Wild & Steamy (anthology) by Meljean Brook, Jill Myles, and Carolyn Crane

Wild & Steamy
Meljean Brook,
Jill Myles, and Carolyn Crane

There was about a week where this self-published anthology by a few well-known authors in romance and UF was 99 cents, and this week happened to coincide with my being on a plane for 6 hours as I traveled west across the U.S. So to my trusty nook it was downloaded. Wild & Steamy is now priced at the still reasonable $2.99. Currently it is only available as an ebook.

Meljean Brook has excerpts of all three short stories up on her website here.

Two of the three short stories/novellas were stories set in existing worlds. Carolyn Crane’s “Kitten-tiger and the Monk” is set in the same world as The Disillusionists Trilogy, and Meljean Brook’s story, “Blushing Bounder” is set in the world of The Iron Seas series. I couldn’t tell whether or not the third story, “Vixen”, by Jill Myles is similarly set in the same world as a series or not (the writing didn’t make me think it was), but research online reveals that it is part of the Midnight Liaisons world.

Blushing Bounder by Meljean Brook: Constable Edward Newton and his wife Temperance are recent newlyweds living in London. Theirs is a strained marriage, as Temperance once thought her husband was an honorable man, until he compromised her reputation and made a marriage to him and a move from New Manhattan to “bug”-infested London her only choice.  Temperance is appalled at the amount of Horde devices she sees in this new city, and is terrified of the tiny machines that practically everyone has injected into their systems.

This was a mostly sweet story about two people who have to work through misunderstandings in order to be together, with a bit of police procedural thrown in. I haven’t read any of the books in The Iron Seas series yet, but I understand that Constable Newton is a secondary character, and his detective, Detective Inspector Wentworth, is probably a main character in The Iron Seas series. She has a cameo, and I was able to understand the steampunky industrial London setting and it’s concepts pretty easily. What I had trouble understanding was minor: I didn’t understand the inspector’s reputation in London (it is not a flattering one), and I had trouble pinpointing Temperance’s age (her sickness and heightened sense of propriety made her seem older to me, until I read about her backstory and revised my estimate).

Overall: Really liked the world, and found the hero/heroine likable and their story quite sweet. A nice little read.

****

Vixen by Jill Myles: Miko is a were-fox (or kitsune) living alone in the back woods. Because of her heritage, she is “prone to polygamous relationships” but Miko isn’t satisfied with being being outside of a steady relationship. She knows too well the loneliness that life can cause – her mother being a prime example. So when local hunters start a fox-hunting club, and Miko’s mom sends over two shapeshifter bodyguards to protect her, she isn’t happy at the disruption to her quiet existence at first, but her were-fox nature is interested in selecting a mate. Or two.

This was the most sex-y story in the anthology, where the the problem of the fox hunters felt like a vehicle to introduce the menage rather than the focus of the plot. If you like steamy stories, particularly ones with a menage, this one will work. Threesomes are not my thing so for that reason I found this the least enjoyable of the stories. This also had the greatest “paranormal romance” feel of the three, with the familiar concepts of a mating urge, protective males, and shapeshifters coming to play.

Overall: Didn’t really like this one, but I’m not a fan of threesomes, so it was a personal taste issue.

****

Kitten-tiger and the Monk by Carolyn Crane: Sophia Sidway, a woman with the power to revise memories, is tired of regretting the things she has done. She wants to start anew – “to be stopped – once and for all”, and the one person who can do that is the Monk, a shadowy disillusionist who can “reboot” criminals. Sophia has been told that only The Tanglemaster knows where the Monk lives, but when she visits The Tanglemaster, Sophia is confronted by her first love, a man she betrayed years ago and has regretted it ever since.

This story was probably my biggest reason for buying this ebook in the first place. I am a BIG fan of The Disillusionists Trilogy (cannot WAIT for the third book), and this story provides some back story on two secondary characters. Sophia is actually a character I’ve disliked in the series so far (the first two books), so it was a surprise to be shown a more vulnerable side. This story is very character driven, in a good way. I enjoyed learning about Sophia’s past and I think it was presented in a way that you don’t need to have read the series to understand what was going on. The only issue I had was that the sex in this story seemed extraneous, but that is a minor complaint.

I’m not sure how story fit in with the rest of the trilogy. It may or may not be required reading if it informs upon the general plot of the series.

Overall: This was my favorite of the three. The character development in the short space was very well done. A must-read for fans of The Disillusionists Trilogy.

My impression of the whole anthology would be that these stories were entertaining and the price was reasonable. Worth it if you are a fan of any of these authors.

Buy: Amazon | Nook | Smashwords | All Romance Ebooks

Other reviews:
Smexy Books – B
Fiction Vixen – B
Smart Bitches Trashy Books – A
Book Girl of Mur-y-castell – positive

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Must Love Hellhounds by Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews and Meljean Brook

Must Love Hellhounds
Ilona Andrews

I preordered this one because this anthology of four paranormal stories featuring hellhounds has a couple authors I like in it.

Buy: Amazon | B&N

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1) Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews: This is the third story in the anthology but I read it first. 🙂

The Premise: This is a story set in the same world as the Kate Daniel series, but this time the first person narrator is Kate’s best friend, Andrea.  Andrea is filling in for Kate one day, when a call comes in about a member of the Atlanta Pack being chased after by a giant, three-headed hound. Andrea goes out to help and is dismayed to find Raphael, a were-hyena is the Pack member in trouble. Raphael has been pursuing Andrea for a while but Andrea is afraid he’s only interested in her for her novelty, not for herself.

Excerpt of Magic Mourns

My Thoughts: It’s probably better to have read the Kate Daniels series before reading this short story because much of the back story on Andrea’s origins and her relationship with Raphael is in those books, but that’s also reiterated in this story, so it’s not hard to understand what’s going on. I thought Andrea’s personality was similar to Kate’s (independent woman, hiding something, and doesn’t trust easily), but her voice was different enough from Kate’s (more wry humor I think) to make the story interesting. I enjoyed reading this one, because the pacing was just right to me, with a good balance of urban fantasy action and romance. I could savor it slowly. The reader already knows what will happen between Andrea and Raphael, especially if you’ve been following the Kate Daniels series, but it’s satisfying anyway. I also liked how well the story intersects with the Kate Daniels series and reveals a couple of things for people paying attention, but you don’t have to have read that series to follow this story (and there are no spoilers).

Overall: I’m a big fan of Ilona Andrews so no surprise: I liked this story a lot. A must read for Kate Daniel’s fans.

P.S. Is anyone else noticing some re-occurring themes in Andrews stories? Like the protection of children? Not that this is a complaint, I just find it interesting.

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2) The Britlingens Go to Hell by Charlaine Harris: This is the first story in Must Love Hellhounds, and by one of the two headlining authors (the other is Nalini Singh).

The Premise: Batanya and Clovache are both part of the Britlingen Collective, highly trained bodyguards for hire, who are assigned an unusual client. Crick wants Batanya and Clovache to protect him in Hell while he retrieves an item that he’d been hired to steal but he was caught the first time he was there.

My Thoughts: It’s a quirky, odd tale and not quite what I was expecting from Charlaine Harris. It takes some time to figure out who the Britlingens are and they use a combination of high tech and magic for their jobs, and hell is a bizarre place with a mixture of mythical creatures in it. Their client and others they run into are oddball people, and the whole tale uses a rather cheerful, matter of fact tone no matter what is happening. An example of bizarre is that someone has 2 penises. TWO PENISES!! It’s half-funny and half-I-don’t-know-what.

Overall:
I’m not sure if this will appeal to everyone depending on their sense of humor or level of tolerance for the off-beat. I didn’t dislike it, but it didn’t love it either. So I suppose it was in the “OK” to “good” range for me.

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3) Angels’ Judgment by Nalini Singh: Set in the same world as Singh’s Angel series, this story centers on vampire hunter Sara Haziz.

The Premise: Sara Haziz’s job is to bring back runaway vampires to their angel masters. Her latest retrieval is of a vampire whose head was almost cut off. Word is that a rogue hunter who has killed other vampires this way is responsible, and Deacon, the Slayer, is brought in.

Excerpt of Angel’s Judgment

My Thoughts: This was a straightforward whodunit with two ass-kicking characters and romance between them. The world building was interesting, and I didn’t have any problems following what was going on even though I haven’t read any of the novels set in this world yet. I couldn’t tell where this novella fit in the timeline of the Angels’ series though. At first I thought it was after Angel’s Blood, the first book, and was concerned that I was being spoiled, but then later on it sounded like Elena, Sara’s best friend and the heroine of the series, hadn’t met an archangel yet, so maybe this novella is supposed to happen before the series starts. The biggest issue I had with this was the repeated references to the sexual attraction of the two main characters, which made the romance very physical and not mental enough for me. Deacon bluntly tells Sara he wants to take her to bed within a very short time of knowing her and they pretty much sleep together while on a job together.  In the middle of their investigation when Sara is going to be the next hunter Guild Director? I also found it silly that Deacon was so big that he couldn’t fit into Sara’s car and had to follow on his motorcycle. Other than my inability to suspend disbelief at these things (and I think I’m in the minority from what I’ve seen), the story itself was relatively enjoyable.

Overall: Not bad but the romance was too predictable and physical for my tastes, but I think it would appeal to those who like a little steam in their stories.

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4) Blind Spot by Meljean Brook: This one is another story linked to a series I haven’t read, which is the Guardian series.

The Premise: Maggie is the equivalent of a butler for a very wealthy and powerful family, and her boss happens to be a vampire. When Maggie’s employer’s niece, Katherine, is kidnapped in New York, Katherine’s brother, Goeffrey Blake goes to get her, but he runs into some trouble and Maggie is sent over. Maggie and Geoff must work together (along with the family’s hellhound, Sir Pup) to find his sister.

Excerpt of Blind Spot

My Thoughts: I haven’t read the Guardian series, but I have read another novella set in this world in the Wild Thing anthology. I remember liking the worldbuilding in that story, but this one is even better. I think this author has grown, and I’m impressed! I felt like I was seeing Geoff and Maggie get to know one another and that although they each had an interest in each other they were aware that finding Katherine was more important. The attraction is shown more subtly, like their mutual curiosity for each other, and in gestures, like Maggie’s quick looks everywhere but pauses on Geoff’s mouth and hands. Meanwhile, Geoff’s thoughts reveal that he has known and thought about Maggie far before they ever met, which pulled me in because I wanted to know why and how that happened. The fantasy elements, such as Sir Pup the shape-shifting hellhound, and interesting abilities (really cool but I don’t want to spoil you), were unique and fascinating but also help along the story. I adored Sir Pup, the half-scary chaperone and  comic relief.

Overall: Really enjoyable blend of the fantastic and romantic. I liked this more than I expected to: it ties with the Ilona Andrews novella as my favorite in this anthology.

Other reviews:
The Good, The Bad, and The Unread – I think I consistently have a very different opinion from this reviewer, just like now, but we agreed on the Meljean Brook story. She’s also misinterpreted Andrea and Raphael’s relationship prior to when the novella takes place, IMHO.
Literary Escapism – I’m somewhat in line with her thoughts, but probably liked the Singh story less than she did.
Smexy Books – Same as above.
Shaymless Aymless at Babbling about Books and More – also in line with LE and Smexy books

Steampunk – the Next Big Thing?

Above artwork is “Steampunk” by John Coulthart

Is Steampunk the new trend in the fantasy genre? I’m beginning to see it everywhere I look. But what is it? The image above has tongue-in-cheek a formula Jeff VanderMeer came up with: Mad Scientist Inventor [invention (steam x airship or metal man / baroque stylings) x (pseudo) Victorian setting] + progressive or reactionary politics x adventure plot = Steampunk.

Some books to look out for:

  • I just read and reviewed (LJ / vox / wordpress) Dru Pagliassotti’s Clockwork Heart. She’s busy working on the second book tentatively titled Obstruction Currents. She has also been working on a third novel with the working title King’s Monster, but I don’t know if that is also steampunk.
  • Karin Lowachee is working on The Gaslight Dogs (she’s the author of an amazing science fiction trilogy Warchild, Burndive, and Cagebird). I haven’t seen much about this one so it may be coming out later from orbit books:
    “Very different from her previous military science fiction novels, this is a Victorian era steampunk novel in the style of Philip Pullman taking us from the Arctic North to steeped rooftops of civilization and the savages to the east. (Fall/Winter 2009)”
  • Liz Maverick is working on Crimson and Steam, which should be out January 2010 and which is set in her Crimson city universe.
The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy ParkerSteamed by Katie MacAlisterSoulless by Gail Carriger

  • Katie MacAlister is working on a Steampunk series that will have it’s first book out in 2010. Her website has this announcement: “I’ve just received the cover to Steamed, the first in a new series of Steampunk romances, which will be out February 2010. The cover isn’t quite finished (you can view a large version of it here), but you can get a sneak peek at it and the back cover copy to see what all the fuss is about. Fluff up your bustle, polish your pocket watch, adjust your goggles, and crank up the Abney Park! It’s steam time, ladies and gentlemen! ”
  • The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber is coming out from Dorchester on 09/09/09 and has a lovely cover. The author calls it a “ghostly, gothic Victorian fantasy”. Looks promising. Link to the book trailer. The cover blurb:
    “What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death….”
  • Gail Carriger has a book out September from Orbit: Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate):Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire — and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.”
  • Meljean Brook has twittered about a steampunk book with pirates. Research reveals she’s got a new series in the works called the Iron Seas

The books coming out should be interesting. I see both authors with a background in romance and science fiction/fantasy coming into the same genre. I’m really looking forward to the results.

The Galaxy Express: Steampunk Romance Watch