Marcia reviews Legal Briefs edited by S. L. Armstrong & Carrie Cunn

LegalBriefs

I’ll kick this review off with a bit of full disclosure: I’m an asexual queer who doesn’t particularly enjoy erotica on screen or in print unless it deals with character building. Perhaps I made an odd choice to choose Legal Briefs, a six-story anthology with legal and erotic themes. The collection by Storm Moon Press runs around 40,000 words and is a quick read. While only one story in the collection deals with a lesbian relationship, I read and (mostly) enjoyed the anthology for what it is: sexy fluff that requires no knowledge of the legal system or analysis to consume.

The anthology starts off with “Honest Lawyers” by Kelly Rand. The title refers not only to the bar where student lawyer Craig and reporter Luna begin their date, but to the refreshing honesty and up-front way that Luna, a MTF trans woman is introduced to the readers and to Craig. The plot and details are laid out with very little flair or fuss, and Craig, with very little explanation, is completely okay — and even enthusiastic — about Luna’s body. I found this to be refreshing. Why should we expect a negative reaction in an already escapist sexual fantasy? Add to that the quick and (also) tidy negotiation of sexual safe lines, and “Honest Lawyers” is a solid story.

“24 Hours” by Cari Z tells the story of Evan, a young gay man who suffers an assault at a gay bar and later must meet with his lawyer and the lawyer of the man who hurt him to defend himself once more. Fortunately, Don, the lawyer of Evan’s assailant, sees the situation for what it is, and assures Evan that Mr. K will be paying for Evan’s doctor bills. Don also has a history with Ross, the owner of the gay bar where the assault took place. The two of them had “a fucked up dynamic” and Don seems to continue that with his urge to take care of Evan. I wasn’t convinced by Don or Evan as love interests — an aspect of the story which is relied upon with no sex to distract the reader from lack of characterization. Even the side characters are all archetypes — the grumpy matchmaker ex, the sassy fag hag assistant, the cheerful grandmother-type who knows both parties and only wishes the best for them. Skip “24 Hours” even if you do enjoy reading about male gay romance.

“Study Buddy,” which follows, is the only lesbian story in the collection. I’ll talk more about it at the end.

The fourth installment of Legal Briefs is easily the longest and best-written of the collection, a sci-fi/fantasy piece that uses the law for more than just erotic background, and develops characters Illan and Daru. SFF is far from my genre of choice, so I personally found “His Best Defense” by Blaine D. Arden too long and boring, but for those who enjoy the genre, m/m romance, and fun world building details, this story should be a highlight of the anthology.

“Double-Cross” by Salome Wilde is another well-written piece, but it left me puzzled. The only first person narrated piece in the anthology, this story features a narrator who is homophobic and misogynistic in turns. Perhaps this is supposed to lend to the story’s noir feel, but for me, it was an immediate turn off. Another turn off was the surprise reveal (a double-cross, so to speak) that narrator Cal’s lady love interest not only “knows Cocque” but has one. The set up is fine and the story is quite clever, but I simply didn’t care to see the world through Cal’s eyes — no matter how interesting that world was.

Ending the collection is perhaps the sappiest offering, “Against the Law” by Gryvon. This story takes place in a world similar to ours but where homosexual acts are not only illegal, but punishable by death. Despite this, Henry and Abel find one another, and Henry is even able to secure a marriage of convenience to lesbian Lady Clary. I wasn’t wowed by this story, and as it was probably the most traditionally romantic/erotic of the bunch, that’s not much of a surprise.

Back to “Study Buddy,” as I promised. As previously noted, this story is the only one of the collection that features a lesbian relationship. And unfortunately, it is pretty terrible. Lawyer Melanie has just realized that she is a lesbian. She has no moral or social issues with this realization, which is, I suppose, convenient. As is only proper for a late in life convert, Melanie decides to go on a sort of crash course tour of the ladies she’s missed out on for years. She goes to a strip club, for no real reason than for the author to show us some strippers putting on a show. Melanie also tries out her local lesbian bar, and doesn’t have much luck. But wait — the solution has been under her nose the whole time. The barista at Melanie’s favorite coffee shop happens to be gay and more than willing to teach Melanie the ins and outs of lady sex in exchange for help studying for the LSAT.

Unlike the rest of the anthology, “Study Buddy” seemed barely edited. Melanie reads as very young — not only because of her naivete, but due to her non-existent personality.

If one round of fairly stimulating lesbian sex and a donation to Lambda Legal float your boat, please check out Legal Briefs. Otherwise, there are far better (and more arousing!) stories out there.

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