Hot Spell anthology

>> Monday, October 02, 2006


I bought the Hot Spell anthology for two reasons. The first is that Emma Holly is an autobuy author for me, and this particular story is set in the same universe as The Demon's Daughter, which I loved. The second is that I love Meljean Brook's blog, and since I enjoy her voice so much, I wanted to give her story a try.



The book starts with Emma Holly's story, The Countess' Pleasure, and I'm afraid that though it started well, it ended up being a disappointment.

Upon her arrival to Bhamjran (a steampunk version of Victorian India), one of widowed countess Georgiana's first actions is to visit a strip-club. The main act is performed by a beautiful yama man, Iyan, and when he singles her out during his performance, Georgiana decides to proposition him.

Iyan is half offended, half excited. He doesn't like being a stripper, but due to a miscarriage of justice in his world, he's indentured to the strip club's owner and needs to pay a huge amount of money. He's NOT a prostitute, and yet he wants this woman so much that he accedes to her request. And obviously, the two nights they contract for turn into much more.

My main problem with this story was that I was never able to get a good sense of the characters. Who was Georgiana, other than a virgin widow gone wild? Iyan was a little better fleshed out, but I never really got him, either, and much less why he was so fascinated with Georgiana. And with two characters I don't really know, even Emma Holly can't make me interested in the plentiful (and, I admit, well-written) love scenes.

Another problem was the plot about Iyan's family being falsely accused of a crime, leading to his indenture and the whole deal about how these two people from such uneven backgrounds are going to make a go of their relationship. In both cases, I just didn't get the feeling any of this was a big deal, and the resolutions felt facile.

My grade, I regret to say, is going to have to be a C+. Holly's still on my autobuy list, but this one was a miss.


Next was The Breed Next Door, by Lora Leigh. This is an author I hadn't tried before and wasn't particularly interested in, based on comments I'd read about her books. As the first story, TBND starts out ok, but then derails.

Ok, so we have this guy, Tarek who's a Breed. As far as I could tell, not having read other Breed books, he was part of a genetic experiment and spent the first part of his life being tortured and mentally conditioned to become some kind of killer. Until he was rescued, Tarek spent all his life hearing nothing but that he's not worthy of love, nothing but a freak, etc., etc.

As the story starts, Tarek is living next door to Lyra Mason, a woman he's hot for, and he's pretty much desperate for some warmth and love. I liked this first part. From all I'd heard, I'd expected some kind of old-fashioned jackass alpha, but Tarek was vulnerable and uncertain, rather than jackass.

Problem is, I wanted Leigh to continue exploring this, but instead of the lovely story that could have been (if we'd given the heroine a personality transplant, that is. More on this later), we get mates, an aphrodisiac hormone that makes Lyra go into Mating Heat (yes, capital letters, and why did I dislike this so much when I loved a somewhat similar thing in Lover Awakened?) and a barbed penis (yes, you read that right. When they have sex, barbs shoot out of Tarek's penis and grab onto Lyra from the inside). Blergh. Oh, and we also get Lyra's annoying macho brothers.and a very boring subplot about someone trying to kill Tarek.

To make matters worse, Lyra was irritating as hell. Perfect words to describe her? Feisty, headstrong, stubborn and determined to get into danger and not heed any warning. Oh, and of course, a virgin with no good reson for being one. I hated her.

A D+ for this one.


And after these two disappointing stories, things got better. The next story was Falling For Anthony, by Meljean Brook, and it was very good. And since every summary I tried to write ended up being practically longer than the story *g*, I'm going to borrow Meljean's:

When Lady Emily's brother falls mysteriously ill after an attack by a supernatural creature--an illness that makes him increasingly bloodthirsty and violent--she seeks his cure and prays she can stay alive long enough to find it.

And the demon and nosferatu who lurk always near would rather she didn't.

Unexpected help arrives in the form of her brother's best friend, Anthony Ramsdell. Anthony--who had been killed in battle on the Peninsula. Anthony--whom Emily had seduced in anger and then declared unsuitable for marriage.

Transformed into a Guardian, a race of men who protect humans from demons and nosferatu, Anthony must risk everything to save the woman who rejected him...the woman he still desires
As I said above, this one was really, really good, even though (Meljean, you're probably tired of hearing this already) there was much too much story in here for so few pages. That was my first reaction, that I would have loved to read this one as a full-length novel.

But thinking about it further, I'll also add that the way so much (the romance, Emily's conflicted feelings for her father and her reactions to it, Anthony's transformation, the whole mythology, the plot about the nosferatu stalking the Ames-Beaumonts....) was conveyed in so few pages was excellent. Usually when a story takes on a bit too much, things are left poorly motivated or unexplained. Not here. While I would have loved more exploration of many things (Emily's actions after Anthony left for Spain are a good example), everything made sense and felt perfectly well-motivated.

I absolutely loved Anthony, I liked Emily very much (and perfectly understood the reasons for the stupid things she did in the past), and the world-building and plot were fascinating. A B, and I'm very glad to see that Demon Angel, coming in January 2007, will tell the story of Hugh and Lilith, two very intriguing characters we first meet here.


The last story was The Blood Kiss, by Shiloh Walker, an author I'd heard about but had never tried before. It was a nice surprise. Not a story I absolutely loved, but it was enjoyable. A B-.

We've got both werewolves and vampires here. Our hero, Roman, is pack leader of Wolfclan Montgomery, while our heroine, Julianne, is the blood child of the leader of the Capiet vampires, from New Orleans. They meet when Julianne helps Roman free his brother, who was taken prisoner by Julianne's father, Eduard, for trespassing on his territory. And immediately afterwards, partly because he's totally in lust with her, partly in retaliation, Roman takes Julianne prisoner and takes her with him back to his territory.

What I liked here was that I got a very good sense of the characters and of the chemistry between them. Walker made me believe in that connection, and thus her love scenes worked wonderfully for me. And though I didn't find the world-building particularly compelling, it was clear and easy to grasp. I might try something else by this author. Any suggestions?


A bit too uneven, this anthology, but the last two stories make it worth reading. Overall grade: simple average, so a C+.

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