your skin.
Whispered to you from the edges, from the haunted mouths of those who see more than you or I, here are twelve tales of lust and rivalry, of envy and deceit, and of secrets gouged from of the darkest depths of the human heart.
Is your shadow on the wall,
really yours, after all?
Emmanuelle de Maupassant strikes the pitch-perfect balance between rapacious sexuality and moral justice by using one to feed the other. She has done something unique with Cautionary Tales. She’s taken a literary tradition and transcribed it for the sexual landscape of the present day. – Malin James
Read more on Emmanuelle de Maupassant's website, or purchase Cautionary Tales now.
The stories in this collection could have been written long ago by the Grimm brother's darker sister. The one they locked in a shed with a box full of dusty nursery books and only let out when the moon was full.
They are loosely connected in tone and their morality based sentiments. Despite that (which, I admit, initially turned me off), they are sexy little tales one can imagine pouring from a feverish mind, filled with demons and sex, fantasy and horror of the best kind.
*Disclaimer. My opinions are my own. I never accept monetary compensation for book reviews, nor am I in any way affiliated with AMAZON. I receive nothing from them, or anyone else when I recommend a book or writer, other than the pleasure of sharing good books with other readers.
Excerpt from "Tales of a Vampire Hunter" - Omnibus Edition: The Collected Works of the Tales of a Vampire Hunter Books 1 - 3
Author's Favorite Excerpt from Tales of a Vampire Hunter - Omnibus Edition: The Collected Works of Tales of a Vampire Hunter 1 - 3
From Book 3 (Bespelled)
Oliver Ripley exited the limo and stepped into another world, a place peaceful and serene. A winding brook babbled over rocks, and fragrant white flowers bloomed along a stone pathway. Sculptured faces of ancient Asian Gods gazed at him from jungle-lush foliage. Silver chimes tinkled, and exotic birds chirped. Oliver did not let the Zen-like calm shake his resolve to do the violence he’d come to do.
“They are ready for you.” A delicate Thai woman met him where the stone walkway widened and became a patio. Tonight, she wore a ruby-red silk, traditional Chakkri dress shot through with gold thread. Her black hair glistened, coiled low on her neck.
She walked briskly down a wood-planked dock, over the gently rippling turquoise-blue sea to a large pavilion flanked by two more just like it, filled with people. His audience. The ones who paid his rent with their twisted desires. He wondered what it cost them to indulge their morbid cravings. Judging from his cut, it had to be a pretty penny. And what of their souls? Did they carry what they witnessed with them, like a dark secret, or did they manage to leave it behind in a way Oliver never could?
The nameless Thai woman left Oliver in the empty center pavilion and backed away from him, bowing low out of respect and maybe a touch of fear.
The party had been going on for a while. Some people were already naked. Others lounged fully clothed and intent on Oliver’s every move.
Oliver waited until the sun had gone down, and that twilight time had come when the clouds were dark purple, black and blue. Under a bruised sky, he would do what he’d come to do. He hoped, as he did every time, this would be the last.
He lifted his hand, calling for silence, which came swiftly. The crowd was eager for the show to begin.
“Bring me the girl,” he said.
A woman in the audience yelped, setting off the nervous laughter of others in the audience. All eyes were on him and the girl who walked slowly toward him, like a bride, down the narrow dock and over the water that sparkled now in the moonlight.
She was young and very lovely. Shades of brown. Autumn. Shaggy, red-brown hair, cocoa skin, doe eyes. Naked, and unbound, she walked to him, stopping a respectful distance away, meeting his eyes. On her finger, she wore a large ruby ring marking her a Vladula clan vampire. Her breasts were tiny and her legs long. Hair formed a triangular thicket between her thighs. In the black coils, bits of red caught the light of the oil lamps lining the edge of the pavilion.
“Why are you here?” he asked, not speaking the words aloud, but pushing the question into her head as they gazed at one another for the first time—vampire and vampire slayer, hunted and hunter, instantly connected.
The audience need not hear this part, the truth they had not paid to witness. But Oliver had to. “Are you prepared to die?” he asked, when she did not answer, speaking aloud this time.
A woman in the audience shrieked. This was part of what they paid for—the sense of danger, being so close to a real, live, honest-to-goodness vampire and vampire slayer, facing death made palpable and entertaining because it wasn’t their own. Aware they were in the presence of creatures capable of taking their lives, quickly and efficiently, had they the desire. Sex and death and danger formed a wicked cocktail, an addictive drug. Most, of course, thought it was an act. A snuff film performed live for their twisted enjoyment. Made more interesting by the roles played—creature-feature monsters come to real, sexual, and deadly life.
“I want to die.” The girl’s voice rang out in his head and then repeated out loud, soft and sure.
The crowd cheered.
Oliver looked away from the sadness in the girl’s eyes and watched as a middle-aged white man with a huge cock shoved a small blonde woman to her knees and pushed himself into her mouth, gripping her long hair, his shifty eyes glued to Oliver.
“Why?” Oliver looked once more at the girl, pushing his voice into her mind where no one else could hear.
“I didn’t ask for this. I’m scared.” Tears spilled from her eyes as she spoke the words aloud.
In the audience, clothes were shed, tops lifted, nipples sucked, cocks stroked. This was what they’d come to see. This was what they’d paid for. This was what they wanted. Sex and danger and death.
“Fuck her,” someone said, their tone that of one already in the throes of pleasure, impatient for their climax.
“Kill her,” another shouted, their voice gruff with a darker excitement.
Oliver spoke aloud as the vampire girl had. “You desire it fast and hard. Quick.” He leaned closer to the girl, his lips almost brushing hers.
The audience’s collective excitement hung heavy and alive in the air, like an electrical storm. Flesh slapping on flesh sounded a drum-like beat that seemed to echo the pounding in Oliver’s heart.
The girl trembled. Her eyelashes swept down as she looked away, but she stayed in place, standing before him begging him to kill her, save her. Pushing the words into his head.
Oliver sighed. She was another too weak to free him from his curse. Another who only begged him to put her out of her misery, with no idea of his. Weak she was, afraid and suicidal. A victim of the vampires, a fledgling with no Master. A Vladula.
He slipped his hand under her hair, his thumb resting on the frantic pulse fluttering in her neck. The hairs on his arms rose.
“Please. End it.” She opened her eyes. They were dry now, determined.
“Would that I could end it for us both,” Oliver said softly, too softly for anyone else to hear.
His hands on her shoulders told her what to do. She sank to her knees, mouth open before him, those huge eyes still begging him. Her voice was silent, but in his head, her thoughts flowed as his slayer soul reached out and easily snared her newly-made vampire essence and the small nugget that remained of the girl she once had been.
He saw into her mind as if watching a movie. She showed him how they’d come for her in a dark, underground parking garage. Arms loaded with books, fumbling for her keys, she had been an easy victim, lost before she hit the ground. And then, the man with a black Mohawk, who wore a leather collar studded with silver spikes. Spike Vladula. Blood. Voices as she lay dying. “The key. The doorway…” as the vampire took her over, brought her to the brink of death and then eased her back. In the end, dying, afraid, she’d drank the blood, heard the strange, senseless words. I don’t want to die, she’d thought then as she did now. But I can’t live like this.
“Why?” Anger and sadness flooded him. He yanked her head back with a fistful of her hair.
“If I have to live like this, I’m already dead.” Her voice was a scream in his head.
She answered the wrong question, telling him why she wanted to die as if he didn’t know the gut-wrenching torment one such as she felt trapped by abilities she never asked for and didn’t want. She did not know why Vladula had picked her, why she was here, or why she was about to die.
Guiding her hands to his cock, he held her fingers in his, showing her how to do it. His anger, her fear, their shock and confusion, on stage before people who now fucked all around them, eyes glassy, drunk on forbidden pleasures, had quickened his breath and hers. His flesh surged upward, driving into her seeking fingers. His fury adding to the tension.
Her lips appeared bruised, swollen like her nipples, sweet buds tight and high despite the balmy ocean breeze. Her thighs parted. She looked up at him as if no one watched them. Her eyes locked to his fingers as he slipped buttons free of leather and wrapped his fingers around his cock.
The memories running through her mind as his soul enveloped hers like a cocoon could be nothing but truth. She could not hide anything from him in the throes of death as he took her life. But what did it mean? Why would Vladula send a messenger with no message? Or a message that made no sense? If she had been able to lead him to Spike, Oliver wouldn’t have been so irritated. He’d simply kill Spike and anyone stupid enough to be with him. As it was, being tipped off about his cover being blown just meant he’d have to leave Bangkok so he’d be free to hunt without the distraction of dealing with Vladulas. Though killing them was enjoyable, he preferred to do it on his terms and on his schedule.
Distracted, Oliver watched a man shoot a thick stream of white over a curvaceous woman’s breasts as the dying vampire girl worked Oliver’s own hard flesh as if the thick appendage she sucked was her lifeline. Her moans vibrated along his shaft.
Pleasure peaked, and around them, the air began to glow and spin. Energy whipped the colors into a rainbow swirling around them. A cloud of pure life-force shimmered around vampire and vampire hunter.
A collective gasp swelled from those who watched. Could they see it? Feel it? Oliver thought they must, on some level, though most convinced themselves it was an elaborate, very expensive show.
“Beautiful,” someone said, wonder in their voice.
Inside, where none could see, and only Oliver and the girl could feel, their souls spun together. Oliver’s dipped inside, finding her essence fresh and young, innocent and blameless. A life too soon taken away, condemned. His heart contracted. Pity flooded him. As tears flowed from her eyes, and his seed filled her mouth, he felt her at her core. He knew her as if he’d been with her always. From her first steps to the ones that had led her here. And he cared. He cared enough to free her.
Gratitude shone in her eyes as she realized what was happening to her, even as the light within them dimmed, and his slayer soul began to extinguish the faint light still clinging to life within her.
The crowd roared its satisfaction when the girl slumped to the stage.
As the last spark of her life began to fade, and Oliver waited for the cold, dead stare he knew well, a frisson split off from the cyclone of their combined energy, as if seeking to escape death, untethering itself and fleeing the girl, spitting and stinging as it slammed into Oliver like a fist punch to the chest. Hunters absorbed energy from the vamps they killed, but Oliver had never felt anything like this before.
At his feet, the girl jerked as if shocked by jolts of electricity. Her chest lifted, back arching, breath gasping. Her eyes flew open, and her scream seemed to shove the foreign, contaminated thing deeper into Oliver.
His slayer energy swelled, a hurricane circling the vampire curse—for surely, that’s what the crackling thing was—smoothing it, containing it, and absorbing it until it winked out, not even a smolder remaining.
The girl stirred and opened her eyes. She blinked. Confusion furrowed her brow, her thoughts as jumbled as his, and still
Despite his confused astonishment, Oliver scooped the girl up, tossed her over his shoulder and left the stage. His long legs made quick time up the dock.
The tiny Asian woman met him, passing him the usual small pouch containing his pay. She bowed low, not meeting his eyes, not remarking on the limp girl he carried.
In the driveway, the limo waited as it always did. The breeze fluttered perfumed flowers, and night sounds whirred. The noise of the crowd, dressing, whispering in low voices, seemed far away, soon locked beyond the insulating world of the limo. Driving down streets clogged with cars, red and white lights streaking by, it was silent. Oliver was left alone with his jumbled and raw emotions, the strange girl sleeping on his lap, nestled under his jacket, her face peaceful. She’d passed out.
For Oliver, the torment over the night’s unprecedented events was quieted by the shrieking of awakened inner demons. Closing his eyes, he let the memories consume him.
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