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Short stories round up—some available free online, some part of anthologies. (Alphabetical by title)

Nota bene: I very rarely read anthologies in one sitting, particularly because I often buy them for one author/story, and have no curiosity about the others. My choice of stories to review, therefore, has nothing whatsoever to say about the quality of the other stories. After all, I haven’t read them.

“A Familiar Kind of Magic”, by Sylvia Day (Alluring Tales 1: Awaken the Fantasy anthology)

A seductive warlock will not rest until the powerful temptress he lusts for is begging to be dominated.

I really liked this one. The universe in which it takes place appears fully developed, and, despite its complexity, we are not bogged down with extraneous details or lengthy info-dumps; we learn what we need through character interaction. Mark Westin is a powerful warlock who hunts those who threaten both the human and magical world. In an unusual mission, he’s charged to hunt and tame Victoria St John, a familiar who has gone rogue after the death of her previous, and beloved, first warlock. Along with the erotic intensity of this type of short story, as well as the power imbalance (for lack of a better descriptor) inherent in master/submissive relationships, there is an endearing sweetness to this one that makes me think these two will truly make it in the long run.

“A Hell of a Time”, by Jackie Kessler (Eternal Lover anthology)

Part of the Hell on Earth series, after Hell’s Belles and The Road to Hell, and before Hotter than Hell; it’s much better when read after the other two, since there’s quite a bit of character development and world building already in place.

Jesse’s immortal life as a soul-stealing succubus is over. And now that she is human, she longs to tempt her lover with all her persuasive powers of total sexual seduction.

Once again narrated by Jessie Harris (previously Jezebel, fifth-level succubus, last known address Pandemonium, the Pit, Hell), this story takes place during what is supposed to be a romantic weekend getaway to the Catskills. Jessie is still learning that there is more to being human than having a soul and breathing. Even more complicated is being a human in a relationship—with a bound-for-heaven cop, too boot. Free will, love, shades of grey, regrets… and supernatural beings who aren’t content to leave an ex-succubus be. Have I mentioned yet how much this series rocks my socks?

(Hint: it does)

“The Hottest One-Night Stand”, by Lisa Renee Jones (Alluring Tales 1: Awaken the Fantasy anthology)

This one-night stand may be too hot to handle for a newly single woman, but that won’t stop her from enjoying every delicious second…

I’m generally extremely leery about one-night stands—I usually find it hard to suspend my disbelief to make the premise work—but I’m glad I decided to try this one. Divorced less than two years, Jessica is driving to another city to visit her family when her car dies on her. As luck would have it, it’s late, it’s raining cats and dogs, and there are no rooms available. Getting ready to spend a miserable and potentially dangerous night in her car, Jessica is surprised and tempted when a man offers to share his room with her. It helps that she’s been lusting after this stranger since she saw him earlier at a roadside bar. Ms Jones choice of having only Jessica’s point of view for most of the story allowed me to become involved with her feelings and internal processes enough to overcome my ingrained negative reaction to the premise, as well as some issues with the writing. Furthermore, I’m left with the impression of a promising beginning for Jessica and Dominic instead of a finite episode.

“Renegade”, by Ann Aguirre (online free read)

Part of the Grimspace universe, the events in this short story occur before Grimspace. Since there’s no author blurb for this one, here’s mine instead:

March is much closer to the edge that he himself knows. Or cares.

This episode is written in the first person, from March’s point of view, and it gives readers of Grimspace and Wanderlust a peek into what makes March tick. Ms Aguirre’s writing conveys a sense of urgency and desperation that illuminates, better than any other technique, just how bad things are for March. A rogue psychic, he has never learned to block other people’s thoughts. Coupled with the fact that he has been making a living as a mercenary for most of his life, both killing and being indirectly responsible for men’s deaths, the voices in his head are driving him ever closer to the edge of insanity. Until a last job goes awry…

“Runespell”, by Sela Carsen (online free read)

In most fairy tales, the prince rescues the princess. It’s not often she gets to return the favor. Mai Westenra is pulled into a centuries old quest for vengeance and magic, never realizing that she’ll find love in the midst of danger. Artane has waited lifetimes to be rid of his curse. Resigned to his immortal half-life, one selfless act of humanity can redeem him. Or kill him. Together, Mai and Artane must work against time and magic to work the runespell that will save their lives and give them a chance at love that lasts.

This sweet short story (about a dozen pages) is a take on Norse mythology. It deals with trolls, gods, magic, curses, the power of the mythical runes given to Odin by Yggdrasil, and the true meaning of humanity. It’s also, of course, a romance.

“Wolf Moon”, by Nora Roberts (Moon Shadows anthology)

No blurb for this one—and we are all better of for that, aren’t we? 😀 Anyway, here’s the ‘sum up’ by yours truly:

As a teenager backpacking through Italy, Simone is bitten by a werewolf. She manages to kill him/it, but is now infected herself. Fortunately, she figures it out before hurting anyone, and spends the next eleven years trying both to find a cure—for she’s convinced lycanthropy is a blood infection, transmitted by saliva during the bite—and not hurt anyone. To this end, she has moved around the country more than her fair share, finally settling down near this relatively small town in Maine. She doesn’t count on meeting the man her wolf identifies as mate there. For his part, Gabe has just become the town’s veterinarian upon his own uncle’s retirement, and is delighted to meet Simone, for whom he feels an instant and way-beyond-lust attraction from the start. Can he help her find the cure?

If anyone can pull this premise off to a believable conclusion in less than a hundred pages, that’s Ms Roberts. Gabe is undeniably—and quite understandably—shocked. Once he gets past the “it’s impossible” stage, of course. I found the approach to werewolves and lycanthropy both original and well done (particularly considering it was published in 2004) even as I can hear true scientists screech indignantly. As a love story, it’s both sweet and intense, with a poignancy out of proportion for the relative simplicity of the plot.

(my reviews for Hell’s Belles here, for The Road to Hell here, and for Grimspace here)

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