Plot Type: SMR
"Enforcer," by Angela Knight V5; S4; H2
FIRST LINE: "The dark, narrow stairway stank of murder."
At nearly 200 pages, this is by far the longest of the four novellas, and it is part of Knight's TIME HUNTERS SERIES, which I have not read. In her introduction, Knight says, "If you're not familiar with my work, I have attempted to write 'Enforcer' in such a way that new readers won't be lost," She has done a fairly good job filling in the blanks on the mythology and pertinent past events, so I was able to understand most of what was going on. The world-building is quite complex, however, and some references were difficult to interpret. The series is set around a time-traveling mythos in which people can travel back in time from the 24th century to observe events in earlier centuries, but they can't change history in any way.
At its heart, this is the love story of Alerio Dyami and Dona Astryr, who have been lusting after one another from afar for two years. Alerio has had the hots for Dona for so long that he has trouble being in the same room with her. Alerio is the Warlord who heads the North American Outpost of the Temporal Enforcement (at least that what I could figure out from the novella), and Dona is one of his Enforcers. Due to an unhappy childhood and adolescence, Dona has extremely low self-esteem. In a previous book, she was in a relationship with an abusive Enforcer who defected to the enemy, causing the other Enforcers, including Alerio, to believe that she may have been helping him.
The action part of the plot revolves around Ivar Terje, Dona's turncoat ex-lover, who is mutilating and murdering time-traveling tourists who pay tour guides to go back in time to observe various events, like the signing of the Declaration of Independence, for example. Alerio and his team must stop Ivar and his master, the Victor, once and for all.
Although the futuristic details of the mythology were a bit difficult to fully understand without having read the previous books, the story is a fairly effective stand-alone. Alerio and Dona are fine as the angst-filled lovers, and Ivar is a teeth-gnashingly evil villain.
"Perfect Mate," by Jennifer Ashley V3; S4; H3
FIRST LINE: "Nell stifled a groan as a rhythmic banging dragged her out of profound slumber, the kind she found only in the depths of wintertime."
This is a SHIFTERS UNBOUND story that follows one of the recurring characters as she meets her soul-mate and falls in love. Nell is the top bear in Shiftertown, so she is unpleasantly surprised when Eric, Shiftertown's leader, does not consult her before he assigns Cormac, a bear who has just immigrated from Wisconsin, to live in her house along with her and her two grown sons. Both Eric and Cormac are clear about why Cormac has come to Shiftertown: He is looking for a mate, and Nell is his chosen one.
The action part of the plot involves a a villain from a previous book who pays a bounty hunter to capture and kill Shane, one of Nell's sons. When Shane goes missing, Cormac and Nell begin to bond as they search for Shane and his abductor. The falling-in-love part of the story happens super quickly, but you kind of get accustomed to that in paranormal romances and this is, after all, a novella, not a full-length novel—so I'll give that a pass.
This is the easiest novella to read as a stand-alone. Although there are some references to the series mythology and to past events, the story line is pretty much a straightforward paranormal romance. Click HERE to go to my review of the SHIFTERS UNBOUND series for an overview of the series world-building.
"The Hunter's Cabin," by Jean Johnson V0; S4; H2
This novella is part of Johnson's VULLAND CHRONICLES, which I have not read. Although there are a number of cryptic references to the complex mythology and to past events, the story is primarily one long session of sex and more sex, beginning with the requisite virginal, first-time scene. The only characters are the courier, Vielle ("Vee") and the banished prince, Kiereseth ("Kiers"). They hole up in a snowbound mountain cabin to lose their pursuers, and nature takes its course. There is no action plot—only references to the fact that the couple is being pursued by his sister's soldiers.
If read this as a stand-alone, what you get is the love story, along with paragraphs like this one: "We know that the aetherometer can be powered by thonite because it converts the crystallized gas back into an Air-attuned format, converting sound waves into invisible aether rays and back again. But the Vull is solid, like a...shield. It must attune itself to the Earth element somehow. Or perhaps somewhere between Earth and Water..." I'm sure that a series reader would know exactly what that paragraph means, but since I have not read the series, I have absolutely no clue. And there are more paragraphs similar to that one. Here's another one: "In order to make the hexisle float, you'd have to pump the gas back into the hexisle at great pressure to force it through the matrix and cause the enhanced lofting effects."
"No Surprise More Magical," by Hanna Martine V3; S4; H3
FIRST SENTENCE: "David had returned to the land of the living. Sort of."
This novella is part of Martine's ELEMENTALS series. I've read all of the books in the series, so I understood the references to past events, but a new reader would probably have trouble reading this as a stand-alone. Click HERE to go to my review of the series for an overview of the ELEMENTALS series world-building.
This is the culmination of the love story of David Capshaw and Dr. Kelsey Evans, which began in a previous book. That love story is, of course, the primary focus. David and Kelsey were betrothed through the match-making rules of the Ofarian Board, but when the Board was deposed and the old system crumbled three months ago, they broke off their relationship, each believing (wrongly) that the other had been forced into the betrothal. In reality, the two have lusted after one another from afar for many years but have been too tongue-tied to express their emotions.
The action part of the story centers on David's hunt for Wes Pritchart, the final member of the corrupt Board. As David works on finding Wes, he enlists Kelsey's aid in spying on one of her employees. Eventually, they work as a team to prevent the mass destruction of a crowd of Ofarians attending an important ritual event. They resolve their relationship as they catch the bad guy.