Review: Hotter Than Hell

Hotter Than Hell, the latest “Hell” anthology is edited and has an introduction by Kim Harrison. I don’t know if the sexier trend is her choice, a response to market demands, or something else again.

The anthology is thicker than most, with longer pieces–short novellas?–by each of the 13 authors. I read a copy from the library, but it’s one of the few anthologies that I’d consider worth the $7.99 cover price.

I’ve read everything I could get my hands on by Tanya Huff, but none of that prepared me for “Music Hath Charms.” One of the things I like about her is that her characters are generally “real people” in terms of having sex lives and such, while not being driven primarily by them. This story, though definitely paranormal, is about sex and power. It’s good, although it wasn’t a comfortable read for me.

I haven’t read nearly as much by Marjorie M. Liu, so I had no real expectations when I started “Minotaur in Stone.” The main character wasn’t someone to whom I could easily relate, but I felt that Liu did a great job of developing her in the short format.

“Demon Lover” by Cheyenne McCray was one of my least favorite pieces. I’m just not a McCray fan. I found the incubus character too clichéd, and couldn’t respect the mortal woman.

one of L.A. Banks’ Vampire Huntress novels a few years back because a housemate bought it, but I didn’t read further because it just didn’t do anything for me. I went ahead with “Equinox,” though, because I figured it was worth my time to give her another try (and some authors are better in one format than another, of course). I didn’t find it believable, and while this probably sounds silly, I found the premise disrespectful to Artemis.

I should have skipped “Ride a Dark Horse” by Susan Krinard, since I haven’t enjoyed what I’ve read by her in the past. I was bored, though. Once again, I’m just not a romance reader. I can enjoy stories about shapeshifters and vampires and the like, but ask me to believe that a successful, intelligent woman meets a caballero and pledges to love him eternally after a few bouts of hot sex? Not on your life.

Keri Arthur’s “To Die For” starts out with two co-workers who have felt attraction for each other for some time, but the woman has been resisting temptation fiercely. That’s fine. What happened from there wasn’t, honestly. Again, I couldn’t believe it.

“Curse of the Dragon’s Tears” by Heidi Betts was somewhat better. Yes, I liked the setting, a ruined Scottish keep. The Gypsy-cursed laird did bring Angel to mind, but that certainly wasn’t the first piece of fiction to use such a theme. I liked the fact that the “curse” had very different effects than most such things, while still paying homage to an old fairy tale.

I really found Lilith Saintcrow’s “Brother’s Keeper” uncomfortable, and while I recently put one of her Dante Valentine books on my “to read” list, I may take it off if this story is typical. The main character is way, way more conflicted about sex than Laurell Hamilton‘s Anita Blake ever was in her early novels, but she has (to me) even less reason to be that way, and there’s honestly no excuse for how she treats her partner.

“(Like a) Virgin of the Spring” by Susan Sizemore and Denise Little was great fun, especially when I started noting the Arthurian references. It put me in mind of a couple of Connie Willis’ novels, in a good way.

Carrie Vaughn‘s “Life is the Teacher” returns to D.C., and two characters from Kitty Goes to Washington. It’s good to follow up on what happened to Emma, and this is the first time we’ve had a close look at vampires in her universe. Not a bad story at all.

I don’t know that I’ve read anything by Linda Winstead Jones before. “Moonlight Becomes You” isn’t a bad introduction, although again, I’m not a romance reader, and the instant eternal love thing is hard for me to take. I liked the little plot twist, though.

Kim Harrison is back in the Hollows world for “Dirty Magic,” but this time neither Rachel nor Ivey are in the story. Hope, a banshee we met briefly in one of her novels, is the main character this time. Again, it isn’t a comfortable story, and I wasn’t happy with the ending. It felt “true,” though, in the sense that I could believe in what the characters did and why.

Overall, yes, I can recommend this anthology!

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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