Strangers in the Night, by Linda Howard

>> Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Strangers in the Night, by Linda Howard collects three of her novellas from the mid- and late-90s.

The first one was Lake of Dreams, and it was the only one I'd read already. It was in the Everlasting Love anthology, where it had originally been published. I'll just paste here what I wrote then, to save you the trouble of clicking on the link ;-)

"Lake of Dreams, the Linda Howard story, was the best of the lot [Yep, this is true in Strangers in the Night, as well]. 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 next two stories, however, were new to me. First came Blue Moon, which, like Lake of Dreams, had a paranormal element.

Sheriff Jackson Brody hates blue moons. People do go a lot crazy during full moon, so it's just not fair to get two in a single month. When his dispatcher tells him he might want to go to the old Jones place, because a certain local thug was heading in that direction, Jackson is resigned. He doesn't really see the urgency, but his dispatcher hasn't been wrong yet.

Well, she wasn't wrong this time, either, because Jackson finds the thug shooting at a very attractive young woman he believes to be a witch. And after the danger is over, Jackson finds himself stranded with the woman in question, Lilah Jones

This one was pretty good. The romance did feel a bit hurried, but I thought the whole fate thing (Lilah does, in fact, have some powers, and the minute she sees Brody she knows he's her one and only love) worked well to make their immediate actions more justified. And those love scenes were very nice!

Best thing in the story: I'd say the atmosphere. Howard gave it the perfect touch of eeriness. A B.

The final story was White Out, not paranormal at all. I'll quote the back cover blurb, since this one actually reflects the plot of the story (the one about Blue Moon sucked).

In the midst of an Idaho blizzard, Hope Bradshaw offers shelter to a stranger-and an instant, hungry passion flares between them. When a radio bulletin warns of a dangerous escaped convict, her blood runs cold: has desire blinded her to the risks of trusting a man who is an expert at covering his tracks?
Simple plot: young widow in Idaho runs a small ski resort. Huge storm is coming, so she very efficiently secures everything and tucks herself in until it's over. But a mysterious man arrives in the middle of the night, half frozen, and before long, their relationship turns intense. The guy says he's a deputy sheriff, but certain details don't seem to fit...

Another good one. I liked Hope, who was competent and smart, and I loved the plot. There's just something about the whole snowstorm - half-frozen man appearing out of the blue scenario that appeals to me. Even the clichéd "I'll warm him with my naked body" incident worked. And how! That scene was smoking hot!

I also liked how Howard portrayed Hope's emerging doubts about Price and how she was so very sensible about what she did about them. That's one of the reasons why I said she was smart, see?

The only negative is that at the end of the story, I didn't really know who Price was. Maybe it's because the whole story is narrated from Hope's POV. That makes sense, of course, since we need a sense of mystery around Price; we need to wonder just who this guy is. But still, I had no real sense of his personality when the story was over.

Even with that, a B+. I loved all the rest.

The most consistently good anthology I've read in years. Overall grade: B+.


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