>> Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Everlasting Love is an anthology which contains five short stories, two of which I was especially interested about: the two by the big name authors: Jayne Ann Krentz and Linda Howard.
I found it especially interesting, when I looked at the cover, that it seems Linda Howard wasn't particularly "big name" back in 1995. It's JAK and Linda Lael Miller who have their names in big font, while the other three authors, including Linda Howard, are given much less importance. How things change in 10 years!
The first story, Connecting Rooms was the JAK I was reading this for. This one's about Amy Comfort, who approaches her newish neighbour in Misplaced Island, PI Owen Sweet, to ask him to investigate the man her rich widow aunt has gotten engaged to.
I wrote in my latest column at RTB that many of the best short stories I've read start in the middle of relationships and keep any extraneous plots slight and unobtrusive. Connecting Rooms does the former, but fails to do the latter.
When the story starts, Amy and Owen have already been checking each other out for a while. Owen has even started to slowly approach her, asking her for coffee and so on. This meant the beginning of a romance didn't feel rushed, as these two were already half-way there.
The problem was with the investigation Amy asks Owen to undertake. It basically takes over the whole story, completely crowding out the development of the romance. There just wasn't enough space in a short story which was under 80 pages to spend so many of them on the very pedestrian investigation of a very pedestrian blackmail plot. A C+.
Resurrection was the next story, written by Linda Lael Miller, an author I've always been aware of but who I'd never tried before.
This one's set in late 19th century Montana. After 7 years without any news from her husband, Emmeline has long assumed he is long dead. So sure is she that she even built a memorial for him at the cemetery. On the day of her wedding to another man, however, Gil returns, back from the dead and with stories of having been shanghaied and spending all those years as a virtual slave on a ship.
The story started out intriguing. Emmeline soon believes Gil's story completely and it's obvious neither of them is at fault for what happened, and yet, it's not so easy. There are plenty of issues to deal with... maybe not completely rational issues, but very real, all the same.
Unfortunately, this is just not dealt with satisfactorily, only with the vaguest allusions, and also, the story soon gets bogged down in looooong descriptions of the preacher's Sunday sermon, a revival meeting, and, worst of all, a totally unnecessary villain whose motivation remains murky at best and completely unbelievable at worst. A C-.
Lake of Dreams, the Linda Howard story, was the best of the lot. I was expecting good things, because a friend had told me this one was wonderful, and I wasn't disappointed.
For the past month, Thea has been having dreams so real that they're almost visions. In them, she sees herself as other women from the past, and a man who's always the same, even though she sees him under different identities.
Her dreams somehow instinctively draw her to the lake house her family always spent their summers in, and the moment she gets there, who should turn up but a man she recognizes as the one from her dreams?
This was a lovely story. There is a romance that feels real in spite of being so fantastic, and I found myself truly intrigued by what exactly might going on. There are no distractions whatsoever here, and this makes for a very intense romance. A B+.
The fourth story is a time-travel by Kasey Michaels, Role of a Lifetime. Michael Casey is a Hollywood superstar on location in an English mansion to film a period movie. When checking out a secret passage in the library, he travels back in time to 1815 and into the skin of the man he was supposed to play in the movie.
Or, at least, I *think* he time-travels into the guy's skin, because I didn't finish this one. The real Lord Ambersley might well show up later on in the story, I don't know. Time-travels usually bore me, and this wasn't an exception. Plus, Casey was so obnoxious in the way he spoke pretty much as modernly as possible to people who very obviously weren't going to understand a word he was saying, that it was an ever greater incentive to skip right to the last story and stop wasting my time.
The last story was Tricks of Fate, by Carla Neggers, another new-to-me author. This one was the one I liked least of all. Very, very blah and positively boring.
The hero (whose name I've forgotten already... see? That's how memorable it was. I think he was Sam) arrives at his late uncle's house. According to the will said uncle left, he needs to stay there for two weeks without any contact with the outside world and no means to leave.
Once there, he meets Cassandra, who's in a very similar situation. Sam's uncle hired her to appraise his wines and she'll earn five bottles of a very rare vintage if she stays there in the same conditions Sam agreed to.
The characters are so flimsy they're barely one-dimensional, the uncle's actions are horribly contrived and there's also some nonsense about a curse that's too silly to be believed. A truly pointless story. A D.
With only one story I'd recommend, this wasn't a very good anthology. I'd give the whole collection a C.