Tag Archives: Short story

December Read-a-Thon: White Christmas by Ros Baxter Offers a Post-Apocalyptic Erotic Short For Your Holiday Pleasure

12 Dec

White Christmas by Ros Baxter (Escape Publishing, December 1, 2013)

I love science fiction romance and for some reason my holiday reading binge is never complete without a few great sci-fi romances in there, the more erotic the better. Imagine how thrilled I was to stumble across this particular short story by Ros Baxter…and find out that it was free right now on Amazon!

The more I read from Escape Publishing, Harlequin’s Australian branch, the more impressed I am with the quality of writing coming out of that particular house, and White Christmas fits my expectations. Despite being a mere 30 pages or so, Ros Baxter manages to sketch a post-apocalyptic world and two lovers separated for years by forces beyond their control (although only one of them knows that).

Tabysha is a scientist – an Explorer –  whose craft was shot down in an unexpected firefight, unfortunately right to the surface of a planet filled with a particular creature – one she’s been studying – who literally survive by sucking the life out of any being with the misfortune to get in their way. With the predators blind, Tabysha knows that she just has to stay in her ice cave to mask her heat signature and wait for the rescue craft on the way.

But when she sees another craft – an Avenger – go down and the pilot clearly struggling and in the path of a hoarde of hunter gatherers, she ignores orders to inject him with a drug that will keep him on his feet and hopefully alive. Yet when he pulls off his helmet, she’s aghast to discover it’s Ashe, the slow-talking Southern boy she feel for at seventeen, the year he disappeared without a trace, breaking her heart. Yet as the creatures get closer and closer to the ice cave where Ashe is deliberately pushing at Tabysha’s defenses, this scientist realizes that succumbing to their still burning desire is the only way to keep them alive.

Holy crap! Ros Baxter has a true talent – I could not believe how much world-building and history she managed to convey with a few, crisply worded sentences. I’m surprised the heat between Tabysha and Ashe didn’t melt that ice cave and I loved the references to Christmas despite the atheism officially adopted in the post-apocalyptic society. It ended up being a nice parallel – just as humanity clung to the holiday of hope and love, Ashe and Tabysha still clung to their feelings for one another deep in their hearts and minds after all those years.

Do yourself a favor and go to Amazon right now to download this short for free. You’ll be happy to have found a new author, gotten a bargain, and managed an infusion of the holiday spirit, science fiction style.

Happy reading!

Check Out the Time-travel Novella Christmas Past by Susanna Fraser This Holiday Season

25 Nov

All right. Today is clearly Entangled Publishing day, but how can I help it when there are so many great books and novellas coming out? Their Ever After line “features paranormal, sci-fi, and horror novellas, all with the romance you’ve come to love from Entangled–just in a shorter format.” So while the Flirt line is more contemporary and thrillers (with historical shorts mixed in), Ever After is more the things that go bump in the night (or which science creates).

Christmas Past by Susanna Fraser (Entangled Ever After, November 25, 2013)

This particular story I would categorize as a short since it’s around 40 pages, yet it’s so deftly written that I found it particularly gripping. I had first read Susanna Fraser when I was fascinated with a historical author comfortable with tackling an interracial romance in A Dream Defiant (published by Carina Press). I was extremely impressed with the historical verisimilitude and research she utilized for that hot and emotional historical, so much so that I was eager to try this ARC when Entangled offered the opportunity.

While her latest work, Christmas Past, is also set during the Napoleonic Wars, that event is only a minor backdrop to the bigger, more fascinating story. Sydney Dahlquist is talented enough to be trained as a time-traveling scientist and her Ph.D. thesis requires her to head to Portugal during the time of the Peninsular War to gather blood samples from soldiers. Successfully masquerading as a British widow living in Lisbon who wants to nurse her countryman under the circumstances, she’s horrified by the realization on Christmas Eve that her time machine is well and truly broken.

Her training has made chillingly clear what she must do. Destroy the machine and its contents (her technology and samples included) and then take the fast-acting poison which will insure she does not disrupt the historical timeline. As she comes to terms with committing suicide, she looks at her family pictures on her iPad one last time… and hears a gasp – coming face to face with the handsome rifleman, Captain Miles Griffin who has flirted with her while she has been tending the sick. She knew she interacted more with him than she should have, but she’s flabbergasted when he not only believes her story but is adamant about convincing her to reject her Protocol.

Miles does believe Sydney – a portrait that changes and looks like actual people as well as the changed accent and mannerisms of this stunning woman all add up to her story being true. While he escorts her to the German company’s Christmas dinner he attempts to take away a little of her sadness and remind her of what she could have, particularly when she seduces him back in her rooms afterward. But will she listen to him or will her sense of duty – which he understands all too well as an officer – override the pleasure and future he can offer?

Not only did I love the voice in this fresh short which combined science fiction and Regency (and I confess to love time-travel romance), but it had the Fraser trademark of excellent historical research. As with the previous book I read, she focuses more on the average person rather than the proliferation of nobles which seem to populate other novels set in this time period, and I for one find that simultaneously fascinating and welcome. In mere pages, the reader finds herself sympathizing with Sydney’s plight and truly liking both the hero and heroine tremendously – while being torn apart by Sydney’s dilemma. It’s impossible to not imagine what you might do in a similar situation and the solution at the end of the story is a smart twist that brought a smile to my face.

Consider trying a taste of Susanna Fraser if a time-travel romance you can read while roasting your turkey (and my goodness, don’t you deserve a break?) appeals to you. She’s even hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $50 gift card to the reader’s choice of online bookseller so you could find yourself with lots more books to read while chowing down on yummy leftovers!

Many thanks to Entangled Ever After for letting me enjoy such a terrific short prior to its publication and to Susanna Fraser for writing yet another story with her outstanding historical research and wonderful characters. Happy reading!

Eat Play Lust by Tawna Fenske Delivers Sensuality in a Small Package

9 Sep

Eat Play Lust by Tawna Fenske (Entangled Flirts, August 26, 2013)

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating that Entangled Publishing keeps putting out great stories like it’s going out of style. Considering that many publishing houses often seesaw in the quality of their authors (and honestly, often their editing), this is not only a joy, but often has me picking Entangled work over other houses since I know I can trust them to give me a romance that is going to be deliciously emotional and probably a little bit (or better yet, a lot) naughty.

This delightful short, Eat Play Lust by Tawna Fenske, keeps up Entangled’s reputation. Cami is a fabulous yoga instructor coming off the emotional roller-coaster of her uber-healthy mother’s extended visit. Gluten-free tofu everything may have had her drop a few pounds, but it seems like there’s an emotional cost as Cami’s relationship with her mother has always been one of guilt around food. Like the minister’s daughter who wears a mini-skirt and gets drunk every night at college, Cami gained more than her fair share of weight and both women have never forgotten it.

While Cami guiltily harbors tatertots in her apartment above her yoga studio, she doesn’t wistfully think about how nice it would be to have someone of the male persuasion to share it with. When the hottie in her group class requests a private paddleboard yoga lesson (yes, this is an actual thing and it looks very cool!) she is more than happy to get to know Paul Hammond better. She’s got some seriously naughty thoughts of the sexual variety whizzing through her thoughts while she puts him through his paces on the water, but she is trying to keep it professional, particularly after he tells her he is a gourmet chef. What would a chef want with a secret junk food eater?

I don’t know what’s lovelier – this beautiful woman or the setting. Paddleboard yoga seems like a great idea for people who enjoy practicing in the great outdoors (and enjoy a little extra core work).

What Paul wants to do with Cami cannot be spoken aloud, but suffice it to say that he wants her as amuse bouche, appetizer, entree and dessert. Yet Cami’s proximity seems to have permanently disconnected any conversational skills Paul previously possessed as his sex drive is taking all available brain power. Paul’s physician brother was the one who took one look at the cholesterol numbers from Paul’s latest blood test and insisted he begin doing cardio, but it’s not just the yoga that is causing Paul’s heart to beat double-time. A river dunking and some time in Cami’s kitchen confirms the sexual tension is simmering between them, but can there be a future between someone whose life revolves around food and someone who feels nothing but guilt in eating what tastes good?

Two fabulous characters who were so well-drawn that I was astonished the story is only around 50 pages. Despite the small space, you still experience the mark of a good writer – Fenske draws a rich setting, three-dimensional characters, and an emotional connection (with highs and lows) that tugs at your heartstrings. Did I mention the sexy times? No? Let me reassure you that despite all of of the above, there was some pretty awesome sex between our two characters that managed to be hot AND emotionally satisfying. I’m hoping for a few more stories set in this town so I can catch a glimpse of a happy Cami and Paul in the context of another couple’s journey. Worried about paying for a 50 page story? At only $.99, make this your Tawna Fenske amuse bouche and realize that here is another great writer for your romance shelf.

Tawna Fenske has certainly caught my attention and I’ve both made a point of adding her blog to my RSS Reader (give yourself a chuckle by reading her September 2nd post “If I Write What I Know, I Must Know a Lot of Perverts”) and added a few of her other books to my to-read list.

Doranna Durgin Adds Another Strong Shifter to her Sentinels Series with Kodiak Chained

25 Nov

Kodiak Chained (Sentinels #5) by Doranna Durgin (Harlequin Nocturne, November 13, 2012 for paperback, December 1, 2012 for ebook)

For people who enjoy paranormal romance, there are always bigwig authors like Nalini Singh, Jennifer Ashley, and Shelly Laurenston to satisfy a desire for sexy shifters who protect what’s theirs, but what if you are high and dry between releases? Truth be told, there are plenty of highly mediocre shifter romances on the market and once burned, twice shy. However, I’d strongly encourage you to take the plunge with Doranna Durgin and her Sentinels series, particularly since she just added to it with her latest novel, Kodiak Chained.

Durgin has created a world in which she has rooted an ancient sibling conflict and obscured it through time, with growing repercussions for her modern characters. Long ago a woman married a druid and had a son, a son who possessed the magical ability to change into a wild boar. After her husband was killed, she was given to a Roman and had a son with him as well. The second son felt the power given to the first was wrong, and vowed to hunt him in order to protect the people who could not shift. The descendants of the boar, many of whom took other animal forms, felt their duty was to the earth, to protect it and the weaker forms of life (human or animal).

What makes Durgin’s world building so clever is that she shows how, in modern times, all this noble protecting from both sides has gone a little south. The people who identify with the intentions of the ancient Roman son call themselves the Atrum Core. While technically they answer to their princes and have treaties in place in order to live with a strict set of rules alongside the shifters, known as sentinels, the reality is that many of them are filled with hate, hate manifesting itself in mad scientists and magic wielders bent on shifter destruction. The sentinels are certainly our heroes and heroines, but even they struggle as much of their world suffocates under layers of bureaucracy and out-of-touch leaders.

I approached this series slightly backwards, becoming intrigued with the world via the NetGalley of Kodiak Chained and then purchasing all the books in the series (which were all a pretty terrific value at around $3.50 per ebook for 240 to 280 pages each) and reading them in order. I don’t think it’s necessary to read all of them to understand what’s going on, but they are certainly enjoyable with a few really standout novels that I’ll be rereading in the months to come. Let’s tackle them in order, though, so you can be brought along slowly (skip ahead to the book you’d like information on if you’re already familiar with some of these!).

Jaguar Night (Sentinels #1) by Doranna Durgin (Harlequin Nocturne, April 1, 2009)

The first book published in the series was Jaguar Night and it does a terrific job orienting readers to the backstory of the world as well as the current bureaucratic struggles. Dolan Trevino finds himself on the dusty Texas ranch where his older brother met his death years ago trying to protect a young coyote-shifter mother who could wield powerful magic, magic that has been hiding an object the Core would do anything to get their hands on. Now the ranch is in the hands of the daughter of that shifter and Dolan finds he is fascinated by this strong woman who wants nothing to do with sentinels, no matter how in danger she might be.

Meghan Lawrence can’t shift herself, nor does she have the ability to wield strong magic like her mother could. Raised by her aunt after her mother was murdered when Meghan was just a child, she remembers that they were both pretty much written off by the sentinels and she’ll be damned if she’s going to help them now, not even when their emissary is an unbelievably sexy jaguar shifter. She sends him on his way but when she finds him dying after an attack, treating him is a given and she’s shocked to find that the bond between them is much stronger and more compelling than she realized. What’s more, the more time she spends with him, the more her own previously weak magic is awakened. Whether it will be in time to save them and the ranch she loves from the Core, is another matter entirely.

It’s immediately apparent to even a city reader that Durgin knows what she’s talking about when she describes ranch life (and for the matter, her animal observations are outstanding throughout the series – she’s clearly part naturalist). Meghan is easy to sympathize with considering the level of rejection her family experienced from the sentinels who believed them too weak and just wrote them off as not being an asset. Add to that her mother’s mysterious death and she’s carrying a decent amount of resentment that seems justified.

Dolan is a bit of a rogue sentinel, equally as scarred in his adolescence with his brother’s loss. Now he has to deal with a frustrating brevis (sentinel headquarters) not listening to him when he tells them he needs agents at Meghan’s ranch yesterday since there have already been Core encroachments. Dolan knows that Meghan’s mother (who was working with his dead brother) hid a powerful book the Core desperately wants, a book that would shift the already tenuous balance of power in their world. While Dolan wants that book, he wants Meghan more and keeping her safe is his top priority.

It’s intriguing that Durgin does not cave to the traditional shifter trope of finding a magically bound partner as a and calling them a “mate” – she never uses that word and I’m guessing it might be due to her scientific accuracy (for most predators, that bond is hardly a permanent one). You never doubt the strong bond between the hero and heroine however, nor how evil the Core and their goals are. My next favorite character was easily Meghan’s Lipizzaner gelding who added to both the plot and my enjoyment of the book!

Wild Thing (Sentinels #.5) by Doranna Durgin (Harlequin Nocturne, May 1, 2009)

Durgin chose to release a prequel short story,entitled Wild Thing, a month after Jaguar Night. Mark Burton is a non-shifting sentinel who still carries much of his lion character in his tracking and prescience abilities and right now he is assigned to watch Tayla Garrett. When hasn’t he been watching her is the better question. Ever since this cheetah was a few years behind him in high school, he’s been mesmerized by her long-legged grace and copper hair, so much so that she’s starred in his fantasies for over a decade. Now that they are working out of the same brevis headquarters he sees her all the time but she doesn’t even spare him a glance.

Tayla has had a crush on Mark since the first moment she saw him, but he always had some girl on his arm back then and didn’t seem to notice her. Not wanting to be a complete fool, she developed strong calluses where he was concerned and just decided that she didn’t see him. Ever. Now that she’s screwing up regularly at work with an important assignment around the corner, she’s ordered to work with Mark. Finding out that her boss, Nick, thinks that her problem is that she’s never been initiated – and that Mark is the man to do the job – has her horrified and aroused.

This short story does a great job bringing home a major point about sentinels. In order to fully access their magical abilities and, in fact, find a balance of power within themselves, they have to go through initiation, which is a carefully managed sexual partnering between two sentinels. (In fact, this understanding helps when reading the fourth book in the series, Tiger Bound.) Because of their animal selves, sentinels are very open about their sexuality, but it doesn’t mean that emotion is taken out of the equation. Tayla has basically ignored other sentinels because in her heart she sees only Mark, instead settling for relationships with humans. Once she realizes that Mark has had feelings for her all along, nothing is going to stop her from being with him, particularly Core agents who want to make sure their latest assignment fails.

Lion Heart (Sentinels #2) by Doranna Durgin (Harlequin Nocturne, July 1, 2009)

This was a nice little transition to the second book in the series, Lion Heart. Lyn Maines was the competent tracker and team player we met at the end of Jaguar Night and she’s back on the trail of Joe Ryan, a suspicious sentinel holed up outside of the Grand Canyon. Joe’s partner died and he came into a large amount of cash, cash that would have been helpful to pay for his half-sister’s bone marrow transplant. When Lyn goes to investigate some strange Core involvement in Ryan’s area, she comes face to face with the mountain lion and despite wanting to believe in his guilt, he’s not what she expected.

Ryan should be cynical enough by now not to be surprised when the gorgeous little ocelot sentinel shows up. He’s amazed at her tracking ability but even more so by her ability to shield him. He hasn’t begun to tell brevis headquarters the extent of his power surfing ability and power is what rolls off these sacred mountains in waves. But something is tainting that power and endangering the lives of the people and animals who call the place home. Ryan tries not to feel hurt that Lyn refuses to trust him, but he needs her all in so they can figure what’s really happening.

You don’t have to read this book to understand other books in the series, but there are a few key pieces in it. One of the characters, Anorrah the communications specialist, is on her first field assignment and she screws up, badly. Add to that the incident at the Flagstaff hotel which injures a large group of sentinels (and these injuries factor strongly as plot points in future books) and you have story arcs that show up time and again in the series. Probably the biggest piece to take away whether or not you choose to read it is that Joe Ryan is another Rogue sentinel who, like Dolan in Jaguar Night, knows what the hell he’s talking about and brevis chooses to not listen. Another good example of how the bureaucratic structure is not used to a quick response.

Wolf Hunt (Sentinels #3) by Doranna Durgin (Harlequin Nocturne, January 1, 2010)

Speaking of all the sentinel bureaucracy, one leader’s name keeps cropping up and that’s Nick Carter, the wolf second-in-command of the Southwest brevis. Everyone knows he’s really in charge since the older boar-shifter, who is technically in charge, seems disengaged to put it mildly. Nick is a savvy wolf whose human hair appears gray but is actually the hoarfrost on his gray wolf’s coat. In his book, Wolf Hunt, he’s heard about purebred dogs going missing and, knowing the Core likes animals for their sick magic experiments, goes to the local dog show to ferret out information.

And that’s where he spots her, the stunning black haired woman, dressed in head to toe clingy black who turns heads everywhere she goes, and not just because of her beauty. She’s so clearly wolf and has never learned to hide it as all sentinels are taught. Even while his body is responding to her, Nick is irritated. All sentinels in his jurisdiction are supposed to report to him and he has no idea who this woman is. They approach each other and rather than submit to him, she challenges him to a playful race in their wolf form, right then and there. And then takes off.

Jet is elated when Nick accepts her invitation to play. The Core is responsible for transforming her from a wolf to a woman and they continue to hold her pack hostage. She’s been instructed to bring them Nick Carter but she sees what they didn’t tell her, that underneath his tailored suits he is a true alpha deserving of respect, unlike the cruel people who manipulate her at Core headquarters. When she sees further proof that the amulet she was given to subdue Nick  after they promised her that no harm would be given, understanding of Core perfidy sinks in. Jet tells him who she is and her dismay at how she’s been lied to, unable to be anything but honest.

To call Nick astonished that the woman who sets his blood thrumming through his veins is an actual wolf is an understatement. As she cares for him after the amulet works its debilitating magic and tries to call in help from his “pack” (her name for the sentinels who work for him), he quickly comes to the realization that there is a serious mole or moles at brevis. He wants to free his people of this particular Core villain and also wants to help Jet, who is at the organization’s mercy since they planted her with an amulet where they can cut her off from her wolf at will, a torture she must be freed of. The thought that she might return to her wolf self and never see him again after freeing her pack sickens him, but his position of responsibility means that he must do the right thing, no matter what the cost.

This is one of my favorite books in the series and it’s easily due to Jet. She has no ability to dissemble and there are a lot of human customs she has little use for (like modesty). That she entrances Nick is no shock but it’s gratifying to see the man who is always thinking politics and team assignments finally letting loose the inner wolf inside himself with her guidance. She imprints so strongly on him that her loyal nature is readily transparent and just makes her that more appealing.

Tiger Bound (Sentinels #4) by Doranna Durgin (Harlequin Nocturne, August 1, 2012)

My other favorite book in the series is next in line, Tiger Bound. We’ve met Maks Altan as a go to team member, silent but strong, in previous books and seen him badly wounded in Lion Heart as well as frustrated and recovering in Wolf Hunt. Finally sent on assignment, Nick Carter chooses to send Maks, who has been cleared for duty by brevis medics (although some have their doubts) who seems the best person for the job since he was originally found as an abandoned adolescent tiger in that part of the country. Granted it’s a puff first assignment back, guarding a sentinel healer/psychic who is having some trouble, but Maks has always done what he’s told and he is a protector by nature.

The last person Katie Rae Maddox expects to brevis to send is a recovering Siberian tiger – she’s a Chinese water deer, for goodness sake! How can she relax enough to have him help her, hoping that he won’t see her as prey? Even stranger is the fact her healer self is telling her that something is wrong, much more wrong than just the muscle and bone damage Maks took back in Flagstaff. His injuries seem related to memories dredged up from being back in the mountains where he was originally found but another huge part of it seems to be Katie and the flaming attraction between them. Are they both crazy? Is it just her healer ability gone awry, forming a connection where there is none?

I love shifter heroes who are big, strong, and silent and Maks fits the bill. He’s heavily damaged, physically from the Flagstaff debacle in Lion Heart and emotionally from an incredibly rough start in life. His mother was bred in Core captivity and she died helping him escape, living on his own in the woods as a child/tiger cub from the age of four. Maks hasn’t lacked for female companionship but his reaction to Katie is totally beyond what’s normal for him. Rather than fighting it, Maks uses his Buddhist approach to life of just…being. He takes each moment as it comes, a lesson he’s happy to share with her. Though Katie is a deer, she’s no doormat either, and her stubborn nature is exactly what’s needed to puzzle out some of the scary symptoms Maks is experiencing. Seeing how her healing binds the two of them together is incredibly sensual and emotionally beautiful.

The stunning Kodiak bear which Ruger shifts into.

Finally, we come to the fifth book in the series, Kodiak Chained, the NetGalley that inspired my foray into all things Doranna Durgin. Ruger is the steady healer/bear also injured in the Flagstaff explosion in Lion Heart only his wounds are more catastrophic in impact to the sentinels. Previously considered one of the most powerful healers (and one that can kick-ass and be a great team member to boot), somehow he can no longer access his healing power. He’s still a warrior and he knows plenty of medicine and herb lore, but to lose the power he’s had since adolescence is a huge blow to his self-identity. When he spots a lovely female black bear, Mariska, at a Celtic festival, his heart and body don’t hesitate to take her up on her invitation to go back to her house. He feels like this is the start of something special, something that might inject a little meaning in his life at a time when he could most need it.

Which is why he feels to horribly betrayed when he sees Mariska sitting at the table near Nick Carter as he greets them as a team for their next assignment. The feeling morphs into complete anger when he next hears that her assignment is to guard him, taking away the one final piece of himself he can offer his friends. It’s clear from her face that she knew all of this prior to sleeping with him the night before, so clearly he was the only one feeling like there was anything special between them. It’s a punch to the gut he can’t hide and his fellow teammates and friends are pissed that this female bear – clearly smelling of Ruger, so there’s no doubt what they were up to last night – has taken him out in front of everyone.

Mariska does not need a blinking neon sign to tell her that she has screwed up royally. She was so excited to work with the Southwest brevis and especially Ruger for fieldwork when she has done mostly guarding. When she saw him at the festival, her soul just responded to him and her bear impulsiveness took over. She knew he was going to take her assignment badly but she had no idea the extent to which her behavior could be seen as betrayal. Not only was she an idiot, but now the whole team has made it perfectly clear that they can’t trust her after she’s played their friend. No amount of apologizing to Ruger seems to matter and she has the distinct feeling she’s lost something precious, right when she had just found it. Now all she can do is try and do her job as best she can, but it might not be enough.

I get really uncomfortable when a main part of the storyline involves one of the protagonists betraying another – fake betrayal I can almost handle since you know it will at least come out in the end – but actual betrayal? Mariska is likable enough barring her total stupidity – could she really not keep her pants zipped long enough to let Ruger know her true job there? But her behavior is meant to show us her forthright and impulsive behavior, which thankfully is combined with enough honesty that you know she has a chance of clawing back. Ruger is pretty stubborn himself (maybe it’s a bear thing) but his grounded nature and the respect he has from every member of team is a good indication of how great he is as a person and he can’t hold out against Mariska’s nature for long. It’s fantastic to see Jet again and I loved seeing the tenderness between Maks and Katie as they help on the mission. It’s like old home week, with a new romance blossoming to boot. It’s a good addition to the series and we don’t lack other characters to star in future novels.

Above and beyond her actual novels, Durgin needs slightly better brand management, at least as it relates to her Goodreads account. She is missing a link to her webpage from her Goodreads page (and no indication of her Facebook or Twitter accounts, which she definitely has). Social networking cannot be overemphasized for authors! I was also concerned that there was a lack of consistency regarding how the books in this series were cataloged – books 1 through 3 clearly have the parentheses with the series name and book number present, but the last two books are listed without the series mentioned as part of the title. This would be very frustrating to a new reader, particularly since I think you’d be several shades of lost without reading the previous books.

Tiger Bites (Sentinels #3.5?) by Doranna Durgin (Harlequin Nocturne, December 1, 2011)

Super annoying is the fact that, left out of the series list entirely, was the short story, Night of the Tiger, which finally tells Marlee’s story (Marlee was one of the sentinels working in the brevis headquarters who had been programmed since childhood to help the Core). While I think $2.51 is overpriced for 48 pages, I’ll probably cave and get it since it was clear that Durgin was building Marlee back into everyone’s good graces. I’m guessing since this was published in 2011 that technically this story should be listed as Sentinels #3.5.

Harlequin Nocturne has a good stable of paranormal writers like Kendra Leigh Castle, Laura Kaye and Bonnie Vanak, and I feel terrible for not knowing that Doranna Durgin was such a solid show horse. I’ve enjoyed the Sentinels series and will be sure to purchase future additions to this series, not only to revisit characters I now know and love, but also to enjoy new heroes and heroines in this interesting new world. Thanks, Doranna!

Something Wicked This Way Comes 2 Anthology Is Wickedly Delicious

5 Jun

Something Wicked This Way Comes 2 by Jaid Black, et. al. (Ellora’s Cave, May 1, 2012)

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.

One of my starting points for reading more from this author

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

Jaguar Hunger by Regina Carlysle (Ellora’s Cave, January 2010)

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

Another sci-fi erotic novel 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

Another BDSM-themed novel from 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.

%d bloggers like this: