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Monday, December 15, 2014

"Night Shift" Anthology: Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Lisa Shearin, Milla Vane

Title:  Night Shift Anthology
     Nalini Singh
     Ilona Andrews (pseudonym for Ilona Gordon & Andrew Gordon)
     Lisa Shearin
     Milla Vane (pseudonym for Meljean Brook)
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)     
Publisher:  Berkley (11/2014)      

     The back-cover blurb describes this book as follows: "Four masters of urban fantasy and paranormal romance plunge readers into the dangerous, captivating world unearthed beyond the dark…" This statement is true to a certain point. Yes, all of the novellas were written by master paranormal fiction authors, but no, not all of the stories are urban fantasiesonly the first three. The fourth is an erotic medieval fantasy story, the first in Meljean Brooks's new BARBARIANS series.   

     This anthology has apparently been cobbled together by Berkley to introduce/promote BARBARIANS, but, unfortunately, that series is completely unlike the other three that are represented in this volume: different in genre, different in sensuality level, different in tone, and different in quality. "The Beast of Blackmoor," a dark and violent medieval fantasy, is a misfit in this book, which is three-quarters romantic, urban fantasy. 

         Nalini Singh: "Secrets at Midnight" (a PSY-CHANGELING novella)          
    Singh delivers a typically smoldering love story featuring the leopard, Bastien Smith (Mercy's brother), as he picks up the elusive scent of the woman who is meant to be his mate. He, of course, tracks her down and immediately turns into an over-protective, possessive alpha male. Predictably, there is problem in their new relationship. Kirby Rosario, Bastien's soon-to-be mate, believes that she is 100% human, but Bastien soon discovers that she is a changeling. When Kirby begins to show definite changeling characteristics, Bastien realizes that he's going to have to help her through her first shift. This novella has no evil villains and no Psy drama, just a bewildered young woman who knows nothing about her genetic heritage and who realizes that everything in her life is about to change forever.

     This is a typical love story for this series but it is missing an action plot to counteract the oh-so-sweet romance. I admit, though, that I enjoyed watching Bastien find his mate—it's about time! Click HERE to read an excerpt from "Secrets at Midnight." Click HERE to read my reviews of Singh's PSY-CHANGELING series. 

         Ilona Andrews: "Magic Steals" (a KATE DANIELS novella)         
     This story features a familiar pair of shape shifters: white tigress Dali Harimau and jaguar Jim Shrapshire, Curran's chief of security and alpha of Clan Cat. Even though Dali has strong magical powers, she has always felt inferior because she isn't beautiful and physically strong like all the other shifter females. Here's how she describes herself: "a skinny vegetarian girl who had to wear glasses with lenses as thick as Coke bottle bottoms, threw up when she smelled blood, and was about as useful in a fight as a fifth leg on a donkey." Dali is in love with Jim but figures that they can never be together because he needs a much more powerful and aggressive mate.

     The conflict begins when a woman asks Dali to find her missing grandmother. Dali has the power to banish evil, so many people come to her with their problems. Dali and Jim investigate the case and figure out who is causing problems for the tenants of a building housing five different businesses, each of which is having dangerous magic-based problems. They follow the clues to solve the case and resolve their personal relationship at the same time. Humor comes from Dali's mother and other relatives, all of whom interfere as much as they can in Dali's life.

     This is another strong addition to a great series, with an interesting romance and a suspenseful mystery. For me, it's the best novella in the book. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from "Magic Steals." Click HERE to read my reviews of the authors' KATE DANIELS series.

         Lisa Shearin: "Lucky Charms" (SPI FILES prequel novella)         
     This is the prequel to Shearin's SPI FILES series in which Makenna (Mac) Fraser works as a seer for Supernatural Protection and Investigations, the law enforcement agency for New York's supernatural world. SPI has two missions: to keep the world safe for supernaturals and humans and to keep humans in the dark about the existence of supernaturals. 

     Here is Mac's description of her work attire on her first day on the job: "slacks, blouse, blazer, nice pumps,…small silver crucifix and a water pistol filled with holy watersupernatural business casual." Her first assignment is to track down a leprechaun prince and four of his friends as they take on a variety of glamours and enjoy the strip joints and sex clubs of Manhattan. Unfortunately, some evil supernaturals, including a goblin mage, want to capture the leprechauns before the SPI can find them. Mac meets sexy Ian Byrne for the first time when he is assigned as her partner and protector. 

     This has the makings of a solid, entertaining series, and this story gives a taste of Shearin's story-telling strength. My only quibble is that in this story and in the first book of the series, Mac comes across as rather ineffective and weak in comparison to the rest of the SPI team, always needing a man to rescue her. Let's hope that Shearin toughens Mac up as the series moves along. Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in the SPI FILES series

         Milla Vane: "The Beast of Blackmoor" (the first BARBARIANS novella)        
     Apparently, this is the first story in a new series—BARBARIANS—by Meljean Brook, writing here as Milla Vane. The heroine is Mala, a warrior princess who is on a quest for her goddess, Vela. When Mala meets the beast she is supposed to tame, she finds that he is a dark and menacing barbarian warrior named Kavik (aka the Beast of Blackmoor), who has all the sex appeal of a primitive, barely coherent cave man. This erotic and violent story is a throwback to the bodice rippers of days gone by (but without their civility), and it has the highest sensuality rating (5) of all the stories because of its many scenes of down-and-dirty oral sex. (Literally filthy, dirty sex because the pair rarely takes time out to bathe as they travel by horseback for days on end through mud and dust and bloody battles.) The lust scenes in this novella are crude and repulsive—never, ever romantic in any way.

     This is my least favorite of the four stories, partly because medieval fantasy is not one of my favorite genres and partly because the supposedly intelligent and independent heroine constantly puts herself at the sexual mercy of the dour, churlish, cruel antihero. This one just didn't work for me, and I probably won't read or review the series.

     To read an excerpt from "The Beast of Blackmoor," click HERE, then scroll down and click on the second Night Shift cover, and finally scroll down a bit more to click on the "Excerpt" icon. To read a free short story set in the BARBARIANS world, click HERE and scroll down just a bit.

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