Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tremble by Tobsha Learner

A couple of years ago now I won a giveaway on a blog of three books from Tobsha Learner's backlist. Like so many other books  on my shelves, I hadn't yet gotten around to reading the book so when I saw that TLC Book Tours have a blog tour coming up I jumped at the chance to finally get around to reading it.

It was also a chance for me to read some short stories which I haven't read many of over the last few months. The fact is that, even if I had been reading other short stories, the stories contained in this collection would have been very different anyway. While I was aware that these stories were meant to be erotic in nature, I wasn't really sure what to expect, and if I had to summarise my reaction to the book I would say my reactions were mixed.

In the course of preparing for this post, I did also go and look at a definition for erotica because whilst I read a bit of erotic romance I wouldn't say that I read a lot of erotica. So the definition that I found said

            'Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire'

Whilst a lot of these stories had sexual elements, I don't think all of them met this definition. Then again, even when reading erotic romances I often find that it feels like the author is trying too hard to make the stories sexually arousing and it doesn't always work. As a reader, I find I need a well crafted romantic scene, which yes, has very sexy interactions in it, rather than just sex, in order to fully engage me.

I am not sure if Learner's books were originally released in the US or not, but this collection is being released there. I do think it is obvious both from the packaging of both this book and also Quiver (which is being reviewed on other blogs as part of the tour) and the timing that it is an attempt to cash in on the current acceptance of more erotic stories thanks to the success of books like 50 Shades and The Crossfire series but I don't think that this book will necessarily appeal to many of those infrequent readers who read those books. Maybe some, but definitely not all.

Overall I liked the writing and I liked the way that Learner combined sexuality and humour (albeit dark humour) with mythology and religion. There were a couple of stories that made me feel a bit uncomfortable, but I suspect that is what the author was trying to achieve, or if not trying, at least won't be disappointed at making readers feel a little uncomfortable.

I liked that the stories were in the most part standalone but that the author did give a one or two line acknowledgement to previous stories which was fun, but there were a couple that I have read so far that are connected.

The author has spent time living is various countries across the world, and I think that comes through in her storytelling, with some of the stories set in Australia, one in Greece (albeit featuring an Australian nun as the main character),  and in America.

As a result of taking the wrong book on the train with me not once but twice this week I still have a couple of stories to read, but here are a few thoughts about the stories in the book that I have read. I will come back and add my final thoughts in the next day or so.

The Root - Dorothy Owen comes from a long line of Owen women who are spinsters. Even most of the women who have children do so by leaving the village, finding a man and then coming back to the village to raise their child. Just before Dorothy's great aunt dies she hints at an inheritance but doesn't give her niece any more information. It is therefore something of a shock when the inheritance is revealed to be a mandrake root, of which legend suggests that a mandrake grows in the place where spilled semen falls when a man is hanged. This story features longing, vengeance, oh, and most notably a disembodied penis.

Rainmaker - A small town in country America has been in the grips of a major drought. Farmers are committing suicide or leaving town. When a rainmaker arrives in town, he promises to bring rain with him, but only if the town is prepared to pay the price. Whilst being prejudiced against is nothing new for the rainmaker, what does surprise him is the connection he feels to one woman in particular. I was quite shocked by the way this one ended and had to go back and read the last few lines again just to be sure I had read it correctly.

Echo - Gavin is a very successful Queensland property developer. He had everything - wealth, a successful business, a beautiful family and a lovely young mistress - or at least he did until his wife demanded a divorce and the price she wants is his pride and joy new development. After visiting a vacant block, Gavin becomes sure that he is being haunted on many levels, forcing him to consult with one of his most ardent environmental foes. This story explores the Green Man myth and I liked the cyclical nature of it.

Virgin - A young Australian nun is having a crisis of faith and so she is sent to spend time on a small Greek island. When she touches one of the island's holy relics a very strange phenomenon affects her. This is one of the stories that made me a little uncomfortable. I am not sure if it is because I found the fact that it was a nun being affected in the way she was a little disturbing or if it wouldn't have mattered who the woman was due to the not-quite-incest-but-very-nearly-so elements. I didn't really get how her faith was meant to be restored through the story either, so if someone could explain that to me it would be good.

The Snore - I think this is one of my favourite stories in the book. Is it a coincidence that this one isn't particularly erotic....not sure. Miriam is a Jewish woman who has only been married for a year or so before her husband dies while they are making love. In life, he was a very loud snorer and so she had trained herself to be need his snoring in order to be able to go to sleep each night, so she is worried that she will not be able to sleep without him being there. It soon becomes obvious that she is being haunted though as all she can hear each night are his snores. Why could he be haunting her? Does it have something to do with the insurance case that he was working on prior to his death? And how can they stop the haunting without getting the rabbis offside.

Hair Shirt - The main male character in this book is Peter, younger brother of Gavin whose story was in Echo. He is a successful manager of a record label. Like his brother before him, he is married but has a mistress on the side.One of the women manages to gather enough hair from him to create a hair shirt and then discovers that she can cause pain and injury as a result (in a similar way that creating a voodoo doll in someone's image and then sticking pins in it is supposed to be able to cause pain.) I found this story interesting because we go to hear from all three of the main characters throughout the story. Once again, the male character is pretty much unlikable, thinking he is untouchable even though his wife has known about the other woman from day one.

Tour Details

Link to Tour Schedule:
Tobsha Learner's website.
Tobsha Learner on Facebook
Tobsha Learner on Twitter.

About the book

Erotica for the modern woman: nine tales of the dangerous and divine

From Tobsha Learner, the boundary-pushing erotica author of the international bestseller Quiver, comes TREMBLE: Erotic Tales of the Mystical and Sinister (On-sale September 2013/ ISBN: 9780142180372).

In Learner’s steamy collection, she explores the full spectrum of sexuality peppered with elements of the supernatural. Tremble blurs the line between fantasy and reality, depicting the pleasures of new and rediscovered love, lust, and obsession in a world where passion and magic are interwoven—and where boundaries are pushed beyond expectation.

In a Welsh village, a young woman’s sensuality is awakened by an outrageous inheritance; a drought-stricken Oklahoma town is offered salvation by a travelling rainmaker; a Sydney record producer struggles to satisfy his wife and his mistress—until one of them takes matters into her own hands…

The short stories span the eras, from an eighteenth-century biographer who discovers a magic, erotic ritual to a Sydney record producer struggling to satisfy his wife and mistress. Intelligent and highly imaginative, Learner’s brand of erotica will appeal to both first-time and more seasoned readers of the genre.


  1. Hmmm - I'm not quite sure this one is for me. I'm not always big on short stories or on spooky.

    1. It certainly wouldn't be a collection for everyone!

  2. I read Quiver many years ago - what was interesting with the short story format in that book was a crossing over of characters from one story into another, so one got the neatness of the short form with something else to engage the reader over the whole book.

    1. Oh, I like the sound of that! I have Quiver here to read at some point.

  3. This sounds like quite an unusual collection of stories! Thanks for being on the tour Marg.