"The Party Favor" succeeds on so many levels that it ranks among the best of the many stories Lubrican has published at SOL. And considering the quality of the author's work, that's saying quite a bit.
From a slow-build eroticism that stimulates to a degree beyond what a lot of authors accomplish with much more graphic play, to a philosophical consideration of the sexual motivations of men and women, to a gripping plot that drives the reader from one chapter to the next, "The Party Favor" has it all. And best of all, it has Jennifer Windham, one of Lubrican's most endearing female creations, who rides a roller coast between heaven and hell but displays poise and character throughout.
The initial focus of the story is on cheating -- the why, the wherefore, and what actually constitutes the act -- and Lubrican seems to have created Jennifer as someone ripe to be judged, one way the other. But he does stack the deck in her favor as a sympathetic character. The wife of a successful lawyer, she has, at first glance, an ideal life, with a happy marriage, a bright teenage daughter and a social calendar populated with other wives of equal means. In fact, her life lacks fulfillment, her husband growing distant but no less controlling, and her daughter developing into a demanding bitch. When a slip of a tongue leads her to discover how the other women in her situation deal with the need for male appreciation, she meets a man who shows her just how much she's been missing in both love and life.
But after the initial romantic play, there proves to be a lot more bite to the story, and Lubrican, to his credit, has no hesitation about pulling the trigger. Things turn dark at times for Jennifer, particularly the scenes played out with daughter Tiffany. But the conclusion is more than satisfying, in part BECAUSE of the fact that things don't work out for everyone. That gives more heft to the story, one that SOL readers of all sorts should thoroughly enjoy.