Enchanted: Erotic Bedtime Stories for Women
by Nancy Madore
(Harlequin Spice, $13.95, NC-17) ISBN 0-373-60509-9
Written in an academic vein, Madore’s collection of thirteen adult fairy tales is a wildly uneven collection. In her foreword, she discusses the confusion surrounding female sexuality and how the media (everything from magazines to movies) has exploited women, lowered self-esteem and our expectations of the male gender to all-time lows. She writes these stories as a way for women to feel “safe” to explore their own sexual fantasies. This is a laudable goal, and one of the reasons erotica is so appealing to a great many women, but outside of a few stories, Enchanted suffers from too much holding back.

“Beauty And The Beast” features Beauty, who loves her prince, but misses the beast he once was. “Bluebeard” tells the story of a curious young woman who discovers that S&M can be a lot of fun. “Cat & Mouse” tells the story of a woman determined not to surrender to a man, but cannot seem to help herself. “Cinderella” finds that her glass slippers are starting to pinch. “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” tells the story of a woman determined to break the curse set upon her true love. “Goldilocks and the Three Barons” features a nosy reporter who finds three very attentive playmates. “Mirror on the Wall,” features a queen determined to hold on to her beauty and the prince who worships her. In “Mrs. Fox,” Mrs. Fox and Mrs. Wolfe decide to engage in a little husband swapping. “Snow White in the Woods” finds Snow White having a grand ole’ time with those seven dwarfs. “The Empress’ New Clothes” awakens her exhibitionist fantasies. “The Goose Girl” and her errant servant girl discover that they can have fun together and with the handsome prince. A wife decides a little role-playing is in order in “The Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing.” Lastly, “The Ugly Duckling” finds true love while her beautiful sisters turn into bitter old cows.

These are all very much written as fairy tales, which is both a good and bad. Good because most women love fairy tales, and Madore spices them up for an adult sensibility. However, that also means all tell and no show. It really lessens the erotic impact of many of the stories, as the reader doesn’t really know any of the characters. In fact, the author spends no time on character development at all – meaning that the reader doesn’t truly know or care what happens over the course of many of the stories. In order for erotica to have any sort of punch, it needs to hit readers in the gut (or other areas). Many of these stories feel empty and hollow. It made me long for a romance author to get a hold of some of them and do some retooling.

That said, when Madore begins to push the envelope and wanders into kinkier territory, the stories work better. There is an added verve to them, making for some titillating reading. Frankly, most of the stories were a chore to get through, until Goldilocks – then it really begins to pick up steam. The author begins exploring less-vanilla fantasies, which may push some ick buttons among readers – but long-time fans of erotica should be comfortable as it’s nothing outside of the sub genre norm.

Enchanted is the kind of book you keep at your bedside table for a little nighttime reading. While some of the stories bordered on dull and lifeless, when the author begins adding more kink, it adds a lot more spice to the book. It’s a mixed bag all the way around, but might be worth a browse for readers curious about the sub genre.

--Wendy Crutcher

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