Showdown! Succubus Temptations by Bednaya Nastya VS The Cookie Jar by Asheida Charles

Hot Off the Presses scours the internet for newly published books from unknown authors, and saves everyone else the trouble of actually reading books to find out if they’re good or not. New posts every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This is meant for entertainment purposes only, not serious consumer advice. And there will be spoilers.

Two books, both alike in dignity, on fair WordPress, where we lay out scene. This is the first and hopefully last head-to-head comparison on this blog, in which we pit two new releases from the same genre against each other. In one corner we have Succubus Temptations: A Post-Apocalyptic Love Story, a sex fantasy about becoming a sexy demon during late-stage Capitalism, by Bednaya Nastya. In the other corner we have The Cookie Jar: Power. Pain. Pleasure, a sex fantasy anthology set in the Caribbean, by Asheida Charles.

OK. I’m done trying to fight it. This is just a sex book blog now. You’ve done it, Amazon new releases! Are you pleased with yourself? Everyone scroll back to the top of the page and write “FILTHY SEX BOOKS” across the screen. As someone who finds some excuse to look at her phone whenever an episode of The Bold Type gets too steamy, I cannot explain how much it pains me to comb through these books, taking notes, so that I can bring you the very latest in obscure smut content. You’re welcome.

In Succubus Temptations, Jennifer is a young woman in a world of the very near future, a world in which civilization is in a tailspin since the revelation that demons are real and walk among us. Of course these are sex demons like incubi and succubi. Jennifer is, at least at first glance, a regular human, but falls for an incubus named Mark who turns her into a filthy half-succubus. As a slashie, she has the disadvantages of being a demon and a human: she gets plenty of unwanted attention, but can still grow love handles and be mesmerized by a sexy sex demon. Luckily, Mark hits the road and she meets a new incubus named Jack. The two alternate between having all the sex and dealing with the daily tribulations of their new world.

Since The Cookie Jar is an anthology, and a good bit longer than Succubus Temptations, we’ll just be looking at the first chapter, “Taste.” On the fictional Caribbean island of Callaloo, Tinna reflects on her life as a married woman. She has a devoted husband, Bill, but he underperforms in bed, and besides she is curious about being with another woman. So naturally she explores this side of her sexuality with her niece-in-law Kassie. We get the obligatory resistance that all gay sex scenes must have, because in case it hasn’t been obvious for the last few years we’re living in the dark timeline version of Earth. But then Tinna and Kassie get to have passionate, detail-oriented lesbian sex. Again, because this is gay erotica, we know that everything has to go Pete Tong eventually, so the innocent, care-free situation of banging your husband’s niece can only last so long.

“Kassie’s rate of breathing went up from ten milliseconds to a hundred.”

As Succubus Temptations moves along, our characters try to adjust to their new situation. Sex demons don’t need to wear clothes or walk on the ground, so it’s hard to fit in. Plus there’s an apocalypse apparently. This part is never really explained. Sometimes the characters will walk past a car on fire, but people still go to work, get their prescriptions filled, and hang out at Appleby’s. Jack reveals that Jennifer was never half turned. She’s just a rare cross between a human and a demon (“like most traumas,” Jack informs us, “your parents did [this].” Wow, Jack). Needless to say the two have lots of sex. Jack, who is “barely even gay these days,” whatever that means, is really into biting, But even more prominently, Bednaya Nastya seems obsessed with gagging. Characters like to gag on stuff, and gag other people on stuff. It’s a whole thing.

Meanwhile back in Callaloo, Tinna is still at the lady parts buffet. The title refers to the author’s pet name for vulva, but we go from “cookie jar” to using words like “slimy” and “dripping” in less than a page, so the act gets dropped pretty quick. We learn that Kassie had a previous relationship with her friend Karla, which makes her initial hesitance look less like fear of discovering her own sexuality, and more just not wanting to have sex with her uncle’s wife. We get lots of abrupt perspective shifts, including at least one paragraph that switches to first person for reasons I still cannot explain. Anyway, it snuck up on me when Kassie’s mother Jane discovered the two naked in bed together.

Before we can choose a winner, we need to know the criteria of victory. It goes without saying that the quality of prose or plot progression is irrelevant. Since both stories have gone to the trouble to establish some background to the main action, I will award points for a convincing and interesting setting. More points are awarded for appealing sex scenes, and since this is sex fantasy and escapism is part of the fun, points will also be awarded for creating an appealing alternative from everyday life.

The boring dystopia of Succubus Temptations is certainly relatable, but I never felt like I was there. I wanted to see how normal people react to sex demons, and what exactly is happening in this apocalypse. The setting is clearly a backdrop for sex. And aside from all the gagging, the sex scenes aren’t bad. They’re presented as a guileless teen fantasy, complete with descriptions of length and girth. The unadorned language gets a little repetitive (I kept a running tally of uses of the word “clit,” but I can’t tell you the result because I scribbled it out and wrote “What am I doing with my life I have a degree” over it), but it works. The overall result, of wanton sex in a vaguely crumbling society, feels cathartic.

“A few days later Mark broke up with me because he wasn’t attracted to humans anymore.”

The Cookie Jar couldn’t be more different. There is intricate family intrigue against a Caribbean setting that is lovingly laid out. Charles is from Grenada, and effortlessly makes Tinna’s world feel real. After that, though, it’s a hot mess. Less classy Sandals beach resort and more sticky nightclub next to a marina. The thought of sleeping with a family member, even a non-blood relation, is not the scintillating escape from everyday life that will entice me to read a book. And the descriptions of sex, while spirited, are maybe a little too extra. Do I have to repeat the word “slimy” from before?

Ordinarily I would declare this battle a tie, given that both contestants made me want to burn all memory of sex from my brain with a laser. These books taught me to feel shame all over again like some kind of reverse Christmas miracle. So to break the tie, I will say that Asheida Charles should know better. Apparently, she is some kind of smart person with an MA in communications and non-fiction publications to her name. In a photo finish, you have to give the trophy to the runner with one leg, right? So Bednaya Nastya takes the first (and last) head to head mashup here on Hot Off the Presses. Succubus Temptations is three dollars on Kindle.

I sat through another one of Madeline’s dumb reviews, so now you do too.

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