Tour’s Books Blog

July 15, 2009

Two Romance Anthologies and Two Short Reviews – Erotic Romance

I read through two anthologies this week, one from a PBS swap.  Here we go!

  • Title: Shifters
  • Author: Various
  • Type: Romance Anthology
  • Genre: Paranormal and Futuristic
  • Sub-genre: Shape-shifter
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating: PG-17
  • Where Available: Amazon

Mad Dog Love by Angela Knight

This futuristic romance was one of the two best in the book.   Mad Dog Love was very tightly plotted and written, intelligent and clever. It had amazing depth for a story just 65 pages long. The cast is surprisingly large, but centers around Rance Conlan and runaway Empress Zarifa Lorezo.  Rance Conlan is a nano-enhanced shifter from the Freeworlds captured by a sadistic slaver who names him Mad Dog.  The collar around his throat and a control device insure his compliance or his own nanos turn on him.  There are not many shifter slaves, so the slaver Casus gets a high price from am Aristo courier, Lady Selan.  But is Lady Selan is actually runaway Empress Zarifa. Rance supports the man called the Bastard, the illegitimate son of the Zarifa’s uncle, her father’s older brother, who supposedly died without legitimate issue. She’s on the run to find him and deliver proof of his claim, while the Regent and his son, the same ones responsible for Rance’s capture, want her stopped – but there are spies in the Bastard’s camp that want them stopped at all cost. On it’s own, this was an A- story on all levels.

A Jaguar’s Kiss by Lora Leigh

At 110 pages, this contribution by Lora Leigh is more novella than story story and is the other top offering in the book.  I think the Breeds series is the best that Ms Leigh writes and she did a very good job here.  Jaguar breed Saban Broussard is sent to bring back the first human teach hired for the Breed children.  Natalie Ricci is packing her things getting ready to leave the house her possessive ex-husband got in the divorce when Saban shows up at her door to tell her he’s there to escort her to her new job at Buffalo Gap.  Nat is looking at a walking wet dream – tall, dark, handsome and has a Cajun accent.  But one control freak was enough for her, she doesn’t need another one.  Her ex-husband storms in and before she can blink she’s shoved to safety and and Broussard his him against a wall with a gun under his chin.

Nicki is coming off a bad marriage from a possessive husband now finds herself confronted with an even more possessive breed. She does not enjoy the sense of being smothered when she wanted her freedom. Getting drawn into the hormonal mating by Saban’s kiss has her very pissed off, and the reappearance of her ex-husband tryng to get her back makes everything worse.  Kind of a classic Leigh trope, but very well written and a solid B+ on it’s own.

Shifter’s Lady by Alyssa Day

Shifter’s Lady was just OK.  Nothing exciting, but not disappointing either.  I couldn’t get enthralled with either the standard issue hero or heroine.  Marie is a First Maiden of the Temple of the Neriads in Atlantis.  Ethan is alpha of the panther pride.  She’s his mate, naturally.  A problem from his past endangers her.  Fight to the death yadda, yadda, yadda.  Well enough written though the story was a ‘been there, done that’ trope and making her an Atlantean didn’t change anything, except she didn’t wear white nurses shoes when she played healer.  Not exactly an HEA either, which was actually one of the story’s better elements.  On its own, a C to C+.

Sea Crossing by Virginia Kantra

It seems every anthology has its weak link and Sea Crossing was it for me.  It had an historical edge, but was uninspired and the heroine, Emma March, rather insipid and the hero, Griff, so subdued he’s as bland as pablum.  Emma gets mixed up in a night of passion with the director of the school where she teaches, thinking love and find he wanted a mistress.  Ruined, she signs a contract to teach in Canada for the price of passage.  The ship gets damaged and passengers head for life boats.  She ends up in the water and gets rescued by a seal – actually a selkie.  The Selkie need a teacher for their rambunctious children and she’s it.  (Apparently, teachers were in short supply, what with having to sink a ship and all.)  Griff, the selkie that rescues her and talks her into taking their teaching position, without telling her what they are.  She finds out, deals, HEA.  Roll credits. C-

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  • Title: The Prey/Shaman/Seduction
  • Author: Kimberly Zant
  • Type: Romance Anthology
  • Genre: Romantic Suspense
  • Sub-genre: Contemporary/Paranormal/
  • My Grade: C- (2.8*)
  • Rating: PG-17
  • Where Available: New Concepts

This anthology has some of Ms Zant’s hallmarks, notably older women and younger men, but otherwise, the three short stories, each very different, are not the typical Zant fare.  Romantic suspense and mysteries don’t do well in short formats, but two of the three had endings that included a surprise.  The other common feature was all involve rapists in the crimes.   I honestly don’t know what to think of that.

The Prey

This interesting story opens with High School teacher Emerald Green (the phoniest name EVER outside a porn movie.) kidnapped, mouth taped shut, blindfolded, and tied to a bed by some students that are angry over their failure to graduate.  They’re filming her – apparently – will participating by hiding the ropes that have her legs spread and arms tied.  A 19 year old student who just graduated, saves her.  Reece Yeager looks older thanhe is, and acts t too, and Em always found him very attractive, but she was a teacher and would never get involved with a student, even one not in her class.  As he unties her, he gives into his lust despite her saying no.  Just as they finish, the police walk in.

It’s been years since the whole fiasco, and Em has found a teaching job in Florida thanks to her friend Maureen.  As she leaves school one night, there’s Reece on his motorcycle.  She had done all she could to keep him out of jail, even lying about a previous relationship that didn’t exist, but he went to prison anyway – as did the others really responsible.  Now he’s out and she fears having her life torn apart again.  Reece felt guilty.  She said no and was traumatized when he took advantage.  He never blamed Em – and he never expected the same pull she had on him at 19.  This time, there is no question when she says ‘Yes.’  Then the killings start and Reece is suspect number one.  The police tell her that Reece isn’t the poor ex-con she thought, but the heir to Carl Yeager, the media mogul who died with his wife in a plane crash a few months ago.  The police have trouble seeing past Reece until it’s almost too late for them both.

Of the three, this was the most credible as romantic suspense.  This would have rated a C+ to B- as a stand alone.

The Shaman

Were I not a fan of Tony Hillerman’s Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn mysteries, this might have been a better read, but I knew who the killer was – and WHAT he was within the first few pages.  Zant can’t capture the essense of the Southwest like Hillerman, but gives it a fair shot.  The short comings here struck harder, even FBI responsibility on reservations, as she was up against both the Navajo culture that Hillerman so ably portrayed and many other police procedurals set on various reservations in Southwest.

Charlotte Boyer is an FBI agent working with reservation police on a series of what the cops are calling ‘animal attacks’ , but Charlie thinks they’re murders.  At the scene of the latest attack, the body of a young girl is found on a classic rape victim pose.  Plus there is no evidence that the animal did anything but kill her fater dragging her to the site.  No one has run a rape kit on the victims because human culprits have never been considered.  But animals don’t kill for sport.  They drag their victims, kill them, but never eat.  Charlie is convinced his is no cougar attack, but the cops are completely disinterested in the FBI’s interference.  (There are some jurisdictional errors here.)  At the crime scene Charlie sees John Greywolf and is told he’s a shaman.  When she returns on her own, she finds him burning the death site, destroying a crime scene.  Caught by Greywolf breaking into the morgue to collect her own samples he ends up helping her and taking her to his home.  They end up lovers but Charlie doesn’t want to be one of a crowd, however much she’s attracted to him, so she heads back to her job.  Her samples pan out and she’s up paired with an agent she doesn’t trust on the case – and back in Greywolf’s neighborhood hoping like hell no one saw her car parked overnight at his house.

Despite their trap, they end up with another dead girl, a dead FBI agent, shot by a teenager thinking he was a the person who had his girlfriend, and a dead teen – his throat slashed by the killer.  A dead Fed would have had a hundred FBI agents on the scene in hours.  Not in this story.  Out heroine is left alone. (If books had soundtracks you’d hear cheesy horror movie music.)  A healthy part of the plot (like the whole killer thing) is very close to a  Tony Hillerman mystery book though she added some ‘woo woo’ to the culprit.  Oh all these stories, this one had the least credibility and the most technical errors – not to mention a largely borrowed plot.  At best this is a D+

Seduction

This is another book with procedural errors that most mystery writers would have avoided.  Aside from that, the core story was not believable.  Amanda Fitzgerald is an Assistant DA in Boston with a shot at her bosses job.  Cole Macguire is a young attorney in the prosecutors office that she’s deeply attracted to and the interest seems mutual.  They are working a case together and things get difficult, especially when he goes down on her in the office – under her desk, while another attorney is in the office. Then he spends the night n her bed wearing her out.  (Think about this for a minute, an Assistant DA getting ready to run for DA is fooling around with a younger male attorney under her supervision.  Can you spell ‘sexual harassment’?  Abuse of authority?  Exposê?  Wrecked career?)

Then she finds out violent serial rapist Lyle Garner is up for parole and she wasn’t notified.  She won the conviction and he threatened her – and it was a threat she took very seriously.  In a panic to get to the prison to speak with the parole board, Cole insists on driving her.  Traffic and Cole’s back roads still leave her late.  It doesn’t help they had a roaring argument about rape.  It becomes obvious that Cole is hiding something and what it is shows it’s not just women that are too-stupid-to-live.  I can only hope people with such bad judgment (actually, it was illegal and unethical both) leave public office.  But this is Massachusetts, so they might end up in congress instead.

A very unsatisfying story with huge credibility gaps and two people that kind of deserved each other.  If you’re not a mystery reader, this might appeal to you more.  As a stand alone it would get a D+ to C-.

A word about the quality of New Concepts books – the binds are AWFUL  Who ever is putting these books together is doing a piss poor job.  The pages of this book were pulling loose as I was reading it – cleanly and clearly not anchored to the spine.  One of their books was obviously guillotine cut and the machine was set at an angle, so the book was not squared at the corners.  Buy the ebooks!!!!!!!  The print books are not worth the price!

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  • Title: Double Dare
  • Author: Lena Matthews
  • Type: Romance
  • Genre: Contemporary
  • Sub-genre: Second chances
  • My Grade:  B- (3.7*)
  • Rating: PG-17
  • Where Available: Ellora’s Cave

Double Dare is an interesting story told partly in flash back of a group of college friends brought back together by the one man that seemed to be their leader and worked to keep them all friends over the years.  Shane Oxley is the first of the gang to hit the big 30 and he throws himself a party – but they get the gifts.  Shane always was the one who seemed to know them each the best and in a way, he’s giving them what they want the most – a chance to fill their heart’s desire.  If he can, he’ll get what he wants the most as well, a second chance with African-American nurse Paige Reyes, the woman who he pushed away 3 years earlier.

Paige wants to kill Shane.  He forced her to his home for this party by threatening to withdraw her brother’s scholarship to medical school, so here she is, pissed as hell about it too.  The seven friends all have histories – mostly together.  Shane is using the opportunity to help them get together with his gift choices.  Skylar – the princess, Tripp – the jock, and Gideon – the poet, need each other.  She’s bounced between them for years and none of them wants to admit they need to be a threesome.  The gift has Tripp storming out with Gideon and Skylar trailing after talking to him about it.  Bev Navarro always wanted the womanizing Holden Lancaster, the group’s party animal, but she has interest in becoming one of his endless line of conquests.  He gives the two a push together.  And he gives Paige the keys to the Oxley family cabin – the place where he blew his chance at the relationship with her.

Getting Paige to the cabin takes a virtual kidnapping and more threats to her brther’s scholarship to get her there.  Now he has one night to undo the damage from 3 years ago and what’s he’s piled on tonight.  After a horrendous car accident that nearly left him paralized, Shane was still recovering emotionally and physically when Paige shows up at the cabin for the weekend.  Of the group, she was the one with the prickly personality, the one that challenged and poked and prodded.  Fighting to walk again had been a long and painful journey and Shane appreciates Paige’s willingness to help.  But she’s really there hiding from a marriage proposal from a man she likes but has no spark with.  They fight and argue as friends do when they think another friend is making a big mistake.  That night he wakes her when he has yet another nightmare – PTSD from the accident and he and Paige end up in bed together.  Next morning he tries to explain why he isn’t ready for a relationship – and she runs from being his one night stand mistake.  Now he has to undo the hurt and rejection and try and get her back.

This was a well written story and not at all my usual choice.  Though the supporting characters were predictable, and the racial mix made it all seem like a politically correct cocktail party for an aspiring politician, the two protagonists were well drawn and had depth.  I found I enjoyed this story very much.

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  • Title: Lonestar Lycan
  • Author:
  • Type: Romance
  • Genre: Paranormal – Erotic
  • Sub-genre: Shape Shifter
  • My Grade: C+  (3.5*)
  • Rating: NC-17 to X
  • Where Available: Ellora’s Cave

Lonestar Lycan is a well written but predictable shifter novella/short novel.  Quinn Harlow finally found the father she never knew, but he’s killed before she arrives at his ranch.  She’s driven 7 hours from east Texas to west Texas to a funeral for a man she never met and feels more than a little lost.  It was just her and her mother – and her abusive stepfather Decker Harlow.  Then her mother died and then Decker was killed in a strange animal attack.  She felt nothing but relief at his death because he’d been harassing her, badly.  Now her real father, Bartholomew Fitzpatrick is dead and she has no chance of knowing if her father cared about her.  Afraid of her welcome, her phone rings and it’s her best friend (with benefits) Graham Jones.  He kind of settles her nerves.  As she goes down the long access road, she a tall man standing by a grave.  Joe McKinnon is the new Alpha of the Wolf Creek pack, and foreman of the ranch to the outside world.  He’d been waiting for Quinn’s arrival – but wasn’t expecting to scent his mate.

Joe takes stock of his nearly six foot tall, shapely mate – his lupa.  Her scent has him horny as hell.  He was a big man, tough and hard, but when she turns back, it isn’t fear she smells, it’s lust.  And she can sense his feeling, something that only happens between ture mates.  They all but have sex then and there, but manage to rein in their attraction and make it back to the house.   Bart changed his will when he learned he had a daughter and she and Joe now share the ranch.  After the lawyer leaves, they end up having wild sex.  Joe needs her marked as his to keep the other wolves away, but he won’t consummate the mate bond until she understands what he is – and what she is as well, half werewolf.  She might be welcome by him, and accepted by the males werewolves, but Selena had plans for Joe that Quinn just destroyed them and she’s not pleased.

He has to back off and give her some room, so he stays out in his old digs while he gives her the main house master bedroom, the one intended for him.  Slowly he approaches her as a wolf and she gets used to his being around in wolf form.  Quinn is upset that’s Joe’s avoiding her.  A fuck and run.  Maybe it’s time to go home.  Joe convinces her he was just giving her space and takes her for a romantic picnic and some make-up sex.  Quinn gets back to the house and gets ready for bed with Quinn with a shower and no clothes in bed.  When she pulls back the covers, a rattler strikes and bites her in the neck.  Her brings Joe on the run and without thinking he shifts kills the snake and shifts back.  He wasn’t the only one who shifted, Quinn did too and she has no idea how she did – or why.  Her half were genes save her from the poison, but now they have to get thru who and what she is thing.

Now Joe has to explain her heritage and Quinn must come to term with what she is, and what Joe is to her.  A pack party is interuped when rogue wolves are sighted on pack land.  The story includes the usual secondary story, in this case a potential mate being one of the females carried off.  The ending suggests this will be a series.  What the story lacks in originality it makes up fr with its characters – they never seem too generic.  The writing quality is a cut above, but it would have been more satisfing with some innovation in the story line.

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