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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gena Showalter and Kait Ballenger: "After Dark" Anthology

Authors:  Gena Showalter and Kait Ballenger
Title:  After Dark
Plot Type:  SMR     
Publisher and Titles:  Harlequin (2013)
     This is a lopsided, two-novella anthology, with one very old story from a well-known author and one brand new one from a rookie. Apparently, Harlequin's plan is to is kick-start Ballenger's new series by using Gena Showalter's name to draw in readers. Unfortunately, it's hardly worth spending the money to get an expensive reissue of Showalter's 2009 LORDS OF THE UNDERWORLD novella, particularly since there have been several novels printed in that series since then, and most of the couples who play supporting roles in the novella have long since paired offgiving the story a stale, been-there-done-that feeling. Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in Showalter's LORDS OF THE UNDERWORLD series. Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in Showalter's related ANGELS OF THE DARK series.

Gena Showalter: "The Darkest Angel" (Ratings: V2; S4; H3)
     This novella originally appeared in the anthology, Hearts of Darkness (12/2009), and tells the light-as-a-feather love story of Lysander, leader of the Sent Ones, and Bianca, a Harpy.

     Lysander views Bianca as his one and only temptation, so he kidnaps her and imprisons her in his cloud-based home in the skies hoping to change her into a good person worthy of his love. Bianca, on the other hand, wants to change Lysander into a not-so-good person who will join her on her larcenous adventures. Naturally, the two immediately fall into a love-hate relationship (as do most of the LOTU heroes and heroines) and inevitably get their HEA with no interference from any outside villains to detract from their romance.

Kait Ballenger: "Shadow Hunter" (Ratings: V3; S4; H1)
     This is a prequel for Ballenger's new series, THE EXECUTION UNDERGROUND. In her introduction to the novella, Ballenger explains that this is an origin story for Damon Brock, vampire hunter and founder of the Rochester, New York, division of the Execution Underground, a clandestine organization devoted to protecting humanity by eliminating all supernaturals. EU warriors are trained extensively in combat, and they are also injected with a serum that gives then an extended lifespan, increased strength, and extra healing capabilities. In this novella, all supernaturals are portrayed as being evil, but that will change asone by onethe EU hunters find supernatural soul mates. Unfortunately, there's not much inventiveness in the world-building because we've seen this type of mythology many times before.

     As the story begins, Damon has come to Rochester in pursuit of Caius Argyros Dermokaites, the powerful ancient vampire who murdered his best friend, Mark Solow. When he discovers that Tiffany, Mark's younger sister, is hunting vampires, he takes her under his wing and (between bouts of passion) teaches her some of the finer points of vampire fighting. Inevitably, Damon and Tiffany are immediately attracted to one another and fall into bed just hours after they first meet.

     Damon and Tiffany have a history. Back when Damon and Mark were off fighting supernaturals, they were pen pals for a number of years. Damon used only the first letter of his last name when he signed his letters, so (unbelievably) Tiffany never knew his full name. (Wouldn't Mark have mentioned Damon's name to Tiffany since they were long-time BFFs? I guess that would have spoiled Ballenger's plot.) When Mark was killed, Tiffany stopped responding to Damon's letters. Damon feels responsible for Mark's murder, and he believes that Tiffany blames him for her brother's death, so he doesn't tell her his true identity at first. 

     Meanwhile, a virus is sweeping the vampire population, creating many vicious new vampires who are killing the citizens of Rochester. Damon and Tiffany try to track down the origin of the virus, with tragic results. According to the author, Damon's full story will not be told until the final book in the series. 

     The first full-length novel in the series is Twilight Hunter (9/2013), which will tell the love story of werewolf EU hunter Jace McCannon and his werewolf soul mate, Frankie Amato. That will be followed by Immortal Hunter (1/2014), the story of EU exorcist David Aronowitz and his demonic lover, Allsún O'Hare.

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