Fantasy, an anthology

>> Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I decided to read Fantasy solely based on the review of Emma Holly's story, because even if the reviewer didn't seem to like it much, it really sounded like something I'd enjoy. The other stories... well, I'm not at all fond of Christine Feehan, the one Elda Minger novella I read was nothing too phone home about and as for Sabrina Jeffries, well, I like her books, but the plot of this novella sounded preposterous.

Surprisingly enough, though the Holly story was my favourite, a couple of the others weren't a complete loss.

The first story was The Widow Auction, by Sabrina Jeffries:

In an exclusive gentlemen's club in Victorian London, adventurous ladies are available to the highest bidder. Yet how far will a modest widow go to fulfill her fantasy of being auctioned off as a rake's midnight plaything?
As I said above, my first reaction on reading what the story was about and on reading the first couple of pages of the story itself, was not good. On first meeting the heroine, Isobel Lamberton, Lady Kingsley, I thought she was a bit of a ninny and the hero, Justin, Lord Warbrooke, sounded like an arrogant idiot. Well, I should have trusted Jeffries. She's never let me down before, and she didn't here, either!

Yes, the idea of respectable widows being auctioned off, masked of course, to preserve their reputation, in a gentlemen's club was as doubtful as ever, but Jeffries succeeded in creating characters whose reactions to all this were believable and appealing, and characters who rose above two dimensions and became real people to me. The story was wonderfully erotic, and by the end of it, I believed they were really in love. Also, bonus points for making the story length seem exactly right.

My grade: a B+.

Emma Holly's story, Luisa's Desire, was next, and I loved it!

From the depths of the dark unknown, a child of midnight has arrived in a spiritual Tibetan refuge to rid herself of wicked desires. Here this ageless beauty meets the one man who can save her.... or damn her soul forever.
In this story, Holly succeeds in setting out a mythology I'd never read about before (the upyrs, which are kind of vampires) and in telling a believable love story from scratch. By that I mean that usually, successful novellas are those which concentrate on only a part of a love story, because stories that go from the moment the two lovers meet to when they fall in love tend to feel too short and hurried. However, Holly does just that here, and the story still feels whole and unhurried.

The basic plot is that Luisa, a(n) upyr, goes to a Tibetan lamasery because she wants to learn to live without feeding on people, and she meets a "wannabe" monk there and they fall in love. Simple, and it made for a beautiful story. I loved the very experienced Luisa, and I adored the much more innocent Martin. I liked that their relationship was devoid of little games, and the supernatural or spiritual elements enhanced the story.

And I very much enjoyed the fresh and original setting. Tibet in the 1600s is not a place you read about every day!

My grade: an A.

The third story was Mr. Speedy, by Elda Minger.

In a private, all-male school of seduction, she might just graduate with honors. If she can only maintain her disguise long enough to teach the man of her dreams a few lessons.
The blurb of this one is a bit misleading. The story is about journalist Miranda Ward, who wants to do an article about these seminars which are taking LA by storm, promising men they'll teach them to seduce a woman in 24 hours flat. Since women are "the other", the enemy, to the guy who runs them, Miranda dresses up as a man and signs up for them. The hero is her roomate for the seminar, another journalist, also wanting to get a story out of the experience.

Well, I liked the setup better than I thought I would, and there were some funny touches there (and the obligatory "oh, no, I'm lusting after a man" moment on Jake's part was kept thankfully short). However, this story did feel rushed. While I thought Miranda and Jake's relationship got off to a good start, with all the talking about their deepest fears and desires, these two were nowhere near ready to get married. Also, I just didn't sense any chemistry.

My grade would be a C+.

The final story was also the one I liked least, The Awakening, by Christine Feehan.

Under the blazing heat of the Borneo sun, a beautiful naturalist's dream comes true- to live among the feral jungle creatures. But an untamed, irresistible beast of another sort forces her to explore her own wild side.
I've read only one Feehan, but considering what I read and what I've heard about her novels, this seems to be her typical fare.If you're into arrogant alphas who go on and on about how the heroine "is mine" and into innocent, naive heroines, who love to submit to said arrogant alphas, you'll probably like this. I detested it.

The setup of the story I found a bit ridiculous, a race of shapeshifters (they change into leopards) who live in the jungles of Borneo, and who are, of course, Anglo. Boring, at least to me.

My grade: a D+.

It was a pretty uneven anthology, with an excellent story, a very good one, a mediocre one and a bad one. My final grade for the anthology: a B.


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