My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Dancers in the Dark” by Charlaine Harris is set in the same universe as the Southern Vampire/Sookie Stackhouse stories, but with none of the incredibly annoying characters. How refreshing! It does go back to the same stuff Harris explored in her Shakespeare series and one of her standalone books (Sweet and Deadly? I can’t remember if it was that one of the other, as they don’t stand out in my memory too much anyway). The story wasn’t terribly, though, and I was engaged. I kept thinking while reading, “Didn’t I read another short story or novella in this universe about dancers?” Anybody else remember? I hate it when my memory goes wonky like that.
“Her Best Enemy” was too hackneyed, bringing in too many old standbyes. There’s a tough girl reporter who is really a sweet woman who just needs a good man after a bad one took everything she had, a sexy man who is tougher than he looks and better able to protect her than even he knew, etc. I don’t remember reading anything really strong by Maggie Shayne yet, but she’s definitely on the romance side of the paranormal romance street, so that may explain my lack of enthusiasm.
Barbara Hambly’s contribution, “Someone Else’s Shadow,” has us back in the world of dance. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one and the first story in a dance-themed anthology (they probably are, already, and I just don’t realize it yet). It was the strongest story of the three (with reason, as Hambly is certainly the most experienced and IMNSHO best writer of the three). Sound plotting, good reasoning, likable characters who are well-rounded and believable, neither perfect saints nor disgusting sinners.
I kept thinking of Hope while reading the last story because the main character dances and teaches belly dance. There’s a lovely quote from the first time she dances in front of her love interest, “It’s all dancing. Skill infused with joy. Weaving jewelry out of dreams.”