According to the publisher, the original idea for what later became Fifty Shades of Green was a reaction to the unbalanced relationship in Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, with the intention of reversing the gender roles of that book. Thankfully, the idea evolved further, because the resulting anthology of erotic stories featuring gardens and gardeners is way more interesting and includes twelve unique stories.
Of the twelve stories, two include Gods as protagonists, one includes a personification of nature. Three stories are about initiation. There is one story about healing, one about fertility, one about death. There are two stories I can only describe as poetic. Two stories feature witches — and a love potion. Two stories are about dominance and submission. Some of the stories are about straight couples, some about homosexual ones. Some of the stories are really hot, others are less explicit. Some stories even have a happily ever after. In all of the stories, the garden where everything takes place is the central focus. All in all, I greatly enjoyed reading twelve very different stories.
The twelve different authors have varying amounts of experience in writing erotica, romance, science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction. The writing styles of the pieces differ greatly. In some cases that was been a bit jarring as I read more than one story at a time. On the other hand, it also contributes to the charm of the collection, making every story unique.
The Education of a French Gardener by Becky Trachsel is the story of a young woman stealing peonies for the grave of her mother from the garden of an older woman, Simone. Simone’s vices included wearing no makeup and feeding feral cats. Simone teaches her, first about gardening, then about life, and love, and then about lovemaking. “A flower is the genitalia of a plant. And when it blooms, well… Surely you have had an orgasm before?” They share a beautiful summer before the young woman moves on. The story’s poetry conveys the wonders of first passion.
The one story that is close to the BDSM motive alluded to by the Fifty Shades of… in the title of the collection is Lady Sally Rudston-Chichester and the Walled Garden by Slave Nano. A gardener is asked to create a special garden. Every plant in there can be put to good use in inflicting pleasure and pain to the willing subjects of the dominatrix that commands it. The garden contains a varied collection of plants, including willow and bamboo, carrots and courgettes, thistles and nettles. At the opening of the garden, the gardener is the first one to taste the fruits of his labor. You might look at your own garden with different eyes after this story.
One of the highlights for me was The Judgment of Eric, by Andrew Peters. Apart from the hot sex scenes, the story also made me laugh. A mortal gardener, Eric, is planting a grapevine in his garden, beside a laurel and some hyacinths, when he is approached by two Greek Gods (can you guess which ones?) to judge between them in the all important question of “who is the better lover”. They are accompanied by Athena, a virgin Goddess (whose mere words can make all sexual desire vanish). After some demonstration of the Gods’ divine capabilities as lovers, it is only the wisdom granted by Athena that allows Eric to make a ruling that satisfies everybody. The gift he receives in the end is something I will surely be thinking of the next times I eat a grape.
Rosewitch by T.C.Mill is another one of my favorites. I loved the atmosphere of the witch’s cottage; I could almost smell the roses when I read the description of her garden. Here, a young man comes seeking a love potion. Instead, he learns about his own motives and desires. The witch uses her rose vines to restrain him as she initiates him into the thornful, sweet pleasures of submission.
These four stories are just an arbitrary selection out of the book. While there were some highlights, I enjoyed all of the stories. There is passion and love, tension and sex, both hot and steamy or gentle and romantic. If you are looking for some erotic entertainment beyond the ordinary romance novel, I heartily recommend this collection.
[Bettina Theißen is a practising Wiccan, avid reader and occassional poet who lives with her two kids and her husband in Belgium. She has contributed to Bearing Torches: A Devotional Anthology to Hekate published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.]