Publisher: Bella Books
18th & Castro by Karin Kallmaker was written under the Bella After Dark logo, which is the imprint for Bella Books' erotica line. The book is a collection of short stories, all written by Kallmaker, who took the unusual approach of building the stories around a central theme.
It's Halloween night in San Francisco and the Castro area is rocking with celebrations. Outrageous costumes and noisy parties are the themes of the night as Suze and Amy sneak to the top of a building to observe the festivities. These two are used periodically to provide a weak story line that loosely ties the stories together as they peer into the lives of other people. The stories are set up to take place in each of the different apartments in the building at 18th & Castro Streets. Something in the story from one apartment connects to the story in another apartment. The stories vary in their intensity and quality and not all of them are classically erotic. There are stories of lost love rediscovered, old friends who realize a new relationship, and lust in place of love. In keeping with the Halloween theme, one story deals with the possibility of vampires. The most poignant story is about a woman who kissed her partner good-bye thinking she would see her in the evening, only to have the partner die during the day. What would you say if you had just a few minutes more before she goes out the door?
18th & Castro is composed of vignettes. Kallmaker doesn't have to be as concerned with character development because the reader is looking into one brief interlude in the lives of each of the characters. Motivation also becomes less important. This is a convenient way to tell a story because you can focus just on the facts of the moment. The danger is that sometimes stories may not be quite clear because you don't have the evolution of a tale around it. The vampire story illustrates this danger.
On the whole though, this is a pleasant collection. It's perfect for reading at night before you go to bed or when you have a short period before you need to do something, although some of the stories are steamy and you might want to be careful where you read them. You can read a story, put it down and come back later not having to worry about previous plot points. If you're looking for erotica, some of the stories are heavy in it, but not all of them and this provides a good variety.
Because all of the stories are written by the same person and around a theme, there is a flow to the book even though each story stands alone. There is also continuity through the book that is often missing when multiple authors are involved. Short story collections are not usually as appealing to this reviewer because it is more difficult to get involved in a story, but this one doesn't fit the usual mold and therefore was better to read. 18th & Castro is recommended for those who like a good blush and some heat to a story.