Hotter Than Hell by Kim Harrison
I love reading anthologies, so I never really got why a lot of romance readers don't care much for anthologies. Well, I tend to read fantasy and horror anthologies for the most part. This is probably one of the first bigger romance ones I've read. I get it now! It gets pretty dull to read sex scene after sex scene. The only thing that broke the monotony were the paranormal elements, and seeing how each author created a story out of that starting point. Some authors did a better job than others of engaging me. Overall, I would say I'm leaning towards being mildly disappointed with this anthology, but it's really for the reasons of what appeals to me. I love romance. I love the tension and the emotion of seeing a couple meet, fall in love, and decide they want to spend their lives together. It's kind of hard to do that in a very short story, especially the ones that are supposed to be very steamy. I either ended up feeling like the couples had some hot chemistry, but not really buying the true love, or wanting more because things ended too quickly. In general, the stories that leaned towards urban fantasy made more of an impression on me, because the focus was on the plot and the worldbuilding.
I'll give a basic recap of my feelings on the stories.
"Music Hath Charms" by Tanya Huff. Quite interesting. Not a romance. More of a sexy urban fantasy story. I wanted a different ending than the one I got, but I'd give it four stars because she used the Greek sirens myth to such good effect.
"Minotaur in Stone" by Marjorie Liu. I absolutely loved this story. It shows the potential of a well-done paranormal romantic short story. All the mythic aspects, the longing, the feeling of a couple falling for each other and striving for their happy ending. It was unique and really took a different spin on the Greek minotaur myth. What a joy to read. Five stars.
"Demon Lover" by Cheyenne McCray. I have mixed feelings about this story. I thought the use of incubus lore was well done. The language was too raunchy for me and it was too focused on the sex acts. However, I have to admit this was a romantic story at its heart. The theme of self-sacrifice moved me. More than anything, I don't go for this kind of steam level, I think. Readers who like more erotic fare would enjoy this one more than I did. 4 stars.
"Equinox" by LA Banks. I've found I tend to enjoy LA Banks' short stories very much. But, I think this is my least favorite. It didn't quite come together very well. I couldn't tell if she was going for a humorous tone or not. I liked the concept, Artemis coming to the modern world with her nymphs to punish those who destroyed the environment. She drew in the story of Artemis and Acteon, the human she changed into a stag for watching her bathe naked, and shot full of arrows as punishment. In this case, she changed executives of companies that were raping the environment into stags. It was a very good idea. I liked the hero, who was a special forces guy. It was great seeing black characters in this setting. Who said Artemis couldn't be Black? Kudos for that. This story had a lot going for it, but it just felt a little unpolished and hurried in the execution. All and all, I'd say this was a four star story.
"Ride a Dark Horse" by Susan Krinard. Being horse-mad, I did appreciate that aspect of this story. However, it felt kind of ho-hum, like a hundred other paranormal romances. The ending was a bit rushed as well. Three stars.
"To Die For" by Keri Arthur. I could see readers loving this story. I liked the horrific/dark fantasy elements. I didn't think it was romantic. It was more of a "we're hot for each other and have been for a while, so let's see where this is going" kind of execution. I don't like the whole HFN thing, so that left me cold. Plus the love scenes seemed disruptive in the sense that they were in the middle of finding their boss's missing nephew and hunting a very scary, evil killer. The sex interludes seemed unwise and disruptive. Ms. Arthur is a good writer, and it was a pretty scary story, so I'd give it a four stars on those terms, even though it failed as a romance for me.
"Curse of the Dragon's Tears" by Heidi Betts really left me with a blah feeling. I think her writing doesn't work for me. It was very standard paranormal romance story with cursed hero and heroine determined to save him with her love/lust. Let's have lots of hot sex and maybe we can figure out how to reverse the curse. It didn't do much for me. 3 stars.
"Brother's Keeper" by Lilith Saintcrow. This is my first story by this author, and I like her imagination. This story had very hot chemistry, and it was dark and kind of disturbing. The only thing that made the execution flawed was the internal monologue of the heroine. Selene would talk to herself in her head, and because it was 3rd person, it just seemed intrusive. I really think this should have been a 1st person story. I loved Nikolai. He was yummy! I'd like to read more of these characters. 4 stars.
"(Like a) Virgin of the Spring" by Susan Sizemore and Denise Little. Great premise muddied down by too much sex. Pretty cool how they worked time travelers into the King Arthur lore. I think if there was less sex and more story, this would have been close to five stars. As it was, more of a 3.5 star story.
"Life is the Teacher" by Carrie Vaughn. This woman can write. She took the paranormal premise and created a literary feel to this story that sucked me in. Emma's a fledgling vampire who is going on her first hunt. You feel all her sadness, the impasse she faces as she confronts her old life, where she doesn't belong anymore, and embarking on a new life as a creature of the night. It was poignant and also evocative. The sensuality was well-incorporated and fit the mood of this story about Emma's awakening to her life as a vampire. 4.5 stars.
"Moonlight Becomes You" by Linda Winstead Jones. This story had a humorous element, as a young woman investigates her neighbor, who she believes to be a vampire. It helps that he's sexy, and seems interested in her. I liked the twist in this story. 4 stars.
"Dirty Magic" by Kim Harrison was a beautiful, yet disturbing story. Mia the Banshee deals with her forbidden love for a young musician. His love is an irresistible lure to a creature who is drawn to and who feeds off the emotions of humans. I didn't really like the way this ended, but it was superbly-written. 4 stars.
I was tired after finishing this volume. I definitely needed a break from the paranormal sex motif. As I do with most anthologies, this would have worked better if I read it on and off. But, reading the stories back to back made some of the lesser-involving ones a chore to read.
Overall rating: 4 stars. Nothing truly bad, just some that didn't work for me. Marjorie Liu's story definitely was the shining star in this collection.
View all my reviews