Secrets Vol 6, an anthology

>> Thursday, August 12, 2004

I've heard a lot about the Secrets anthologies published by Red Sage Publishing, so when I saw Secrets Vol 6 available at a friend's trade site, I pounced on it!

Even though I adored one of the stories, I wasn't too happy with the anthology overall. One would get the impression here that the only female fantasy in existence is being dominated by a strong, virile man. Well, it isn't mine, I'm afraid. Only one of the authors did something that worked for me, and it helped that her heroine was the only one who chafed at her impossed helplessness.

The first story was Flint's Fuse, by Sandy Fraser, an author I'd never read before, and it opened the anthology on a very sour note.

Dana Madison's father has her "kidnapped" for her own safety. Flint, the tall, dark and dangerous mercenary, is hired for the job. But just which one is the prisoner — Dana will try anything to get away.
It was unbelievably bad. First of all, the premise was mind-numbingly stupid. Come on! Dana's father needs for her to be under protection for a month so he decides to have her kidnapped? How could he do this to his daughter? Wouldn't any sane person be terrified to be kidnapped? On the other hand, maybe it's just that he knows Dana very well, because this nitwit is very definitely off her head.

And the characters! Flimsy, stupid, cardboard, stupid, irrational, stupid and plain unlikeable. And their relationship was disgustingly icky, especially since Dana believed the whole time that Flint really had kidnapped her, and yet she got all excited at how he dominated her. "Oh, Flint, you make me feel so safe!" Blech. This was an F for me.

The next story was Love's Prisoner by MaryJanice Davidson, whose Undead and Unwed I really liked earlier this year.

Trapped in an elevator, Jeannie Lawrence experienced unwilling rapture at Michael Windham's hands. She never expected the devilishly handsome man to show back up in her life — or turn out to be a werewolf! Will she accept her destiny to be his mate?
From the pits of an F story, to the heights of one of the best short stories I've ever read. Love's Prisoner was amazing, an A.

I adored everything about it, from the smart-ass heroine, who was corageous and proud, and adapted to circumstances but didn't allow herself to be governed by them, to the hero, who really was doing his best and who really suffered because of the effect his actions he couldn't (really!) control had on the heroine. I can't believe I liked this story so much, when it starts with a scene in which, however unwillingly on his part, the hero forces himself on the heroine! But I did, and that's a testament to Davidson's talent.

As the letter grade indicates, I actually liked the story even more than I did Undead and Unwed, probably because the romance element was more important here.

It was down, then up, and then The Education of Miss Felicity Wells by Alice Gaines took me down again, though not as far as the first story did.

Felicity Wells wants to be sure she'll satisfy her soon-to-be husband but she needs a teacher. Dr. Marcus Slade, an experienced lover, agrees to take her on as a student, but can he stop short of taking her completely?
This one wasn't offensive, as the first one was, but it was basically two people I never got to know engaging in foreplay. If it's titillation I want, I can get something more exciting on the internet. I read romance (and romantica) for the relationship, and this story failed in that aspect.

Plus, it was really stupid. Felicity wants to learn how to please her future husband, but her "tutor"'s instruction seems to include only making her come over and over, without ever showing her how to keep a man satisfied. Only in the end does Marcus agree to let her do anything to him! That's idiotic! My grade: a C-.

Finally, an ok story, A Candidate for the Kiss by Angela Knight. I'd never read Knight before, but I'd heard of her and I think I have one of her books in my Wish List.

On the trail of a hot story, reporter Dana Ivory stumbles onto a more amazing one — a sexy, secret agent who happens to be a vampire. She wants her story but Gabriel Archer wants something more from her than just sex and blood.
This one was quite all right, and I mostly enjoyed it. The dominance theme (Dana's secret fantasy is bondage) didn't do much for me, but it didn't really bother me all that much, probably because Dana's fantasies didn't keep her from being a strong woman in real life.

The story was interesting, as was the hero, and my grade for the story was a B-.

My overall grade would be a B-, on the strength of how much I loved Love's Prisoner. It alone made it worth it to get this book.


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