I’m not going to lie – I love short story anthologies. Other reviewers seem to get cranky and whine about how the stories aren’t long enough, they don’t know the author, they like shifter not BDSM, they didn’t like every story, blah, blah, blah.
Get over it, people.
Short story anthologies are just that, an anthology, which simply means a collection gathered together for consumption. You don’t have read it in order, you don’t have to read every story, you just pick and choose and enjoy what you get. Think of it like one of those fabulous Las Vegas buffets. Hate waffles, but love pancakes? Eat the pancakes and see if that kiwi fruit salad is as good as it looks even though you’ve never tried kiwi before. You’re not committing to a lifetime, it’s just a little bowl of fruit salad.
For me, anthologies satisfy a much-needed reconnaissance mission of scoping out new authors. With a three to 18 book per week habit, I am on the constant lookout for new authors (from any genre) to add to my repertoire. With that in mind, you can imagine I was thrilled to see this short story compilation available on Netgalley and snatched it right up to review.
I can honestly say I enjoyed all of the short stories, with a few standing out to the point where I have several authors’ works added to my “to-read” list. After reading that Jaid Black, the first listed contributor, is the pen name for Tina M. Engler, the owner of Ellora’s Cave Publishing, it’s no surprise about the quality of this anthology. Who better to get the best out of erotic authors than the woman who owns the publishing house synonymous with erotic fiction? Here’s my take on each contribution.
“Fatman and Robyn” by Jaid Black
Jake Chamberlain is a star quarterback of the New York Bloods, but the Super Bowl ring on his finger just reminds him how actually empty is life is. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t warm up to the skinny supermodels he’s expected to date. Even when he fantasizes they are the lush, curvy woman of his dreams, one touch of their bony body and his erection takes a nosedive. He’s even sought out a therapist, but doctors don’t seem to have an answer either.
Resigned to his fate, he goes to enjoy a pastry in a small shop in Little Italy when a lush siren in a sundress highlighting more curves than the Pacific Coast Highway walks in and suddenly an erection is not a problem. Knowing he’s found the woman of his dreams is complicated when said woman, Robyn DiMarco, thinks the red-faced and muttering Jake is a madman. Correcting her misunderstanding, he begins to woo her, falling head over heels in love with both her and her crazy, loving Italian family. But when Robyn realizes that she doesn’t fit the mold of what people expect from a woman dating Jake, his longed-for happily ever after might never come true.
This story had me laughing like an idiot and alternately sighing over the poignant moments. I went through so many emotions, I had to recheck how long the story was – the impact of it was so hard that I felt like had read a full-length novel! Robyn and her wonderful family make you wish you were a DiMarco and Jake’s struggle to be respectful of Robyn when he really just wants to ravish her wins you over damn quick to this hero. I’ve added a bunch of Jaid Black books to my “to-read” list just on the basis of this amazing story.
“Scarred and Kilt” by Laurann Dohner
Do you know what makes a hot Scotsman in a kilt even hotter? Making him an uber-smoking sexy vampire, that’s what. Matty is a night owl who has appointed herself the neighborhood watch, a natural side effect of her attack from a would-be rapist. She fended him off, but it’s left her with some scars, both physical and otherwise. She’s enjoyed the eye candy of her neighbor who walks around in a kilt, always at night and gets regular deliveries from a blood bank. Yes, she’s figured out “Kilt” is a vampire, but since he doesn’t hurt anyone who is she to judge?
When some guy shows up with stakes and holy water and breaks into Kilt’s house, she grabs her stun gun to go help, much to Kilt’s astonishment. When he kisses her to heal an injury, the fire that leaps between them ends up with unbelievably hot sex on a desk (yowza) but Blaron (Kilt’s actual name) realizes that they are destined to be together, something Matty is not quite ready for, having just spoken to him for the first time five minutes earlier.
This story wrapped up a little quickly, but I still loved every word. The hero and heroine felt fleshed out and the vampire world is familiar enough to paranormal romance lovers that it was easy to understand some of the world details. Blaron was H-O-T and bringing Scotsmen and vampires together makes for a sexy mash any woman could get behind. I was interested to see that Laurann Dohner’s speciality tends towards more science fiction storylines. You could fooled me with the facility she handled this more purely paranormal one.
“Tinderbox” by Regina Carlysle
Classic shifter menage, this was nevertheless nicely handled for a short story. When the local police bring in shifter P.I.s Nate and Daniel all they have is the footage of a pretty blond being kidnapped during a carjacking. But once they scent the purse she left behind they are stunned – not only is she a rare female jaguar but she’s also the mate they’ve searched for over a hundred years to find. They quickly catch up to her, freeing her from her kidnapper, but there’s a major complication. She’s in heat.
Oliva knows she should be elated to be free but biology is interfering with her enjoyment of being rescued by two unbelievably gorgeous men. Unable to shift until they go through their heat cycle and mate, female jaguars have a complicated biology that results in a tremendous amount of pain if they aren’t finding a sexual release with a mate.
This story is set in the same world as Regina Carlysle‘s previous work, Jaguar Hunger (a 68 page story) and the characters from that work pop up in this one. I was most impressed at how sensitively Regina handled the fact that Olivia is compelled to have sex with two strangers, albeit very caring ones. All three members of the partnership regret not being able to woo Olivia and gradually get to know one another, but the sex is smoking and the moment when she shifts emotionally charged and very sweet.
“Asterion” by Katalina Leon
Having lost her father and her betrothed in battle, Larisa is betrayed by the weak village chief. He rows her to a remote island where a gorgeous palace, dedicated to the Minotaur, stands and where she will be a virgin sacrifice. But rather than die at the horns of a god, Larisa finds herself used to give corporeal form to an alien being, one whose chosen form is that of a handsome man bent on pleasuring her and helping humanity.
This was one of my favorite stories! I felt the reader didn’t need the couple pages of explanation about the Minotaur prior to the story, but other than that blip, it was pitch perfect. Larisa is brave and bold and the “god” who takes such on a luscious form delights in his body and Larisa’s with such abandon that you have to smile for the thousand-plus year old virgin. I was surprised to discover that Katalina Leon has written a ton of books (she has a few listed on her Goodreads page) and none of them seem to be myth based like this story. I’ll be trying one of her books to see if she can delight me again.
“Decadent Dance” by Aubrey Ross
Choreographer Zoe purchased a dress in an odds and ends shop that came with a funny little booklet that she thought was fiction since it detailed wars between planets and men who guarded the far reaches of the universe. After she tried on the dress and got transported to an alien vessel, she’s taking its tale a little more seriously.
Vaden has been lonely for a while, waiting for his contract on his Decadent Dancer to come through, and now she claims she had no idea about the contract’s existence to say nothing of its terms. She says she’s a dancer but is seemingly surprised at the idea of intimate contact. What gives?
This was an interesting idea, but I worry that science fiction is something that involves a lot of world building (more than paranormal, since there are certain known tropes which readers can associate with those plotlines). It was easy to emphathize with Zoe for being startled about her sketchy dress transporting her to the ship and with Vaden for being so frustrated after waiting for sexual companionship to have a beautiful woman hemming and hawing about having sex with him. But where this stuttered to a stop for me was a crucial point in the story, namely where Zoe realizes that the race of people she has ended up with has no art or music…and she’s a dancer. This seemed like a big piece of culture to be missing and all those anthropology classes in college tell me that there really isn’t any such thing as a culture without some kind of music. That really threw me.
“Sahara Heat” by Diana Hunter
When an archeologist friend calls her from the desert to tell her about a fascinating find, romance writer Carla Braun agrees to meet with the colleague who is presenting the paper with all the details. But Carla is shocked that her friend’s colleague, Dr. Josef Anderson looks like a Nordic god…and seemingly has an ego to match. While he’s infuriating, she can’t help but notice the heat between them. With Josef about to leave New York in a day or two he could be the perfect fling, but she’s worried he’ll disappoint her like all the others.
Josef can’t believe that this red-haired beauty is a romance writer. Despite his being so cranky, she agrees to meet him for dinner. Maybe with a little too much hope in his heart, he goes to the nearest hardware store and buys the ropes and chains that are his stock in trade. What if he misread the situation? Or what if this spicy woman gives him the ultimate surrender?
This was another one of my favorites from the anthology. Diana Hunter shows how utterly respectful and caring a Dom/submissive relationship can be with her tender portrayal of Josef and Carla and the moment where they realize what they have found in one another. I was just sorry this story wasn’t longer!
If there was any criticism I could constructively offer, it’s that several of the authors in the anthology were rather difficult to find on Twitter and nonexistent on Facebook. That’s tough for me since I like to keep track of authors through social networks, particularly if they don’t have a regularly updated blog I can put in my Google Reader.
I can’t help but connect the lack of social networking to the fact that many of these authors, who have clearly been producing at least a book or two per year for a few years, have very few reviews of each work on Goodreads. Without promoting them online through different venues, it makes sense that a talented author might very well go unnoticed versus a lesser one relentlessly promoting themselves to potential readers. It’s hard that an author has be both a writer and worry about promoting themselves on a platform, but I’d hate to see them lose publishing opportunities because they aren’t selling as well as they should. Please promote yourselves, authors! Readers want to hear from you. 🙂
While it doesn’t have a release date yet, I was happy to see that Something Wicked This Way Comes 3 has a designed book cover and will be coming out (fingers crossed) hopefully this year. Not only does it have new contributions by Jaid Black and Laurann Dohner (both of whom had stories I adored in this anthology) but there’s even a story from Kele Moon, who I just finished qvelling over in a previous blog post about her fabulous book, Defying the Odds. I’m also happy there are a few more authors I haven’t read since I’ll have a chance (again) to see if I can find a new favorite.
I’ll be purchasing Something Wicked This Way Comes 3 as soon as it hits the Kindle store. After all, any good buffet/anthology involves going back for second helpings.