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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Anthology: "Enthralled"

Title:  Enthralled (Anthology)
Plot Type: SMR    
Publisher and Titles:  Berkley Sensation (7/2013)


     Each novella is a soul-mate romance that is part of an on-going series, so if you are not familiar with the series, you may have trouble understanding some of the references to various characters and situations.

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Lora Leigh: "The Devil's Due" (from THE BREEDS SERIES) 
Ratings:  Violence-3; Sensuality-4; Humor-2
Devil's description of Katie at 16, the first time he saw her: "She was all wild Irish red hair, big emerald eyes and soft peaches-and-cream skin....She was tough as hell, but she looked as delicate as a red rose."  

     This is the mating story of Devil Black (Wolf Breed) and 23-year-old Mary Kathleen (Katie) O'Sullivan, who is a rare, lab-produced composite of Human, Wolf, and Coyote. Katie has been living as a human in Ireland, but now her Breed genetics have kicked in, and the European authorities want to drag her in for testing. In order to prevent this from happening, all of the big-wig American Breeds' leaders come to Ireland and manage to smuggle her out of the country to Lobo Reever's compound on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.  

    Devil is the hard-hearted, fierce Breed enforcer whose job is to be an executioner--to go after Breeds marked to die. He has always believed that he would never find his mate, but when he first saw Katie back when she was sixteen, he never forgot her. Now, the two fall immediately into mating heat, and you know what happens next.

     Additionally, there are appearances by Rule Breaker, who is masquerading as Graeme, the security expert on Lobo's compound. Cassie and Dash Sinclair also turn up in supporting roles.    

     This is a typical BREEDS romance, with plenty of sex and a side order of dramatic action, although the action part of the plot is rather light. If you're not familiar with the series, you might be confused by some of the references. Click HERE to read my overview of the series mythology along with reviews of some of the BREEDS novels. Click HERE to view Leigh's "Breed Chronology" page on her web site. Click HERE to view a list of Leigh's BREEDS novels in reading order.

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Alyssa Day: "The Curse of the Black Swan" (from LEAGUE OF THE BLACK SWAN SERIES)
Ratings:  Violence-3; Sensuality-4; Humor-3
First line: "Sean O'Malley ran into the burning building, dodging and weaving around the rest of his colleagues who were running and limping out of the inferno before it exploded or completely collapsed, either of which was due to happen any minute."

     This romance is set in Bordertown: "Built on the frontier between three realmsthe Fae kingdoms of Summerlands and Winter's Edge, the demon realm known as Demon Rift, and the human worldBorderland was the place where the riffraff came to play, scheme, and eke out a sketchy kind of existence." (p. 136) The hero is Sean O'Malley, a fire demon who finds true love with Brynn Carroll, a woman who is cursed to turn into a black swan every third night. Sean is a Borderlands fireman who keeps his demon heritage a secret from his fellow firefighters, who believe that all fire demons are mad arsonists. Brynn lives under her swan curse because a long-ago female ancestor was rescued from death by the moon, who decreed that she, or each generation's eldest daughter, would "become a black swan and sing to me every third night for the rest of your life." The curse would be lifted only when each swan daughter met her true love and gave birth to her own daughter, who would then take up the swan duties. (The circumstances of the black-swan curse are explained in the prologue.)

     The action plot concerns a serial arsonist who has been indiscriminately burning down buildings in Borderlands. That action plays out against the love affair, and both story lines come together when the arsonist puts both Sean and Brynn in grave danger. The resolution to the arsonist story line and the swan curse are both rushed, and the swan curse resolution is never really explained. Also, the arsonist's motivations are somewhat murky and not fully explored. This novella could have used about 10 more pages to fill in the plot gaps.

     You could read this as a stand-alone even if you haven't read the first full-length book of the series, The Cursed (Berkley, 5/2013). Click HERE to read an excerpt from this novella. Click HERE to read an overview of the series mythology and my review of the series so far.

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Meljean Brook: "Salvage" (from IRON SEAS SERIES)
Ratings Violence-4; Sensuality-4; Humor-2
First Line: "When Georgiana came across her good-for nothing cheating bastard of a husband washed up on the beach with a bullet in his side, she considered leaving him for dead." (This is by far the best opening sentence I've read in a long time.)

     Georgiana is the daughter of a sea captain who settled in the coastal village of Skagan, in Denmark. She watched her lonely mother spend her life waiting for her husband to return from his travels and vows not to let that happen to her. When she marries Thom, her father's second in command, she finds, to her dismay, that he leaves her alone even more than her father did. Georgiana takes the money Thom sends her and builds a shipping business, but when Thom comes home this time, she plans to divorce him. 

     Thom was a victim of the Horde (a key element of the series mythology), who replaced his hands and arms with steel, mechanical limbs to increase his strength. I have not read this series yet, so I was a bit lost by the frequent references to the Horde and their villainous history, but even with that handicap, I found myself engaged by the story and by its pair of courageous lead characters. Click HERE to go to a page on Brooks' web site that provides background information on the IRON SEAS mythology.

   What happens when Thom comes home is not at all what Georgiana expected. After Thom recovers from his wounds, the two are kidnapped and imprisoned on the airship of a greedy nobleman and his band of hard-hearted mercenaries, floating above a sea filled with sharks that make the one from Jaws look like a harmless minnow. The story is action-filled and full of passion as Georgiana and Thom finally get to know and love one another, despite their dangerous surroundings. Click HERE to read an excerpt from this novella.

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Lucy Monroe: "Ecstasy Under the Moon" (from CHILDREN OF THE MOON SERIES, with the action occurring in the years between Moon Burning and Drago's Moon)
Ratings Violence-2; Sensuality-4; Humor-3
First line: "Una stood in shock, terror coursing through her like fire in her veins, burning away reason, destroying the façade of peace she had worked so hard to foster for the past five years."

     The novella begins with a prologue that explains the mythology. To summarize: The Chrecdhte are a race of shape shifters: the Faol (wolves); the Éan (birds); and the Paindeal (cats). The Faol joined the human Celtic clans long ago, but the birds and the wolves hid themselves away from human and Faol contact, mostly for their own protection. Now, the Faol want the Éan to come out of hiding and ally with the wolves and humans. To that end, a few Faol warriors have been invited to live among the Éan to prove to the birds that they can all get along together. Most of the Éan are skeptical, however, because they have suffered brutal attacks by the Faol over the centuries.

    The hero of the novella is Bryant, one of the Faol warriors, and his (at first, unwilling) soul mate is Una, an Éan eagle who was taken and brutally abused by some Faol warriors five years ago. That attack broke Una's spirit, and she has lived almost like a recluse ever since. The first line of the novella (quoted above) is Una's initial reaction to being told that the Faol warriors are coming to live in her village. Needless to say, when Bryant comes to the village and they begin to meet in dreamland, everything changes.

     The novella provides enough background information on the series mythology that it can be read as a stand-alone. In fact, the world-building is so interesting that I plan to start reading the series right away. Click HERE to read an excerpt from this novella.

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