This anthology features a collection of short stories in the Guild Hunter world. Three have been previously published. The last is new.
Angels' Pawn -...moreThis anthology features a collection of short stories in the Guild Hunter world. Three have been previously published. The last is new.
Angels' Pawn - Throughout the first three Guild Hunter novels, we get little teasers about the hunter Ashwini and her constant foil, the sexy Cajun vampire Janvier. But in this short story, we get to see the two of them in action. Though Ash is usually hunting Janvier, here they are working together to bring in a vampire at the center of a power struggle. The whole thing serves as a little slice of life for the Guild Hunter, but it also showcases the sexy dynamic between Ash and Janvier. This isn't a story with an HEA. It does, however, leave the door wide open for the possibilities between these two. I hope they get their own story one day. The backstory on Ash alone would make it worthwhile.
Angel's Judgment - This is our chance to see Sara and Deacon when they first meet and fall in love. When the story begins, Sara is trying to decide whether she will accept the position as the new Guild Director. (Chronologically, it happens before the events of Angels' Blood.) As she works a case, trying to find a killer who is targeting vamps, she is paired with Deacon. He is known within the Guild as The Slayer, investigating rouge hunters and delivering punishment when necessary. They work together to find the guilty party, and grow close in the process. Sara has always been just a background character for me in the series, but this story gives her more depth. And Deacon is hawt! A great novella, filled with action and awesome sexy-times. Definitely a keeper for fans of the series.
Angels' Wolf - Poor Noel. Back in Archangel's Kiss, he was the vampire savagely beaten and tortured to send a message to Raphael. His body has now healed, but he may never recover from the emotional damage. As this story begins, Raphael sends him on a mission to Louisiana, to help the angel Nimra figure out who is trying to kill her. Nimra is very powerful, striking fear in even the most brutal angels. But Noel finds there is a gentle spirit behind her fierce reputation. It was strange seeing such a soft angel, when almost all the others in the series have this vein of inhumanity. But I did enjoy watching her breathe new life into Noel's broken spirit. By the time the story ends, we finally get an idea of who he was before his attack. And it's clear that through love, he'll one day be whole again.
Angels' Dance - Set 400 years in the past, this story gives us the chance to watch Galen and Jessamy fall in love. Jess is a teacher at the refuge, loved and respected by all, but the ancient angel has never known a man's touch. She is thousands of years old, but her malformed wing has kept her grounded and isolated. Galen recognizes that there is more to her than just a teacher and historian. He sees the woman beneath. And he takes her to the skies... exposes her to the world. He awakens feelings in her that she never thought she would have. This is all happening as Galen works to prove himself worthy of entering Raphael's service. Also at the same time, there is turmoil in Cadre with a missing archangel and an attempt on Jessamy's life. But the real draw is the love story that develops between Jess and Galen. They are wonderful contrasting characters, proving how much opposites attract. A lot of time passes over the course of less than 150 pages, but it only adds to the depth of their feelings. Very satisfying.
This anthology contains four novellas, each featuring a different brand of supernatural love story. There is not a lot of cohesion among the offerings...moreThis anthology contains four novellas, each featuring a different brand of supernatural love story. There is not a lot of cohesion among the offerings. They vary in everything from the tone... to the hot-factor... to even the species of supernaturals involved. There wasn't one that was boring, but I enjoyed the last two quite a bit more than the others.
"Hidden" - Lila is in trouble. The beautiful Fae princess has made a binding deal with a human trying to take over the forests where her people live. Now she must convince the neighboring werewolf pack to give him their lands instead. Of course, the wolves aren't interested, so she resorts to kidnapping their leaders to force their cooperation.
Rafe, the Alpha's son, crosses Lila's path when he comes to rescue his packmates. He's immune to most of her magic, but her beauty and her personality are harder to ignore. Can the two of them work together to find a way to save both of their homes?
This was a pleasant, easy read. It wasn't too much of a love story, though you could say it's the beginning of one. It's got simple world-building with an easily defined obstacle and a creative solution.
"One Soul to Share" - Nolan is on a quest to replace the soul he lost when he became a vampire. He has discovered that he might be able to obtain one from the old sea hag, so he ventures out to find her. He meets a mermaid named Sarina, who agrees to act as his guide to find the hag's underwater lair. But Nolan has no idea that Sarina is really hoping he'll survive long enough for her to trade him to the hag for her sister's soul.
The two of them meet one challenge after another as they journey toward the hag. In their own way, each reveals themselves to be something beautiful and something monstrous. They are kindred spirits and eventually come together in something more than their missions.
It's not everyday you get a vampire/ mermaid underwater love-story. And I found that I kind of liked it. The story wasn't like anything I've read before and that's a rare thing. Both main characters are believable (in their own fantastical ways) and romantic in the ways they were willing to sacrifice for one another.
"Cruel Enchantment" - The fairy Bree has no idea what to expect when she is kidnapped by werewolves and locked up with a hungry vampire. She certainly would have never dreamed that the vamp would be her Intended mate. She knows fairy ichor is like a drug to vampires, but she allows Rev to drink from her anyway. They go their separate ways once they make an escape, but they never forget one another.
It took Rev months to overcome his addiction to fairy dust, but now he's clean. His job investigating the vampire fight clubs has brought him face to face with Bree again. It turns out that she is an informant who has stopped helping his organization. When the two meet again, their connection is undeniable. But it seems like they are doomed before they can even begin. Rev can't be with Bree without wanting to drink from her. So how can they make something work between them?
This was one of the stronger stories in the anthology. It's sexy and hot. I found myself wanting Rev to ravish Bree almost as much as she did. The story is part of Hauf's Beautiful Creatures world, but this works easily as a stand-alone. Dark, steamy, and tough to put down.
"Enemy Embrace" - They saved the best for last with this uber-hot demon story. Nicole is a half-demon, on the hunt for revenge against the vampire who killed her family. But she is outmatched... until the sexy demon Dak comes along. From the moment she lays eyes on him, all she can think about is, jumping his bones. She discovers they are meant to be mates. Once they sleep together, they will be tied to one another for the rest of their lives. But Dak is reluctant to make such a huge commitment. He tries to teach Nicole to draw on her demon side to help her prepare to the fight the vampire. And the more time they spend together, the less they can fight the attraction.
This story was HOT. I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for these two to come together. Patti O'Shea... where have you been all my life? I haven't read from this author before, but I'll be looking for her other work after this.
Overall, it was kind of a mixed bag. Though there were no stories I disliked, the last two were definitely more of a hit for me. A little less than 4 stars.
A Midwinter Fantasy is a mixed bag of short stories from the fantasy romance genre with a Christmas theme. Here's a look at the novellas included:
"A C...moreA Midwinter Fantasy is a mixed bag of short stories from the fantasy romance genre with a Christmas theme. Here's a look at the novellas included:
"A Christmas Carroll" - This story serves as wrap-up for the Percy Parker series by Leanna Renee Hieber. And I understand fans of the series loved it. Speaking as someone who has never read these books, the story wasn't so great. Obviously the world-building in this series is pretty complicated and while the bare bones are laid out here, it was painfully apparent how much I had missed.
Basically, the novella is set up in the framework of the Dickens story of the same name. But here, the spirits are trying to teach the heartbroken Rebecca that she has had true love at her fingertips for 20 years. In a series of flashbacks, she learns how much Michael has always loved her and that all she needs to do is reach out to him to find happiness. This is all set up in the context of a world of ghosts and a secret Guardian society set in Victorian London. The story was ok. But I had the unmistakable feeling I was reading the last chapter of an unfamiliar book.
"The Worth of a Sylph" - This was the story I read the book for --as I am a big fan of LJ McDonald's Sylph series. I was a little confused when I first heard that this was a love story for Mace. After all, he bonded with Lily back in The Battle Sylph. But a whopping 19 years have now passed since the events of that book. And Lily is an old woman. She knows that she doesn't have much time left, so she encourages Mace to find a new master... a woman he can love.
Meanwhile, Jayden, one of Lily's orphan children has run away and she asks Mace to find him. On his journey, he reconnects with Sally, a woman who he shared a tumble with in the first book. They instantly reconnect and it's quickly apparent that she will be the woman who has his heart. The people in her village have ostracized her for her affair with Mace and their cruelty extended to her son... who seems to be traveling with the bandits who have Jayden. Now Mace is on a mission to save both boys, while he hopes for a future with the woman who could finally be his soul mate.
Be aware that this story is a peek into the future. The series jumps back 13 years for the next full length book, Queen of the Sylphs.
"The Crystal Crib" - Sonja has traveled to Iceland to broker a business deal for her aunt. But when she arrives in Vidar's office, instead of her aunt, he is shocked to see her. It turns out that Vidar has been the guardian angel tied to Sonja's soul her whole life. He saved her life as a baby and has been linked to her ever since. But with her return to Iceland, she is drawn back in the feud between her father and Vidar's. At first she seems to be just a pawn, but it's slowly revealed that she is much more.
The connection between Sonja and Vidar is sweet and sexy. The story is set on the backdrop of Norse mythology, which is fun and a little off the beaten path. Nothing too deep, but entertaining.
As a fan of the Sylph series, obviously the McDonald selection was my favorite. Taylor's wasn't bad. But I think Hieber's story may be a miss for readers unfamiliar with the previous books. Almost 4 stars.
Men of the Otherworld is one of the two collections of short stories that Kelley Armstrong wrote as gifts to her fans. And they are, indeed, exciting...moreMen of the Otherworld is one of the two collections of short stories that Kelley Armstrong wrote as gifts to her fans. And they are, indeed, exciting for those of us who have followed the series and fallen in love with her characters. All but one of these stories are prequels, set before the main novels. But I wouldn't necessarily tell someone new to the series to read them first. The stories come first chronologically, but I think you'd have a better appreciation for them at least after Stolen. (And the last story in the mix takes place after No Humans Involved.) You don't have to read these stories to keep up with the series, but they are fantastic and fans really won't want to miss them.
"Infusion" - narrator: Malcolm - This is the story of Jeremy's conception. We've known from the beginning that he is different and special. This gives us a little insight into why. We meet his Japanese mother and learn that she approached Malcolm on purpose, to infuse his werewolf blood into her own supernatural bloodline. This is also our first look at Malcolm and we get an idea of what a jerk he is... although the true breadth of that isn't seen until later stories.
"Savage" - narrator: Clay - This is the meatiest story in the bunch. Here Clay tells us the story of how he became a werewolf and how Jeremy took him into the Pack. We see firsthand the events that turn Clay into the man we know... why he cares so little for human conventions, why he is so loyal to Jeremy, and even how he became friends with Nick. We get the oft-mentioned "guinea pig" story and see the events that turned Clay and Daniel into enemies... a pivotal development that lays the foundation for Bitten. The story also gives insight into Jeremy and his early relationships with both his father and the other members of the Pack. It's definitely a switch from the reverence the other wolves hold for him now. This is a great story and it's worth getting the book, even for this novella alone.
"Ascension" - narrator: Clay - This story feels almost like an extension of the one before. It picks up with Clay at 11 years old and shows, through his perspective, Jeremy's rise to pack Alpha. It's a process that spans more than a decade. In that time, we see how Clay becomes the Pack enforcer; how he gained the reputation as a psychotic killer; even what's in those pictures of his dirty-work that we've heard reference to. The story shows how the Pack has come to be in its current form and why its numbers have dwindled... and most importantly, how Malcolm was finally defeated. Really good stuff.
"Kitsunegari" - narrator: Jeremy - In "Infusion," we learned that Jeremy came from a line of supernatural women, but it's in this story, we finally find out what they were. Jeremy is with Jamie, attending one of her shows, when he is lured away by an Asian woman. She tries to seduce him, but with no luck. Jeremy is able to eventually determine that she is one of an ancient race of fox-shifter deities and they want Jeremy to help them repopulate, since he is descended from the worshippers infused with their powers. This was probably the least thrilling of the four stories, though I did like the little bit of backstory Jeremy gives about how and when he started falling for Jamie.
I really enjoyed this collection of short stories... and wouldn't hesitate to recommend the collection to any Otherworld fan. 5 stars.(less)
"Midnight Pleasures" isn't the best anthology I've ever read, but it has stories from two series I enjoy, so it was worth a read.
The first story is A...more"Midnight Pleasures" isn't the best anthology I've ever read, but it has stories from two series I enjoy, so it was worth a read.
The first story is Amanda Ashley's "Darkfest." I've never read anything from her before. The title character is a dark wizard who has never known love. He is very powerful and he is taken with Channa Leigh, a virginal blind village girl. He visits her village in the form of a wolf and somehow, when she touches him, she can see. But he knows he can't stay with her as a wolf. When Channa Leigh's mother becomes ill, her father begs Darkfest for help and he agrees to heal the woman in exchange for a year with Channa Leigh in his fortress. The story was sweet. Not terribly strong, but not bad. There were some things (like his taste for blood and problems with the sunlight) that were never really fleshed out. And speaking of flesh, despite the fact there was much talk about them both being virgins... their relationship was never consummated. Bummer.
The second story was Sherrilyn Kenyon's "Phantom Lover." This is part of her Dark/Dream Hunter universe. V'Aiden is a Greek God of sleep (for lack of a more complex explanation.) He falls in love with Erin in her dreams. She's been plagued by monsters in her sleep which are draining her for power. And he comes to her rescue. Can they make it work even though he is not human and they live in two different worlds? I'm a huge fan of the Dark/Dream Hunters, so I really enjoyed this one. As always, Kenyon's storytelling is sexy and enthralling. I can't say if someone unfamiliar with the series would enjoy it as much as I did. But I thought it was great.
Maggie Shayne's "Under Her Spell" is next. It features Melissa, a white witch who has been hired by a tv show about the supernatural, to consult on its accuracy. She is quickly drawn to her new boss, but she realizes he is surrounded by dark energy. It turns out his father was a dark wizard who is reaching out to him beyond the grave and only Melissa can save his soul. It was kind of... well, meh, for me. I didn't hate it, but I wouldn't have any interest in reading any more about these characters.
And the last novella is "A Wulf's Curse," part of Ronda Thompson's Wild Wulfs of London series. The story centers on Sterling, the youngest of the Wulf brothers. He ran away from his London home 10 years earlier when he father triggered the family curse. Dad turned into a wolf at the dinner table, then committed suicide. His mother killed herself shortly after. The curse is triggered by love, so Sterling has no interest in losing his heart. But when the beautiful Elise stows away in the carnival where he works, he can't help but fall for her innocent charms. It was sweet addition to the series. Steamy love scenes and a great happy ending. My only beef is, that unlike the resolutions that other Wulf stories had, we didn't get to see Sterling beat his curse. We just have to assume it all works out in the end.
Overall, the collection of stories was fair. I really enjoyed the Kenyon and Thompson offerings. The other two are just ok. 3 1/2 stars, but I'll round up on the merit of the two I liked. (less)
Gena Showalter's "Into the Dark" is a collection of three short stories and a few bonus features for fans. It seems all three of the novella had been...moreGena Showalter's "Into the Dark" is a collection of three short stories and a few bonus features for fans. It seems all three of the novella had been released as ebooks, but I'm old school and I'd still much rather have a book in my hand.
Anyway, the first novella is "The Darkest Fire," a prequel to the Lords of the Underworld series. It's the story of how the demon lords escaped hell in the first place. But that was really secondary to the sweet, but brief love story between Geryon, the guardian of hell's gate... and Kadence, the goddess of Oppression. The walls holding the demons in hell are literally tied to Kadence. As they weaken, so does she. So when cracks start to form in the demons' prison, she must repair them.
Geryon has been in love with her for ages, but is monstrous in his current form. He thinks himself unworthy of her, but wants to help her anyway. I really liked this story.
Novella number two was "The Amazon's Curse," the last of the Atlantis stories. And frankly, it could have been a full length book. It picks up Zane and Nola's story that was left hanging at the end of The Vampire's Bride. Zane the vampire is held captive by the Amazons. Nola is non-corporeal and can't get to the man she has grown to care so much about. Both Zane and Nola are terribly damaged, but manage to give each other peace. I don't know how much this story would mean to someone who didn't read the Atlantis books. But for me, it was the big payoff I was waiting for.
And novella 3 was "The Darkest Prison" is set in the Lords of the Underworld series. Sort of. It wasn't actually about the Lords, but instead about the relationship between Atlas, the Titan of strength, and his love/hate relationship with the Greek goddess Nike. It was pretty good, but I liked the other two novellas better.
There were also a couple of extras... some "interviews" with the Lords, narrated by William. And a love fest of a Q&A between Showalter and fellow author Kresley Cole. For me, the extras were just lagniappe. The real draw was the three stories. And they were worth buying the book. A solid 4 stars.
I love Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series --and I'm on board to read just about anything she writes; which led me to the anthology Love at First Bi...moreI love Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series --and I'm on board to read just about anything she writes; which led me to the anthology Love at First Bite.
Kenyon's offering focuses on the Dark Hunter Velkan and his long estranged love Esperetta. Retta was the daughter of Vlad Tepesh (yes, Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula.) She fell in love with Velkan when he rescued her from a band of killers and rapists hundreds of years ago. They married, and Velkan tied their souls together for eternity with magic. Because of a longstanding feud between their houses, the realized they would have to fake their deaths to escape their families. (Think Romeo and Juliet.) Only thing is, Velkan didn't think the plan would work. So he helped Retta fake her death and then turned himself over to her father, planning to have Retta's body snuck away so she could get a chance at a new life. Obviously, that didn't work out. When Vlad came to claim Velkan, in his anger, he killed his daughter for real --then killed Velkan. Velkan's soul screamed out for vengeance and Artemis made him a Dark Hunter, so that he could kill Vlad. But because he had tied their souls together, when Velkan came back to life, so did Retta. She goes back to her home just in time to see Velkan kill her father --and she believes he betrayed her. And for the past several hundred years, she has hated him for it. This story shows how they get back together, overcoming the misunderstandings between them, and rekindling the passion that never really died. Not the best story in the Dark Hunter world, but it was good and I enjoyed it. (They can't all be Dance With The Devil.)
The second story came from L.A. Banks and is apparently an offshoot on her Vampire Huntress Series. This is the first thing I've ever read from LA Banks and I did not enjoy it. The story focused on a young man named Jose who meets his destined love Juanita. They are being hunted by demons and are both going to become instrumental in the fight against of evil. This is clearly a backstory to two people who are relevant in the current series. But it took me a long time to understand what was going on. The slang and grammar were frankly horrible. And the biggest sin for me: the ending was not happy. I finished this story feeling like I had been sucker punched and I wish I would have skipped it.
The third story is from the Companion series written by Susan Squires. I wasn't familiar with her either. And it took me a little while to get into this story, but I did, eventually. Our hero, Davie Ware, is a human called to help some good vampires defeat some bad vampires in Casablanca back in the 1800's. That would be hard enough on the guy, but it's made even worse by the fact that he had recently escaped a female vampire who had held him as a sex slave and tortured him... AND he had to leave on this mission the very day he had planned to propose to his love, Emma. Davie sacrifices himself and his future to do the right thing. But Emma doesn't give up on him and follows him, hoping for a future. I liked this one and may check out the Companion series after reading it.
The last story was from Ronda Thompson and I loved this one. It featured Anne, an 1800's lady who wants to shake up her staid life. Enter Merrick, the new stablemaster. There is an undeniable attraction between the two. But a relationship seems impossible because of the difference in their social station. Complicating matters further, it seems Merrick is also a werewolf. In a very short time, I came to care for both Anne and Merrick. I enjoyed the development of their relationship and I was excited to find out this, too is tied to a series. I will definitely be reading The Dark One.
If you've made it to the end of this review, I feel like you should have earned some kind of merit badge. But I will wrap it up, saying that it was a solid anthology and one I'd recommend. Just read the Banks story at your own risk. 4 stars. (less)
As a huge Sherrilyn Kenyon fan, I couldn't wait to read "Tapestry" for her contribution. But I was surprised to find, I enjoyed all four novellas in t...moreAs a huge Sherrilyn Kenyon fan, I couldn't wait to read "Tapestry" for her contribution. But I was surprised to find, I enjoyed all four novellas in the anthology.
The first, "To Kiss in the Shadows," by Lynn Kurland, was a historical romance. Lianna was once beautiful, but her face was marred by pox. Her family is dead but she is living as a ward of the king. She holds great lands that will one day go to her husband.
The women of the court are not kind to her; they merely tolerate her and sometimes taunt her about her appearance. They are all clucking about the arrival of eligible bachelor Kendrick of Artane. But it's Lianne who catches his attention and they become fast friends. And when his brother, Jason de Piaget, arrives --there are definite sparks. The cruel women go so far as to poison Lianna in their jealousy. But they can't stand in the way of her happily ever after.
The second novella was "An Interrupted Tapestry," by Madeline Hunter. This is also historical. In this story, Lady Giselle goes to an old friend, Andreas, to ask for a loan. They have not seen each other in many years, but were close in their youth. Giselle's brother has put the family in poverty with his bad deals. And it isn't until he goes missing that she realizes just how bad things are. Giselle and Andreas are instantly attracted to each other, but think their life circumstances prevent them from being together. Andreas decides to help Giselle find her brother and in the course of the search, they find their feelings for each other too difficult to ignore.
The third novella is Kenyon's "Dragonswan." It is set in the Dark Hunter universe and features an Arcadian Dragon named Sebastian. He is in present day America to recover a tapestry made by his sister. He needs it as a ransom to free his kidnapped brother. He meets Channon, a historian, and they are instantly attracted to each other. They sleep together and become mated by the Fates. Sebastian brings her back to his time and their feelings for each other grow as she learns more about what he is and the problems he is facing with his own people and his enemies.
Finally, our last story is Karen Marie Moning's "Into the Dreaming." This was my favorite story in the book. We meet Jane, who has dreamed of her Highlander love Aeden for her entire life. What she doesn't know is that Aeden has been a prisoner of the Unseelie King for 500 years and has become the king's hand of Vengeance. Aeden has a month to fall in love in the mortal plane and be loved in return. If that happens, he can live a normal life again. Only, he has belonged to the king for so long, he doesn't even know who he is anymore, much less the terms of the deal. He doesn't remember Jane either. She goes back in time to try to save him. It sounds complicated, but it is an easy and very enjoyable read.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this anthologies. Most short story collections have at least one stinker, but I really liked them all. 4 stars.
With two of my favorite authors involved, I knew I would enjoy the anthology Playing Easy to Get.
The first of three novellas was Sherrilyn Kenyon's “T...moreWith two of my favorite authors involved, I knew I would enjoy the anthology Playing Easy to Get.
The first of three novellas was Sherrilyn Kenyon's “Turn Up the Heat.” This offering is loosely tied in to her Bad Agency series, but only just-barely. The story focuses on Allison, an average woman from Georgia, who works in a dead end job and has no prospects for love. She spent several of the last several years caring for a dying mother. Just just broke up with her two timing boyfriend. And her favorite escape is found in her steamy romance novels.
An old friend helps Allison win a contest designed to let a romance reader live out her fantasy on an island for a week. It’s there she meets Vince. He’s on the run from the Mafia and hiding out there among the actors. Sparks fly between them and things heat up quickly. Of course, the bad guys are on Vince’s tail. But the island is also a training station for some members of the BAD Agency. So, in the end, familiar faces Joe & Tee help save the day.
The second story was “Hunter’s Oath” by Jaid Black. I did not enjoy it. Our leading lady, Sofia, has been kidnapped from Alaska and dragged to an underground Viking world to be auctioned off as a Viking’s bride. She is stripped nude, put on an auction block, and purchased. And in the end, she falls for her new husband and comes to accept their way of life. I’m sorry. I just can’t get past the premise.
The final novella was “The Warlord Wants Forever,” the story that kicks off Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. The book is worth it for this story alone. It features Niklolai Wroth, a vampire warlord, who meets his fated Bride, Myst the Valkyrie. Myst is a prisoner in the castle Wroth has conquered. He hopes to use her to learn more about the creatures of the supernatural community, but he can’t resist his attraction to her. The feeling is mutual, but Myst’s Valkyrie sisters rescue her before they can consummate their relationship. So Wroth spends five painful years searching for his missing Bride. When he finally finds her, he finds out he can control her by wielding the chain he pulls from around her waist. Only, it’s not the power of the chain that makes Myst fall for her warlord. It happens all on its own. As with all IAD stories, this one is hot and super sexy. And we get to read the foundation for the main storylines in several books to come.
Alone, I’d give the Sherrilyn Kenyon story 4 stars, the Jaid Black story 2 stars, and the Kresley Cole story 5 stars. An anthology worth the time and the money.