Ok so I only read Ms Walker's story and for once I guessed who the bad guy was! This was a good short installment in her FBI Psychics series. Although...moreOk so I only read Ms Walker's story and for once I guessed who the bad guy was! This was a good short installment in her FBI Psychics series. Although this can be read as a standalone I recommend reading the novels first so you have a better idea of that particular organization and what they do.(less)
Publisher: Berkley Sensation Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher and an author
Desire is released in these original stories by four masters of paranormal romance.
Angela Knight revisits the world of Guardian and genetically engineered Temporal Enforcers Dona and Alerio who combine their talents—and fight their passions—as they investigate a time-travel murder spree.
Jennifer Ashley continues her Shifters Unbound series as Bear Shifter Cormac is determined to take single mom Nell as his mate, despite her objections—until her sons are endangered and she desperately needs help.
Jean Johnson returns to her Vulland Chronicles: On the run after being falsely accused of treason, ex-prince Kiereseth and his companion Vielle take refuge in a snow-bound cabin—and in each other’s arms.
Hanna Martine expands on the fascinating world she introduced in Liquid Lies. After dissolving their arranged marriage so he can win her on his own terms, Ofarian guard David pairs up with the heartbroken Kelsey to try to thwart an enemy to their race.
*Blurb from Goodreads*
I have been known to buy an anthology based on a single author’s inclusion while hoping that I would enjoy at least half of the other stories. I was expecting a much different result with Unbound because I have read and enjoyed three of the four authors in this anthology. As a result I was really looking forward to reading it. I ended up with mixed feelings, some of which surprised me in both a positive and a negative manner.
Enforcer by Angela Knight Knight is on my autobuy list and has been since I first discovered her novellas from Red Sage’s Secrets series. I have followed her from publisher to publisher; digital first, digital only, and print. She first started her Time Hunters series in 2008 as a spinoff from Jane’s Warlord published in 2004. The Time Hunters trilogy is a closely connected set of stories all focusing on a vicious group of serial killers who target time travel tourism and the Enforcers who protect the travelers. The first two came out about a year apart but there was a four-year wait for this final installment. During those four years I am afraid that either my reading tastes changed or something else caused this particular series to lose its magic. I found myself disappointed in the lingering angst from previous books between Dona and Alero. I also thought it seemed as if the ultimate bad guy had been given so much power that it required a loophole for his eventual defeat. Yes, Dona and Alero had to work together to win which I did like but the solution seemed almost anti-climatic for this installment and for the series itself. I give Enforcer a C-
Perfect Mate by Jennifer Ashley Ashley’s Shifter Unbound series is another one that I have been enjoying. It has an interesting take on marginalizing and segregating the Other as well as some of the horrible things people feel they can do to the Other. The focus of this series is really on the shapeshifters and other supernatural beings and how they manage to have full lives despite the best efforts of humans and rogue shifters. Nell has been the momma bear literally and figuratively in Shiftertown. After the death of her husband she raised her cubs by herself and is completely happy being single. However, several individuals in Shiftertown think that Nell needs a new mate so when Cormac showed up looking for a mate they constantly threw him in Nell’s path. He did play an important role in rescuing one of Nell’s cubs from a bounty hunter but I was not able to buy into their romance. I could understand the physical attraction between them but I never had the feeling that Nell actually cared for Cormac or that Cormac knew Nell for who she was. As I had been looking forward to Nell’s story I found this to be very disappointing. I think if Ashley had a longer word count her usual character and romance development would have been evident. As it was I thought the romance took a backseat to the bounty hunter plot. I give Perfect Mate a C-
The Hunter’s Cabin by Jean Johnson Jean Johnson is a new-to-me author. The Hunter’s Cabin appears to take place between full-length stories in this particular series. I found myself intrigued by the hints of the world that Johnson used in this novella. The various powers, the fact that this was an escape, the intrigue and politics, not to mention the forbidden aspect of the attraction between Vee and Kiereseth. I enjoyed the interaction between Vee and Kiereseth and how they each had their own strengths that were needed to survive during their escape. As a result of reading this novella I am planning on reading the first installment The Knot. I give The Hunter’s Cabin a B+
No Surprise More Magical by Hanna Martine After my fellow Pushers started talking about Liquid Lies, Martine’s first story in her Elementals series, I had to give it a try. I thoroughly loved the world-building, the characters, and how the first book completely altered the world order as it was known by the Ofarians. David’s arranged marriage to Kelsey (one he dreamed of) was dissolved as part of the aftermath of Liquid Lies. As part of his job to discover Ofarian traitors he was paired up with Kelsey to foil an assassination plot. During their high tension adventures they acted on their mutual physical attraction and gradually started talking about their feelings. I enjoyed seeing them work through mutual guilt and heal their broken hearts. I give No Surprise More Magical an A-
Overall this anthology was more of a mixed bag than I expected. I was disappointed in two of the stories that I had highly anticipated. Both suffered from a lack of romance, one was not helped by the anti-climatic last battle, and the other would have benefited from a focus on the romance instead of the nefarious plots. I will continue to read Knight and Ashley I just hope their magic returns. I found a new-to-me author, Johnson, with an interesting world and characters that I look forward to enjoying in the future and I really liked the final novella by Martine. The story order meant that for me, Unbound finished on a strong note.
I have been a fan of this anthology for about 20 or so years. Ever since I first discovered one in the bookstore. I haunted my local used book stores...moreI have been a fan of this anthology for about 20 or so years. Ever since I first discovered one in the bookstore. I haunted my local used book stores trying to find the backlist and made it a yearly event to get the next volume. Several of the contributing authors over the years I have followed through their spin-off novels and continue to have on my autobuy list. I am very glad that Elisabeth Waters has been able to continue Marion Zimmer Bradley's tradition and provide me with a yearly enjoyable anthology. (less)
This was more of a 3.5. I found this anthology more of a mixed bag then the usual Valdemar anthology. Maybe because I am more accustomed to different...moreThis was more of a 3.5. I found this anthology more of a mixed bag then the usual Valdemar anthology. Maybe because I am more accustomed to different voices in that world. I can say that I enjoyed the contributions by those authors who are already on my auto=buy list and might have to check out a few of the others. (less)
Publisher: Zebra Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
Out of Control by Alexandra Ivy Ph.D student Angela Locke has a crush on her sexy professor, Dr. Nikolo Bartrev. When she learns he’s actually a Sentinel with extraordinary powers, she joins forces with him to catch a psychopath. But soon, their hottest pursuit is of each other… Alexandra Ivy.
This is the opening novella to Ivy’s new Sentinel series. She has developed a very intriguing world that has both humans and high-bloods. High-bloods are humans with some genetic differences that manifest themselves in different paranormal and physical abilities. Sometimes they also look physically different. Some of them stay in compounds with guards and medical staff but most can pass as human so they live in the regular population. The high-bloods that stay in compounds do so because they want the companionship of like people or because they are a danger to themselves or others.
I enjoyed Ivy’s world-building and thought she did a good job for a novella length to provide a complete story. Angela and Niko were both attracted to each other before the story starts but Niko had a lot of ground to make up after Angela discovered that not only was he a Sentinel but he was using her as bait. I liked how she didn’t just accept that she was different or that Niko’s reasons for his actions justified them. Watching them start to work together and trust each other as the novella progressed was entertaining. I am going to keep my eye on this series. I give Out of Control a B.
Ties That Bind by Nina Bangs Cassie Tyler agrees to sub for her friend at the funeral home where she works. But she gets more than she bargained for when a group of men attack her and a vampire comes to her rescue. . . Amazon.
Bangs provided an interesting take on vampires, zombies, and other preternatural creatures. This is much darker than her usual paranormal writing but brought back the deadly scary beauty that was common for vampiric image with Bela Lugosi’s interpretation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1931. Bangs added a lot of elements into this particular world and as fascinating as I found them, I think her overall story suffered from the lack of length.
I felt that several key plot developments were discovered off scene and then told by one character instead of shown to the reader. I also thought the characterization also suffered from the shorter word-count. Cassie is a dichotic character. She started off scared of her own shadow and the same night she demonstrated her familiarity with pistols and knives for self-defense. She also insisted on accompanying the vampires back to the scene of her attack knowing she was walking into a battle. Ethan’s characterization also seemed inconsistent when it came to what he and Cassie were able to safely do together. To me, Bang’s intriguing world was not enough to outweigh the inconsistent characterization.
I give Ties That Bind a C-.
In Still Darkness by Dianne Duvall Immortal Richart d’Alençon can’t forget the woman who rewarded him with a sensuous kiss after he saved her from a trio of vampires. While Richart knows that loving a human can only bring trouble, the taste of forbidden lust is too great to resist. . . Amazon.
Duvall’s novella is part of her ongoing Immortal Guardians series. As such, it assumed a certain level of reader familiarity with that particular world but she also provided some information for the new reader. I enjoyed the twist that Duvall included in her risks of becoming a vampire. My only disconnect was with the references to previously established couples, their place in guardian society, and their additional powers.
Richart and Jenna’s interaction was a lovely slow growing relationship. They spent time getting to know each other, which is unusual for a novella. I also liked how Jenna’s son was not a precocious young thing but a focused college student who wanted his mom’s happiness. I also enjoyed the big reveal scene of Richart’s vampirism. I tried one of Duvall’s novels earlier and it didn’t work for me but this novella made me want to go back and give them another try.
I give In Still Darkness a B.
High Stakes by Hannah Jayne Fashionista vampire — and UDA regular — Nina LaShay stars in this novella set in the high stakes fashion world of Manhattan, New York. Nina is set to take on the fashion world with her Drop Dead Clothing label — but when her rival drops dead instead, Nina’s on the hook for more than just her cutting edge couture. Hannah Jayne.
Jayne’s version of vampires and supernatural creatures were very different from the other three stories in this anthology. This novella is part of her Underworld Detection Agency series but it really did not require prior knowledge of that particular world because the action was limited to a very small area.
I found that this story reminded me of a Reality TV competition. I am not a reality TV fan but I thought the premise was amusing. Dead bodies, ruined designs, drama, and intrigue were in plentiful supply. Unfortunately, I had the same reaction to this story as I have to most reality TV shows. It just didn’t work for me. I had to force myself to keep reading to find out who the villain was. If you are a fan of the Reality TV show set-up you will probably find it entertaining. I give High Stakes a D
Overall, this anthology was a mixed bag. I didn’t find any stories that I absolutely loved but on the other hand I didn’t have any stories that I absolutely loathed. The one story that completely didn’t work for me wasn’t poorly written, I just don’t enjoy that particular set-up. I give Predatory a C(less)
Publisher: Berkley Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
Bestselling authors Lauren Dane and Megan Hart deliver two stories of longing, lust, and love in futuristic worlds where love comes first—then survival…
Land’s End by Lauren Dane…The Land’s End highway is one of the most dangerous places in the universe. The constant peril of brigands keeps Verity Coleman stuck in Silver Cliffs, dreaming of the open road—and of Loyal Alsbaugh, the tall and silent highway patrolman. When her town is attacked, Verity has a chance to win over Loyal’s muted heart. But will his wounded past make him leave her along the road, or can she convince him to take her along?
By the Sea of Sand by Megan Hart…Captain Kason Reed was willing to give his life to the Sheirran Defense Forces, but now he can’t remember anything but bits and pieces of the war. When his sexual attraction to his caregiver, Teila, causes him to make advances toward her, she becomes the aggressor, urging him with her body to explore the memories of his past—memories that all seem to draw him back to Teila… This blurb came from Goodreads.
Land’s End by Lauren Dane
As much as I love reading an anticipated installment in a series, there is something special about picking up a story set in an entirely new world written by a trusted author. It is like going on an adventure and knowing that the journey to the unknown end-point will be full of surprises. As a result when I read the blurb for Land’s End a few weeks ago I was pretty excited. Reading Land’s End was even better than my anticipation and made me hope she would turn this into the start of a new series.
Dane established a very interesting setting. Isolated settlements or villages have developed connected only by a major road called Land’s End. Some of those villages were larger, better protected and equipped while others were smaller and more tenuous. They were always on the defensive from attacks by traveling hordes of brigands who survived by raiding. The villagers were expected to provide their own self-defense long enough for the roving highway patrol to respond. Unfortunately as the brigands became more adept or more determined, the larger villages could no longer depend on their size as a deterrent. Silver Cliffs was one of the larger towns set up in a well defensible location. It was also one of the favorite stops for the highway patrol on their route as they delivered mail, goods, and supplies.
I enjoyed Loyal and Verity. Both filled valuable roles in their world but they felt constricted by society’s expectations. Verity was married off at a very young age and gratefully widowed some years later. She inherited and ran the post office/general store, which happened to be the location that Patrolman Loyal stayed at during all of his trips. As a widow, Verity had a bit more freedom than the usual unmarried woman in Silver Cliffs but she was still faced with restrictions on her movement and behavior. For years, she fed her lust for adventure and travel on the tales that Loyal provided during their evening discussions but Verity decided that she wants more. Loyal looked forward to his stops at Silver Cliff and the welcome he would receive from Verity. While he would have welcomed more than lodging, he knew she walked a precarious line between acceptance by her village and losing her reputation. He also felt she was worth more to him than a casual stress relief. As a result, it was up to Verity to pursue and convince Loyal to give them a chance.
Counterbalancing the passion of Loyal and Verity’s romance was the intensifying danger from the brigands and Verity’s shunning by her family for going against their wishes. I thought the inclusion of those two elements really brought to the forefront what Verity and Loyal were risking and what they could gain. Watching Verity show she refused to be limited to a specific role nor would she support limiting anyone else’s dreams spoke volumes about her character. Loyal also showed one of the many reasons Verity was attracted to him when he mentally wrestled against possible danger to Verity and the certainty of losing her if he tried to keep her constrained. I loved their resulting compromise.
By the Sea of Sand by Megan Hart
When I was looking at this anthology, I thought Hart’s name was familiar but I couldn’t quite figure out why. After looking at her backlist I realized that was because I owned some anthologies with her contributions but I had only read selected stories. Obviously I need to go back and correct my oversight. Hart also created a very interesting world that I would love to see more of despite the sometimes uncomfortable questions raised by the narrative. Humankind has expanded to the stars and as a side effect of the expansion bumped up against another space-going species that was not willing to share. The inevitable ensued and as the enemy tactics changed over the centuries, fighters suffering from both physical and mental wounds needed a place to heal.
The planet Sheir has oceans made of sand complete with waves, tides, winds, and storms. Teila, one of the Sheir residents is also a single mother who runs a lighthouse along the edge of The Sea of Sand. With the loss of her husband, she started to take in some of the more grievously wounded fighters who needed a peaceful place during their recovery. Then one day a new fighter, Kason, arrived who was close to dying. He had no memory of his previous name, life, or much beyond his torture as a captive and his time in the military. However, he was intensely attracted to Teila and she returned his attraction hoping their time together would help him regain his memory.
The dynamic between Kason, Teila, a high military commander, and the other individuals recuperating at the lighthouse was full of underlying messages and tension. Teila was trying desperately to help Kason heal because she had a lot at stake with his health. The high military commander had personal and professional reasons to hope for Kason’s recovery. In addition to the internal and external pressure to help Kason recover, not all of the other inhabitants of the lighthouse were supporting Teila’s efforts which added to the tension. As the story continued it became evident that the information provided to the public was very different from reality and that raised the stakes even more. Not only did learning aspects of the truth raise the stakes for Kason and Teila but it also raised some questions in my mind about the trust we tend to place in public officials.
I will admit I found it a bit jarring when things came to a head and the pieces started coming together in a rather shocking series of events. I knew something was going to happen but I wasn’t expecting the extent of that something. While the novella had a satisfactory ending I have some serious questions about what happened after, not with Kason and Teila but with Sheir, the military, the war, and the lies told to the public. Like Dane’s earlier novella, I would love to see Hart continue to write in this world/universe because I think there is so much possibility.
I really loved the novellas by Day and Brook. I wasn't as thrilled by the other two. I also found out good news on twitter last night. Day is going to...moreI really loved the novellas by Day and Brook. I wasn't as thrilled by the other two. I also found out good news on twitter last night. Day is going to write novellas for all of her hero's brothers *grin* I can't wait! Brook had another great inclusion in her Iron Seas world. It brought back mention of some familiar characters and how they impact those that are less flamboyant.(less)
From the authors who brought you Wild & Steamy come three all-new tales of lovers who create their own heat, even when they’re surrounded by ice…
Speed Mating by Jessica Sims – Estrella may be going into heat, but she’s determined to remain in control. Just because she’s ovulating doesn’t mean she has to settle for just any man (or his beast). Her sexy alpha’s determined to find her a tiger to take care of her heat and father her child…but no one seems to look quite as good as the man in charge. Will giving in to her need for her alpha ruin her tenuous relationship with her clan or be a match made in heaven?
Conjuring Max by Carolyn Crane – The witches of the world ridiculed and rejected nerdy Veronica for trying to use newfangled computers to enhance old world spellcasting. Well, it’s 1984 now, and she’s perfected her spellcasting computer program. Hey, who needs friends when you can conjure virtually anything…or anybody? So when Veronica makes powerful new enemies, she conjures Max, a pitbull of a cop, to deal with the pesky hitmen who keep coming around. Maybe Veronica can finally get some peace and quiet so she can work on her computer. But tough-guy Max is in no mood to play lapdog to a gorgeous witch.
Wrecked by Meljean Brook – Elizabeth has spent the past five years running from her father; her father’s huntsman, Caius, has spent the past five years pursuing her. But when he finally catches up to her on an airship flying above Europe’s zombie-infested cities, Elizabeth discovers that Caius isn’t the only danger she has to fear—and now that he’s found her, Caius doesn’t intend to let her go…
*Blurb from Goodreads*
MinnChica: I absolutely love and adore all things Jessica Sims/Jill Myles/Jessica Clare. I think I could read the phonebook, if she wrote it. Meljean Brook has created one of the most imaginative and incredible worlds that I’ve ever come across. Mix it in with her sexy writing and I can’t turn down anything of hers either. While I’ve only read a novella or two of Carolyn Crane, I’ve liked what I’ve read so far, and will definitely need to add her books to my ever-growing TBR stack.
Speed Mating was probably my favorite in this book. It was light hearted, sexy and an all around fun read. It was also the shortest, which made me just a teeny bit sad. I love that Sims has a way of finding ridiculous situations for her heroes and heroines, and then a humorous and sexy way of getting them out of it. Poor Estrella was looking for both a father for her child and a man who didn’t repulse her. More than anything she wanted her alpha, and I loved that she was so scared of ruining that relationship by approaching him about mating. I loved the way they finally got together, and how much they were secretly crushing on each other. I can’t say enough good things about Sims writing and just how much I love her stories.
I give Speed Mating an A
Conjuring Max was a really unique and different read. I loved the idea of using computers to enhance magic, and how Veronica was able to create a program to help her conjure up anything she wanted. It was a really cool and fun twist on magic that I haven’t seen before. For me though, there was something lacking in the romance between these two. I’m not sure what it was, but I just didn’t find that I was totally invested in the relationship between Max and Veronica. I wanted to be, but there was just a little spark missing, and it caused my interest to wane a little throughout the story.
I give Conjuring Max a B-
Wrecked was another fabulous novella to add to the Iron Seas series. As I said before, Brook has created probably the most imaginative world I’ve ever read, and I absolutely adore everything she writes within this world. I loved getting the chance to see some of the zombies up close and personal, and getting the chance to see first hand what their deal is all about. I loved the idea of having the cat and mouse game between Elizabeth and Caius be the foundation of their romance. I was rooting for them all the way and glad to see them finally find their way to one another. PS: Brook does an amazing job creating some really creepy villains as well!
I give Wrecked an A-
All in all this was another fabulous anthology from these three powerhouse authors. I love getting the chance to catch up with both the Midnight Liaisons and Iron Seas series, and I’m anxiously awaiting both of these authors to release their next books. I can only hope these three continue to write together and give us more in the future!
E: It was a great surprise to see a review request of Fire & Frost appear and since it contains two authors whose writing I absolutely adore I couldn’t wait to read it. I have found that Brook and Sims/Myles/Clare have a way of drawing me into their worlds. Crane is a new-to-me author who provided a very interesting addition to this anthology.
Speed Mating was a lot of fun to read. I found myself laughing often at the sheer incompatibility of prospects, Estrella’s combination of determination and shyness, and the uber patience of her alpha. I adored how Sims included some of the things that are used in society today to meet potential dates and played on how challenging it can be to meet someone who is interested in more than just a quick hook-up. One of the other things I enjoy about Sims’ writing is that she is always includes at least one key friendship so we get to see additional facets of her main characters. I really can’t wait to see what Sims provides for the next installment in this particular world.
I give Speed Mating an A
Conjuring Max was a very interesting take on computers, math, and magic. It brought me back to the days when I first started studying computer science and I tried to explain email and the internet to my family. Eventually I gave up and said it was magic. They were quite willing to accept that explanation so I had an immediate connection to the magic aspect that Crane used. Even with my fascination I found this novella missing a few things. I did not understand why the Council and hired assassins were trying to kill Veronica so I spend most of my time reading trying to understand that aspect. The other thing I found missing was, like MinnChica, the connection between Max and Veronica. I think I never quite grasped the romance because this was a snapshot after all of their internal conflict had been resolved so I really didn’t see the emotional attachment.
I give Conjuring Max a B-
Wrecked is another great installment in Brook’s Iron Seas world. Each story adds more to the world building and explores new aspects while retaining the familiarity of the original set-up. She explores some very fascinating issues here that aren’t completely revealed until the latter parts of the story which I thought was great. This ended up being a great game of chase with each side having information that could drastically sway the actions of the other side. I loved how both Elizabeth and Caius went to extremes to right what they saw as a serious wrong. Without giving away too much, I hope, I absolutely loved the themes of individuality and redemption that Brook wove throughout the story.
I give Wrecked an A.
Overall this was a really fun anthology to read. I hope the three ladies continue to join together for these collections. They are all skilled in creating fascinating worlds and unusual characters who inhabit them. Fire & Frost contains something for everyone from shapeshifters, to computers augmenting magic, to steampunk the variety was refreshing! I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.(less)
Publisher: Berkley Publish Date: Out Now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
From four acclaimed authors come four all-new novellas featuring the rugged men of the West and the women who want them…
From Jodi Thomas…Callie has done a lot of crazy things, but it’ll take one more to prove she isn’t nuts: find a husband, fast! Her only requirement: he has to be taller than she is and swear not to have her committed during their ruse of a marriage.
From Jo Goodman…Felicity Ravenwood was raised to be independent-minded, but when this runaway bride opposes her father’s choices, it is up to Nat Church to bring her around. But he doesn’t count on springing her from jail, holding her hostage, or falling head over boot-heels in love.
From Kaki Warner…Two strangers on a train have more in common than they know—both have hidden purposes and ties to a Nebraska bank robbery. But when their schemes unravel, they find a bigger surprise awaiting them than either could have imagined.
From Alison Kent…When runaway New York socialite Maeve Daugherty joins her father’s bodyguard Zeb Crow on his personal mission of revenge, what was a slightly scandalous new life as a bookkeeper for an infamous San Antonio brothel becomes downright dangerous. But that’s not stopping Maeve from having the time of her life. This blurb came from Goodreads.
I requested this anthology because I have read and enjoyed three of the four authors before. It also helped that this was a western one of my favorites of the romance sub-genres.
“Crazy Callie” by Jodi Thomas was a sweet novella. It reminded me of a Louis L’amour western with an emphasis on sweet romance. Callie desperately needed a husband so she found a man who lived for three years on the promise of a dream only to have it snatched away from him. Together they decided to make the best of it and along the way fell in love. While the bad guy didn’t get what was coming to him in terms of retaliation or punishment, I thought how the final confrontation was handled spoke volumes for the essence of Callie and Luke and what they wanted to build their life on. I give “Crazy Callie” a B
“Nat Church and the Runaway Bride” by Jo Goodman is a novella about a character whose exploits are the subject of dime store novels mentioned in Goodman’s western novels. I have enjoyed the technique of an author writing the story of a character who is fictional to their main characters in the past and this was no exception. The forced interaction between Nat and Felicity was very entertaining as they learned about each other. Felicity’s strength of will remained evident and Nat never crushed her drive or independent spirit. I loved how they figured out their feelings and how to remain independent from her father. I give “Nat Church and the Runaway Bride” a B+
“The Scent of Roses” by Kaki Warner was my introduction to Warner. I found it full of secrets, hidden agendas, verbal missteps, and card games. I enjoyed the cat and mouse game with the main characters trying to figure out who their traveling companions really were. Warner kept me wondering about the possibility of multiple criminals all with the same goal in mind, which made me speculate until the very end. I did guess who might have done it in the story but Warner made the confrontation quite exciting. I give “The Scent of Roses” a B-
“The Hired Gun’s Heiress” by Alison Kent was probably my favorite in this anthology. The contrast between sheltered Maeve working out of her comfortable environment and the hard certainly not sheltered Zeb was very entertaining. Zeb and Maeve had never really talked except for one evening when Maeve got drunk and started asking Zeb questions that she had wondered for years but never asked. She was resistant to leaving her job but on the journey continued to pry at Zeb out of curiosity and frustration. I loved how Kent built the sexual tension and thought this line by Zeb after Maeve stopped their first actual kiss was hilarious. “Because I’m going to be busy awhile putting out my own flame. I sure as hell don’t have time dealing with yours.” I also really liked how it took Maeve’s quick thinking and Zeb’s knowledge of betrayal among criminals to get out of an ugly situation.
I give “The Hired Gun’s Heiress” an A-
Overall this was a better than usual anthology because even though I had not read all of the authors previously, I enjoyed all four stories to varying degrees. One theme that I found consistent is the desire to live a happy relatively peaceful life together without the need to wreck ultimate vengeance against those who could have been considered the ultimate bad guys.
The standouts for this particular anthology were the novellas by Burton and Phillips. Burton introduces her new series/world and I was introduced to P...moreThe standouts for this particular anthology were the novellas by Burton and Phillips. Burton introduces her new series/world and I was introduced to Phillips' long running Serendipity series. Both of which I will continue reading.
I also enjoyed the contributions by Clare and McCarthy.(less)
Publisher: Seventh Star Press Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
I vividly recall making my way through my father’s collection of de Camp, Burroughs, Howard, and Moorcock. I found myself fascinated by the fights, the life and death struggle, the importance of keeping your word, the value of revenge or justice, and of course the spoils of war. As a result when I was given the opportunity to review Thunder on the Battlefield whose forward says it was inspired by some of those same authors I had to say yes. I decided to start with Volume Two because a key element of each story is Sorcery which with a little stretch could apply to Science Fiction/Fantasy. Each of these stories also has a person or people doing incredible things for love, ok so it might not be love for a significant other like romance usually included but love nonetheless. Therefore, if you follow my mildly twisted logic this does fit in with our SFR Month. Volume One with the central theme of Swords will be reviewed next month.
NEGOTIATION by Jeffe Kennedy This was unexpected. I found the choices the heroine made fascinating and logical given the options that were open to her. This was certainly an example of playing the long game instead of reaching for a quick short victory. I am super curious to see if/how she will get around one of the stipulations and the results. I think I need to check out this series because it looks like it contains some very interesting aspects.
THE FOURTH RULE by Alex Hughes Ooh the price of command, trust, stubbornness, errors in judgment, and how fickle the willingness to follow through hard times really is. This was a short very poignant story and I think it is a good thing the heroine is determined because she has a rough path ahead of her.
THE RUINS OF ST. LOUIS by Selah Janel Very fascinating world and adventure. Again, there was betrayal but there was also comradeship and adventure. I really enjoyed the twist at the beginning and the sense of hope as well as forbidden romance that was threaded throughout this novella. I need to find out if Janel has written more in this world with these characters because this really caught my attention.
MARK OF THE WARRIOR Steven Grassie Sometimes it is the battle we fight on our own that means the most. The hero’s sacrifice will never be known to those he sacrificed for but he knew why and that is what matters sometimes. A very touching story.
ANGELS OF SCRAWL by James R. Tuck And now I completely understand why one of our other reviewers enjoys Tuck’s writing. This novella really did take me back to the days when I first found several of the authors that Tuck mentions in his forward. I enjoyed the twists and the strength of family.
THE CHERUBIAN, THE LINDWORM, AND THE PORTAL by M.B. Weston A very interesting look at a perspective of how humanity is protected from outside evil. In this particular case it was without betrayal but still involved the pain of command and sacrifice for something other than self. In this particular case I do wish I knew more about this particular world before jumping into the battle. It took me a while to figure out that some of the main characters were angels and not people fighting.
GRINDING THE GEARS by Brady Allen This one also reminded me of the Conan stories but it was written more like someone recounting the story of a legend that then merged into the actual event complete with the hero’s thoughts/feelings. As a result, I had a hard time believing in the altruism of the hero. I really wanted to know what was it in for him.
BLACK ICE by S.H. Roddey Very interesting. Once again we have a heroine and sidekick battling against terrible odds to try to save her people even though she never quite fit the role they wanted her to take. She had a lot of trust and faith in her sidekick even though she was blatantly the more dominant of the two. There was a sudden about-face at the end that I am not quite sure I believe is a true change. The potential is there but at this stage I am taking that individual skeptically.
THE TWO FIRES by Steven S. Long: This was a different take on sorcery as power from the Gods. It took a couple of different aspects and combined them together. Well written but not my favorite because there was mention of errors made during the crusades but no attempt to rectify them. Only the certainty that the victors had the more powerful God. I did like the manifestation of power but I think I like the idea of the victors becoming a bit corrupted by the civilization they conquer. I also thought a certain individual changed his mind a bit too easily about providing troops.
ACROSS THE WILDS by D.A. Adams A very fascinating almost coming of age story. I enjoyed the drive that the hero had as well as everything he faced on his journey. The descriptions were very interesting and I enjoyed the different micro-ecosystems. This is another world that I hope the author either has or will continue to write in.
DARK GENESIS by Mark Taverna: Oh magic and the power and corruption that you bring. An intriguing take on what someone will do when their existence is threatened and then what they will do when they realize what they have done. Not an entirely pleasant story to read but very moving.
WHORE OF JERICHO by Steven L. Shrewsbury: Some serious twists in this story. I enjoyed the well thought out justice. The antagonists certainly had it coming. And the final twist was perfect. This really was a great way to end this anthology. It provided a link from the barbarians of the fictional past to a much more recent past.
Like any anthology, Thunder on the Battlefield: Sorcery had some stories I enjoyed more than others. I enjoyed reading it overall because it was both a nice change from what has become my usual reading and a reminder of what inspired my imagination as a child. I have also found some authors whose backlist I need to explore which always makes an anthology a win.
I give Thunder on the Battlefield: Sorcery a B (less)
Publisher: Seventh Star Press, LLC Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
HARK! to the sounds of battle. Mighty men and women who take their destinies with the strength of their arm and the sharpness of their blades. These are tales of warriors, reavers, barbarians, and kings. Lands of wonder populated with monsters, black-hearted sorcerors of Stygian power, and heroes who have blood on their hands and on their steel. This is SWORD AND SORCERY. This blurb came from Goodreads
As promised when I reviewed the second volume, Sorcery, last month here are my thoughts on the first volume. I was looking forward to seeing how this with the focus on Swords differed from the other with a focus on Sorcery since swords were also present. I was also wondering if any of these stories would continue to remind me of working my way through my father’s collection of books.
The Horde by G. Jerome Henson Very interesting opening story. It showed the visionary results of a leader planning a long game or strategy instead of a short quick one. The central battle was at least 20 years in the making and reminded me of some historical circumstances that were also part of a long strategy.
Paper Demons by James Requard Unlike the first story, which was pure war, this had some elements of sorcery and mysticism. I found the unexpected twists fascinating. Yet like the first story each side felt they were superior to the other so they failed to take them seriously.
The Wolf and The Crow by D. T. Neal So far this is one of my favorites in this volume because it reminds me the most of raiding the grown-up bookshelf. Lone warrior standing up against the evil conqueror and attempting to rescue the fair maiden **grin**. Granted she wasn’t a weeping wailing thing looking for rescue but determined to face whatever came her way with strength which was another reminder of the Conan era stories. The women in those stories tended to use whatever they could to survive and make their own way and this was reminiscent of that drive.
Forest of Shadows by John F. Allen This one seemed disjointed to me. I had a hard time following the action because of the jumping between flashbacks and present time. I found it more like a collection of scenes than a short story. I also felt the inclusion of a certain character was very random and came out of nowhere.
Emissary by Marcella Burnard Enjoyable read with a strong heroine. I liked the added twists so things were not completely straightforward. I also enjoyed the inclusion of big cats and the need for judgment calls instead of just taking action. Burnard also included a subtle hint of romance.
The Dogs of War by David J. West Oh the Crusades, for glory and honor and loot and…yet in this particular story the struggle was more for personal loyalty and honor. It was an internal struggle so I found it fascinating that protagonist, amidst all the talk of glory and loot, was more focused on other things. Not that he was altruistic but he didn’t have the same motivations as the others in the story.
The Red Hand by Alexis A. Hunter Oh wow. What a story of betrayal, anger, sadness, and more betrayal. I think this one had a stronger sorcery thread than the others but began and ended with the sword.
Where the Red Blossoms Weep by James R. Tuck Umm so I need to check out Tuck’s backlist. The combination of battlefield gore, honor, death, and evil all came together in a vivid short story. I also enjoyed the touch of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” Or does that make my enemy my friend?
Thief of Souls by Loriane Parker This was a lot of fun to read. Love, revenge, sword-fighting, stealth the perfect combination in a short story. I need to check out Parker’s backlist.
The Gnawed Bone by W. E. Wertenberger This one reminded me of soldiers anywhere full of jokes, stories, sometimes crude, and always looking for a way to avoid the rules. Only in this case it slightly back-fired.
All the Lands, Nowhere a Home by Stephen Zimmer Loved the strong warrior woman and how she didn’t tolerate certain things. I also enjoyed the berserker aspect but found myself feeling cheated a bit by the hints of physical attraction and no action.
The Witch of Rymal Pass by J.S. Veter Sometimes it is better not to swear to the gods. Veter wrote a very interesting twist on murder and revenge.
Like most anthologies, I tend to find some stories I really enjoy and others don’t work quite as well for me. I thought as a whole, this group of stories tended to have some rather interesting twists so the tropes used remained fresh. Another thing I found fascinating was that fewer stories in Volume 1 reminded me of stories of yore than Volume 2. Of course that could be a result of my gravitating more towards stories that contained both swords and sorcery as I grew up. Overall I enjoyed this two volume collection and the change in scenery from what I have been reading lately.
I give Thunder on the Battlefield Volume 1: Swords a C(less)
Publisher: Carina Press Publish Date: Nov 21st How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
What’s on your wish list?
After indulging in twelve naughty nights in Mexico, a woman experiences an erotic epiphany. An adventurous elf has her eye on one very sexy Santa. A married couple hopes to find a very special marine under the mistletoe. And a holiday mitzvah leads a woman to submit to a man in uniform on Christmas Day. No matter your fantasies, this collection of four shorts will add spice and sizzle to cold winter nights.
Edited by Angela James, this anthology includes:
Five Golden Rings by Jeffe Kennedy Naughty Nicks by Christine d’Abo Ménage on 34th Street by Elise Logan and Emily Ryan-Davis Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin
Stories also available for purchase separately This blurb came from Goodreads.
Five Golden Rings by Jeffe Kennedy
**fans self** Kennedy certainly cranked up the heat for this opening story. I enjoyed how she presented both the strength and uncertainty in both characters. She was able to emphasize the give and take and how important communication was even during a no strings attached holiday fling. I thought it was great when Tilda decided she was tired of having her observations dismissed and proceeded to give Miguel some serious things to consider about what was really important. Watching his realization about his behavior, mental stereotypes, and his glimpse into the rest of Tilda over the last three notes was extremely touching. I thought he completely redeemed himself when he effectively put all of the power and control into her hands.
Ménage on 34th Street by Elise Logan and Emily Ryan-Davis
I have mixed feeling about this story. The tangled web between the three individuals jerked my emotions this way and that and left me feeling that while all parties had agreed on making this a threesome, there was still so much baggage and unspoken angst that their relationship would experience a lot more strain in the future. I was glad to see that Angela James asked for the rest of their story as well, to be published in 2014, because I am just not confident in a HEA at the moment. I do think Logan and Ryan-Davis did a great job showing the start of this relationship and the groundwork to make it work if everyone gives an honest attempt. The importance on communication and accepting the needs of not just your partner but also yourself were two common threads throughout this story. I was glad to see that focus. However, I also felt as if Hunter was two-dimensional. I didn’t see him exhibit any awareness of the emotional state of Kat or Liam and how his words and actions impacted them. Overall, this ended up the most unsatisfying read of this anthology because I think the complicated framework needed much more space to fully flesh out. I am curious to see how Logan will move this trio to a HEA.
Naughty Nicks by Christine d’Abo
I thought this short story was a lot of fun to read. I admit I was slightly worried about how this relationship was going to work given its initial starting point but I ended up absolutely loving the method d’Abo used. The passage of time and growth of friendship between Kim and Blake with their base of sexual attraction was very intense. I also got quite a kick out of the holiday business that brought them together each year. One of the other things I loved about this story was how Kim and Blake were ordinary people. Kim spilled food on herself, didn’t have a perfectly straight sterile house, and wasn’t afraid to experiment. Blake couldn’t dance, had very strict workplace ethics, and did everything he could to not jeopardize what limited contact he had with Kim. I loved what Blake did as he told Kim without using any words exactly how he felt about her. D’Abo also included closure with Blake’s past that made me really believe in their chances together.
Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin
I thought this was a great way to end the anthology. A friendship and attraction built over two meetings a year for several years. Only this year things are different because Becca has been divorced for nine months, which meant that she and Jeremy could act on their mutual interest. I thought Griffin took some chances here given Becca’s reason for the divorce and Jeremy’s sexual orientation. I loved how communication was again emphasized, even to the point of interrupting sexy times, as they worked their way through Becca’s past trauma. I also enjoyed Jeremy’s unfamiliarity with their particular relationship dynamic and how he learned as they went along. I thought this depicted a much more believable scenario because it leveled the playing field between Becca and Jeremy. They had to be open and trust each other which made the story that much more sweet to me.
Overall, I enjoyed this anthology. This group had varying levels of heat and degree of BDSM but they all emphasized how important communication was in building and maintaining the relationships. Even the story that I found the weakest wasn’t a bad story, just one that felt overly ambitious for the length limitation. I think it speaks highly of authors’ ability to intrigue me that I am very interested to see where the trio goes in next year’s standalone.