This paranormal romance anthology contains four novellas. I’d never heard of three of the authors, but I haven’t really looked to see what else they’ve written, either.1 They may be well-known to romance fans. I fell into reading J.D. Robb’s books because of the science fiction/mystery angle, and didn’t initially know that J.D. Robb is a pseudonym for well-known romance author Nora Roberts.2 Her romances may be great, but I’m not interested in them. I’m actually getting pretty damned tired of the paranormal romance thing, but since anybody who writes them seems to be able to get a book contract, I doubt they’ll stop flooding the market any time soon. I try to stick to the ones that have more plot than romance, but sometimes it’s hard to tell where a book will fall. Laurell Hamilton, for instance, began writing really good dark fantasy books that got a little sexy, and now she’s writing romance novels that happen to have vampires and werecritters in them.3
It’s often said that we read fiction to get more of something that’s missing in our lives. I’m gifted with a partner who is one of the most romantic, loving people in this world, and, to be blunt, we have a great, um, private life, which may explain why I don’t find romances or erotica much of a draw. I don’t have many mysteries or much out-and-out adventure in my life (thankfully!), so I enjoy reading about them in fictional characters’ lives—especially if they take place in settings completely unlike my own world.
Anyway, on to the review.
The book opens with “Haunted in Death” by J.D. Robb, which her readers will immediately recognize as an Eve Dallas story4 Robb/Roberts is a pro, and the story is a decent read. But! Is it just me, or are the Eve-Roarke fights and reconciliations getting more and more boring? They’re always about the same thing!
“Poppy’s Coin” by Mary Blayney was my favorite of this anthology. Yes, it was obvious from the couple’s first encounter how the relationship would go, but that’s the way it is with the entire romance genre, isn’t it?
I might actually look for more of Blayney’s work at some point. After looking at her web site, I don’t think I’ll be reading any of her novels. I learned that there’s another anthology featuring these same four authors, Dead of Night, and that the publisher has contracted them for a third volume, as yet unnamed. Blayney’s piece in the second collection seems to be connected with “Poppy’s Coin,” so I’ll probably take a look at it. Unfortunately, having read this one story and the descriptions of her novels, it seems that she’s stuck in something of a rut. I can’t say more without giving spoilers for this story, so I’ll leave it to you to visit her site if you want to know more.
Ruth Ryan Langan’s “The Passenger” was okay, I guess. Maybe. Something about the male protagonist set my teeth on edge right away, and I would have kicked his oh-so-self-assured butt out of my abode as soon as he referred to himself by his famous moniker. Then again, I’d also tell the female lead to put on her big girl panties and get on her with life, as she comes across as way too emo for my tastes. Langan needs to remember to “show, not tell.” I might have given her a bit of a pass in a short story, but this is a novella. She had plenty of word-count in which to show us something positive about her characters, instead of labeling them.
I nearly stopped reading the book when I got to “Mellow Lemon Yellow” by Mary Kay McComas. I was totally disinterested in reading about another whiny chick, right after Langan’s story. I didn’t feel any connection at all. I finished out of sheer doggedness, and will probably forget the story and the author very quickly. I can hope, anyway.
If you’re a completist, as I am, and you read the In Death books, you’ll want to read this volume. If I collected the novels5, I’d buy this one used if at all possible. As it is, I’m glad I checked it out of the library instead of investing any money in it.
1 Well, I hadn’t done so before I began writing this review. I looked up their web sites to link to them, obviously.
2 Well-known to romance fans, anyway. I hadn’t heard of her before reading the Robb books. Come to think of it, the first thing I read by Robb was another anthology, Out of This World, which I picked up because of the Anita Blake novella in it. That was before I realized that all such novellas are really the first chunk of Hamilton’s next novel, and if I read them it spoils some of the pleasure I’d otherwise find in that novel.
3 I consider the Anita Blake books to be her first novels. That horrid Nightseer thing is just a bad transcription of somebody’s roleplaying campaign. If I were Hamilton, I would have acquired and destroyed every copy in existence, then prayed that the world would forget about it.
4 They’re all entitled “(something) in Death.”
5 I don’t, as I don’t anticipate ever wanting to re-read them.