Category Archives: Anthology Reviews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a wonderful anthology this was to read. The stories are sweet and light, many of the characters, adorable in their bad-luck, clumsiness.
The anthology starts with No Wrong Turns by Lisa A. Adams — a story where the main character is just starting out on her own. Leaving the protections of home and family to strike out and hopefully succeed. Like all the stories in this anthology, a series of vehicular mishaps and a lost wallet bring the MCs, Jessica and Sean together. Adorable.
Falling for You by Michelle Ziegler is the tale of a single lady, Darci, who has the worst luck imaginable finding a suitable match in the world of online profiles and blind dates. Of all the stories, this one held the most humor, and there were places where I found myself nodding in agreement or laughing out loud. A fun read.
Coffee and Cufflinks was probably my favorite of the bunch. Being an office geek, I was able to really enjoy this story about the corporate world and dealing with a client who is less than ideal. The studly water bearing hero, Daren, sounds yummy!!
A Slippery Slope — I will reserve my thoughts on this one, as I wrote it under my mainstream pen name. Suffice to say, it is good 😛
The anthology closes with The Shamrock Incident by London Saint James, the perfect ending to this sweet collection. With the main character working in her florist shop during the St. Paddy’s Day rush, Marissa and Treys lives literally crash together, and the romance begins to fly. I really enjoyed the authentic feel of this story, and I really felt connected to the main character, Marissa. Excellent writing, and a wonderful ending — to the story, and the anthology.
I highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys quirky, real feeling romance stories written on the sweet side. And, I am happy to report the heat rating on this one is low enough I was actually able to recommend it to my mother. Hooray!
Jessica Brannah is escaping from her last heartbreak with a loaded car and a new address. But, when Murphy’s Law finds her stranded in a back country town, she realizes there’s no outrunning love.
Falling For You by Michelle Ziegler
Darci’s ready to move on. Too bad the dating pool stinks. Until, a ghost from her past resurfaces—the man she missed out on in college.
Andrew was the one man she’d always loved, but neither of them ever made a move. But, old feelings aren’t the only thing resurfacing of late. Darci’s ex comes crawling back at the most inappropriate time, and with all the testosterone flying, she might not end up with either man.
Coffee and Cufflinks by Annabelle Blume
Fresh out of a failed relationship and exhausted by a constant barrage of fiascos at work, Olivia Johnson doesn’t see the man of her dreams standing right in front of her. She tells herself the morning coffee meet-ups with Daren are nothing but coincidence, but even she can’t deny his unequivocal attractiveness. When a night entertaining clients takes a turn for the worst, and Daren shows up where she least expects him, failure starts to look more like fate.
A Slippery Slope by Rebecca Hart
Anne Montgomery is psyched for her girl’s only weekend, despite her friends’ choice of vacation locale—the snowy slopes of Harris Peak Ski Resort—where someone as notoriously accident prone as she has no business being. When Murphy’s Law finally catches up with her, Anne is forced to consider there may be times when it pays to be unlucky.
The Shamrock Incident by London Saint James
Florist, Marissa Carmichael isn’t usually a klutz, but she’s in a hurry and having a bad day. In her haste, she loses her balance and tumbles from the back room of her shop, arms flailing. Her less than graceful entrance halted by a headfirst crash into a display case chock full of silk flowers.
Trey Cleary didn’t think his day could get any worse, until he finds. himself picking the side view mirror of his BMW up from the ground. On a mission to do something about it, he locates the flower shop matching the name on the back of the van that mangled his ‘baby’. But, his car is forgotten when a beautiful woman bursts into the room like an out of control whirling dervish, and takes one mother of a wipeout into the shop’s counter. Coming to her aid brings out the hero in him like no one he’s ever encountered, and leaves him with a need to know more.
For Marissa and Trey, this just might be the one time it pays to be unlucky.
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4.5 Stars for this wonderful collection of Undersea tales.
Tidal Whispers is a collection of 4 tales, all with an ocean theme. My obsession with the sea made it easy for me to be sucked in by these four well-weaved stories.
In order to fully appreciate the book, I thought the review should really contain an individual look at each of the stories contained in the anthology.
Heart’s Desire by Julie Reece:
For me, this was the perfect story to start this anthology with. Ms Reece has a gift for descriptions, and I was immediately drawn into the story of Tessa, a young girl lost, feeling alone in the world, and suffering the loss of her parents. The emotions are heart stirring, raw, and really well presented. Cam, her love interest in the story is a boy she grew up spending summers with.
I really liked the feel of this tale. Much of it reminded me of summers I spent at the shore, and the friends I saw but once a year and always had such close ties to. I only wish the story’s ending wasn’t as easy to see coming as it was. Overall, a really great kick start to the collection.
The Sweetest Song by Claire Gillian:
This tale had a bit darker tone to it than the first. For me, a nice contrast. In this second offering, we meet Circe, a siren in trouble with Poseidon, and must find a way to sink a ship the Sea lord has his sights set on or suffer a fate worse than death — lose her voice and serve as his concubine for eternity.
I really enjoyed the twists in this tale. I didn’t see them coming and found the uniqueness of the story quite refreshing. Just the right touches of romance and mythos, made this tale a real winner for me.
The Pearl of Pau’Maa by Kelly Said:
This story was the most complex and “adventure” oriented of the four tales in the book. While Ms. Said also feeds us a nice dose of romance, for the most part, this story relies more heavily on the legend of the pearl and the people in the world she paints for us. Another fantastically descriptive writer, Ms. Said had me drawn in from the opening paragraphs. I really enjoyed the dual POV in this tale, and felt getting a glimpse from each perspective really helped make this story resonate. I will be looking for more from this author.
The Undergarden by Jocelyn Adams:
I have come to expect nothing but the best from Ms Adams’ stories after reading get novel, The Glass Man, and this tale certainly did not disappoint.
The sweet, and somewhat sad tale of Nixie and her sometimes reluctant best friend, Wyatt was the perfect close to this wonderful collection. Ms. Adams always seems to write the most interesting characters, and I think little Nixie may just be one of my favorites. Her innocence shines throughout the story and makes the reader hard pressed not to want to route for her. I have a soft spot for water sprites, too — making this one a MUST read for me.
I was quite looking forward to getting a chance to read this collection being I had read the three debut novels associated with the characters in each of the tales. Curious to get a feel for what the common thread would be, I dove in. The tales were short enough, that I managed to complete the collection in one evening of reading, which was actually nice with the hectic schedule I seem to have going of late.
In an effort to be fair to each of the included shorts, I thought it best to visit each individually.
Marked by J. A. Belfield:
In this short, we get a chance to see the relationship between Darkness and Light main characters, Sean and Jem from Sean’s perspective. The story finds them at the conclusion of the novel with Sean trying in his werewolf chic way to propose to Jem. I really enjoyed getting a deeper look into Sean’s psyche in this short and I found the plot issues really believable in an urban fairy tale sort of way, which only added to the authenticity of the storytelling. This was a sweet and romantic winner for me.
Misguided by Aimee Laine:
This tale gives us a chance to check in with Wyatt Moreland and Charley Randall where Ms. Laine’s novel, Little White Lies leaves off. While the novel is written from Charley’s perspective, here we get a chance to sit inside Wyatt’s head. All of the other characters who brought the novel to life are also present in Misguided. A bonus for me, as it was one of the high points of the book for me. The story reads as a precursor to the second book in the Mimics of Rune series by giving the reader a glimpse at the troubles to come for the shape shifters and their FBI cohorts. Once again, I just loved the interplay between all the characters, and focus on the friendships in this story. Ms. Laine left enough teasers to get me drooling for the next book, which looks to focus on two of the shape shifters in their clan, Lily and Cael. Looking forward to that one for sure.
Tempted by Jocelyn Adams
I absolutely loved The Glass Man, so was anxiously looking forward to another visit with Lily and Liam. I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. Like the other two tales, the story picks up the main characters of the authors novel at the close, and comes from the perspective of the leading man in the romantic relationship. Since Tempted is presented from Liam’s perspective, the story gives us a nice deep glimpse into the Unseelie side of the fae. Liam has to deal with some internal strife that summons forth his darker nature. Everyone knows I love a leading man with a dark side, and like in the novel, Liam delivers. Suffice to say I’d let him stare me down any day. I found myself disappointed when this short came to an end.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Quite an eclectic mix of tales. Everything from the super steamy to the super strange. With so many stories of such a wide variety of heat levels and plots, I thought it best to approach each story individually rather than try to capture an overall sense. It took me a bit to get to each of the stories, but I am hoping the detailed review will be worth the extra effort. I am posting this particular review in two parts, as there are ALOT of stories to get to.
My Soul to Take (Stella Berkley): Dark, gritty and modern — not to mention, oh so naughty. The vibrant characters really jumped off the page, and despite the physical unusualness of the male lead character, the sex was smoking hot and really well written. This one was a winner and made it clear why the editor chose to open the anthology with this tale. Nothing like a story that gets you hot and freaks you out all at the same time. Sophie, a drug addict looking for her next fix runs into Balan and sells her soul for more of what he’s selling. 5 stars on this one. Hot and the visuals gave me the willies.
For The Love of Death (Deb Eskie): One of the shorter tales in the book, this one lost me just a little bit. After the strong active voice of the first tale, the passive narrative and lack of erotic punch of this one stuck out a bit to me. The ending had a nice twisted feel to it, but I would have liked a bit more mystery. It read predictable to me. 2.75 stars here – wasn’t enough horror or erotica for me and I didn’t really like being on the outside looking in.
The Real Girl (Robert S Tyler): While this story didn’t exactly get me hot and bothered, I enjoyed it all the same. I felt this story had a more “Twilight Zone” sort of feel than a terror thing–and I was always a huge fan of that show. The story of a porn peruser whose wish to experience a girl he finds online comes true — but perhaps not quite in the way he expects. 3.5 stars to this story – well written just not enough steam or “terror” for my liking. It’s erotic horror, afterall.
Yve Redeemed (Lila Shaw): I thought the story behind this one was just great. A new twist on the succubus theme. Combine this with a first person perspective, and I was sucked right in. I loved Yve’s personality — gotta love a strong female character, even if she is technically just a slave. Nicely written, hot sex without being completely over the top, and a dash of romance. What more can you ask for? 5 stars here. Just a great, entertaining short story.
Top of the Food Chain (Gustavo Bondoni): I was pleasantly surprised to get this far into the book before hitting a vampire tale. I had figured it a quite obvious theme for erotic horror? I mean who doesn’t think bites are sexy? Okay, so now you know it is a vampire tale, and I won’t spoil it further by delving any further into the meat of the well crafted plot than that. I will say that I just loved this tale. It had great erotic elements, disturbed and slightly angered me, and I felt satisfied at the ending. 5 stars here. Entertained, smooth read, good steam.
Daddy’s Little Feminist (Maxine Marsh): This story took me a bit to really get a feel for. At first it reads a bit like a public service announcement against porn. For an erotica story, maybe not the best idea to somewhat alienate your readership before the story even gets going. (Okay, my guilt might have a little something to do with being raised catholic) Once the story gets moving, I did find the plot to be interesting, but it never really sucked me in. This story had some BDSM elements, which I did like, but I didn’t like that the whole D/s thing was packaged as the evil — the horror. I mean, sure, there is a killer in the story, but we only find that out because we are told. We dont get to go on that ride with the characters. I’ll give this one 3 stars — some nice erotic scenes, but way too much moral lesson for my tastes.
Only Fools Rush In (Seeley Andrews): This one was an interesting story. The sex was rather run of the mill and nothing that got my juices flowing or anything like that, but the horror twist was a cute interpretation of the erotic horror theme. I read alot, so I knew where it was going long before we actually got there, but the story gets an E for effort. 3 stars — a bit predictable, but a well written story that checked all the right boxes.
The Shaman From The Deep (Christopher Heath): This story does get immediate points from me (a fan of the fantasy genre) for being a fantasy fable of sorts. Like the retelling of a story told before campfires for centuries, passed down from one generation to the next. That in itself set it apart from the other stories to this point. What started as excitement, turned to disappointment when I learned that despite the nice touches of horror in the story and the darkness of the fable, it was devoid of any real sex acts. I’m trying not to spoil plots — but the one sex act in the story was a total of two sentences long — if you blink, you will miss it. 3 stars for this one — some great elements, nice horror, but no erotica to be found here.
Some Bad Decisions (C.D. Reimer): I’m not a big fan of a passive narrative voice in a story, especially shorter length works, so this story didn’t pull me in like some of the others. Alot more uses of “was” and “were” then appeals to me as a reader, but rather than skip the story, I trudged ahead in the interest of a full review of the anthology. That being said, I did enjoy the uniqueness of the MC in this story. An albino prostitute — now that is interesting. Once the story got going, I found the plot interesting and the horror elements entertaining. Again, I didn’t really get any feel for the erotica — having sex in a story does not erotica make. 3.5 stars here — some strong horror elements, albeit somewhat predictable, but not enough erotica for my tastes.
Similar Interests (T.C. Clark): This story was intriguing, active voice and strong descriptions. While I didn’t “like” the MC — I was drawn into his experience and the story. Once again, however, the erotic elements were missing for me. The horror elements were good, and well written, but the sex was written like “they had sex and then” so there was no detail in the act, we are just told it happens. Not something I look for in erotica — soft romance, sure. The ending, for me, was predictable, and while I do consider it a horror story, despite the “tame” ending, it never hit on erotica for me. 3 stars – good story, no erotica.
The Rabbit’s Revenge (L.M. Doyle): For the first F/F story in the mix, I had high expectations for this story. While the writing was a combination of passive and active voice and there were some areas that tripped me up reading (some use of present tense wording in a past tense telling, and some overuse of adverbs, and a more tell vs show style), I did enjoy the plot and the overall story elements. The erotic part of the story was good, detailed and piqued my curiosity. The ending, however, had been foretold during the course of the story too well, so when the time came for the big climax – literally – the reader already knew what was going to happen, and it was just a matter of reading it through to make sure the story followed through on the promise it had been making throughout. 3.5 stars for this one. It gets points for originality in being a F/F story, while containing both erotica and horror. It loses some points for a passive telling and a forecasted conclusion. By the end, I was sorta feeling “get it over with, already”.
My Autoerotic Doom (Joshua Dobson): Let me start by saying that this particular story may have had the strongest starting sentence of the whole bunch. It’s too bad it is closely followed by the most inane list of sexual acts — over the top to my thinking and showing the writer’s obvious wide array of positional knowledge seemed to be the only benefit. The story could have done without it. It read like it had been added for shock value and cheapened the rest of the story for me. The writing style of this one can only be described as blunt and explicit. I did find the story, once I got past all that shock value language, quite entertaining and the Twilight Zone feel to the horror story really appealed to me. The erotica was titillating enough to keep me interested, though I do tend to like a bit less gutter talk. 4.5 stars because despite really enjoying the story, I didn’t care for the narrative voice or the main character.
Be My Valentine (Indy McDaniel): This story turned out to be another F/F story. I had some difficultly with early POV shifts, sometimes mid paragraph. That and some passive narrative, made it a bit tough to get into this story from the onset. I found myself scanning the tale versus reading it – the kiss of death for any story. I felt the author tried to hard in some of the dialog, and it came off forced. When the sex came, that too read forced and plastic. About the only thing I enjoyed a bit was the last few paragraphs, the ending perked me up a bit on the horror side of things. 2 stars. Overall, this one just wasn’t for me.
Cheating (Parisa Syrus): The story started out interesting, but it became obvious early that english was a second language for the author. As we got into things, I began to feel as if the story was more a diary entry than a fictional erotic or horror tale. The tense shifted about in a few places, making me reread some areas a few times to make sure I was still following the story. Underneath all this, there was an interesting sort of “going insane” feel to the tale as it went along. Sadly, that was fleeting. The ending did nothing for me, felt lackluster and incomplete. I’m not sure where the horror was or the erotica for that matter. 2 stars. I’m being generous because I kinda liked the “lunatic is in my head” bits.
MORE TO COME…