Tour’s Books Blog

October 6, 2009

Anthology Review: Belong to the Night by Shelly Laurenston, Cynthia Eden and Sherrill Quinn

  • Title: Belong to the Night
  • Authors: Shelly Laurenston, Cynthia Eden, Sherrill Quinn
  • Type: Urban fantasy romance anthology
  • Genre: Shifters, witches, and vamps
  • Sub-genre:
  • My Grade: C+ (3.3*)
  • Rating:
  • Where Available: Everywhere books are sold

As always, this anthology has its ups and downs.  The one short novel and two novellas by well known authors are three contemporary romances in various Southern settings, each with a darker urban fantasy edge.  I’d love to say that Shelly Laurenston made it all worthwhile, but I just can’t.  I assumed when I bought this book it was destined for my ‘keeper’ shelf.  Not so I’m afraid.  It isn’t often that Shelly Laurenston disappoints, but she did here.  I’ve read the rave reviews by others and I find myself mystified – or maybe I just didn’t see the humor and appeal in this one.  At any rate, my negative reaction seems to be unusual.

The Wolf, the Witch, and Her Lack of a Wardrobe by Laurenston takes up 160 pages, basically half the book.  Despite it being a short novel, it rather surprisingly lacks humor, charm or truly likable characters.  Ms Laurenston’s female lead characters  might be considered atypical  Aggressive, outspoken, independent, and usually focused on gaining independence,  – but they are not amoral, they do have friends, and they void of emotional attachments.  Even Annwyl the Bloody has obvious feelings. Unfortunately, Jamie Meacham comes off as profoundly amoral, impatient, and completely self adsorbed.  Essentially a true sociopath.  I simply never liked her and I liked Annwyl the Bloody!  And Tully Smith, the pack alpha in Smithville, is so laid back and mellow he’s kind of dull.  The supporting characters were too significant to be important to the story to be given such short shrift, but Laurenston barely sketches them in.

Smithville has always used witches to help protect it from the outside world, basically humans.   The Coven of the Darkest Night were invited here, under contract, and Jamie Meacham is their powerful leader.  Unfortunately, she has zero patience for people or social niceties or much of anything.  All she has any interest in is power.  Getting more power.  There are few boundaries she won’t cross to get it, but the path she set herself on, becoming a champion for an elder god, is slowly taking its toll.  It doesn’t help that she’s argued with the god of love and he’s getting payback.   As she single-mindedly pursues power, Tully finds himself himself facing his father Buck Smith, a scheming wolf who wants to take over Smithville.  He’s tried before and been driven out and now claims he just want to make peace, but no one believes him, not even Bubba Smith, the father of Bobby Ray and Sissy Mae from her Mane series.  Bubba calls to warn Tully that Buck and his pack of outcasts are not to be trust and the Smiths won’t lift a hand – or paw – to help Buck, so Tully was free to do as he wants with him.

Buck is much trickier than even Tully realizes and his ultimate goal is far more subtle than a confrontation with Tully.  More importantly, some facts came out in that final battle that the reader was unaware of till then.  Laurenston’s strength is her off-beat, very strong characters, especially women, and her great sense of humor.  If you don’t like her characters, there’s not enough left to really matter – or in this case, what is there wasn’t well enough developed.  It  just came off blah.  A stray laugh here and there, but you won’t be smiling through this one, not even at the end.  On its own, a C (3*).

Cynthia Eden has the second longest story at nearly 100 pages.  In the Dark is is well written with interesting characters and a good, if somewhat grim storyline.  Ms Eden creates just enough of a ‘world’ for her urban fantasy for it to be atmospheric and gave the characters motivation and presence in a matter of pages.  The few supporting characters also have just enough definition to work within the story with distracting from it.  The plot worked within the novella format and action moved quickly.

Sadie James is in a dive of a bar used by Others looking for a Miami serial killer that’s been leaving tortured dead women in very public places around Miami.  Sadies is sure it’s a shifter.  She’s stunned to see her dead lover standing at the bar talking to a human.  What the hell?  She went to his funeral, put flowers on his grave, cried her heart out – and he’s alive?  Then he sees her and she realizes he’s not truly alive, he’s undead, a vampire.  Liam Sullivan and his team were slaughtered by a Blood vamp and his followers, a vampire who born, not made.  Somehow, even as he shot and fought the vamp, he was drained of blood, but must have taken in just enough of the vamps blood to be converted.  Sadie tries to kill him.  To her the only good vamp is a dead vamp, but she scents the shifter killer and takes off after him.

Sadie confronts the shifter and she shifts herself.  Liam never knew Sadie was a leopard shifter.  Now she’s fighting a larger, stronger cat.  A cat that doesn’t smell right.  The killer ends up getting away and Liam ends up at Sadie’s house.  Even as a vampire, Liam draws her as no other man ever had.  Liam tries to convince Sadie that just like humans, Turned vamps are good, bad and indifferent.  He gets recruited by Sadie’s boss to help hunt for the serial killer.

A dark and interesting story, Sadie and Liam and both interesting characters and Ms Eden did a really good job with this novella.  The ending is somewhat unexpected and a bit abrupt.  On it’s own a B- (3.7*)

The last story is City of the Dead by Sherrill Quinn.  Set in New Orleans where the City of the Dead refers to the famous above ground cemeteries..  It’s the shortest of the three, at about 70 pages, and has the best secondary character (Sabin), and the most sex, but the plot is thin and secondary to sex here.  You get some at the beginning, a little in the middle and some at the end.  The rest of the time the hero, NOPD Det. Jake  Boudreau and Chicago witch Dori Falcon screw each other blind.

Jake and Dori had begun an affair when she first hunted her wayward younger brother down in New Orleans.  The hunky Cajun detective did things to her no other man ever had, but she fled him without a word, afraid he would reject her when he learned she was a witch.  Jake is not pleased that Dori took off and never returned his calls for the last 6 months and now here she is, asking him to help find her damn brother again.  After telling her to go back to her hotel, he finds her in the most famous cemetery in New Orleans, St Louis, at the crypt of Marie Laveau.  But that’s not the one she wants.  He helps he locate the right one and she enters it to find a vampire, Sabin, a friend of her late father’s.

Back at Sabin’s house, Jake learns the whole story and Sabin offers them a room for the night.  Cue lots of sex, then time to fight the half-demon who has captured her brother.  She needs supplies back at her hotel.  Cue sex.  Fight at the cemetery.  HEA.  On it’s own a C (3*)

Belong to the Night has a worthwhile concept, but thanks to the weak effort by Laurenston, this one fades to very average and is likely to hit the ‘available for trade’ pile headed for Paperback Swap.

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