I was hoping to enjoy Cravings more than I did as I’ve read and enjoyed the work of each of these authors before, and I do relish the occasional dip into paranormal fiction. Unfortunately, the stories here mostly came up short.
Blood upon My Lips
- by Laurell K Hamilton
Grade : D Sensuality : N/A
Blood upon My Lips by Laurell K. Hamilton isn't a short story at all. It's an excerpt from Hamilton's upcoming Anita Blake novel, Incubus Dreams, and only 83 pages of excerpt at that, making it more than difficult to summarize. Essentially we see more of Anita dealing with the ardeur. Absent are both Richard and Jean-Claude (except in mental glimpses). Present are Jason, Micah, Nathaniel, and Damien.
First of all, it's fraudulent of Jove to market this book as "All-new sensuous stories from four of today's most provocative authors" when really what the reader is getting is three stories and one excerpt. If you are not familiar with the Anita Blake series, don't expect a lot of narrative guidance or catch up in this excerpt. And don't expect an ending, unless a big, fat, teasing cliffhanger qualifies in your mind as an ending.
Essentially this is 83 pages of Anita agonizing over whether she should shag Nathaniel for his own good. Her supernaturally polyamorous lifestyle has gained for her a steady lover in Micah and a house boi in Nathaniel. But Nathaniel clearly wants more. Anita doesn't care for him that way, but how can she in good conscience deny him a piece of herself? After all, everyone else in St. Louis has had her; it seems discriminatory to turn away Nathaniel (and then later Damian who, unlikely as it is, finds himself in a similar situation). What to do, what to do?
Most annoying about all this is that Hamilton basically sets up a porno premise: Anita has to have sex! She's dying for it! She must have it! and then drones on and on via Anita's internal monologue about how this is so against everything she stands for or believes. Look, pick one or the other - morality or hot threesome monkey sex. But don't do both. It's so pointless and frustrating. It's stuff like this that inspired my purple prose parody about the confusing metamorphosis of likable, believable Anita to this strange creature presented here.
Dead Girls Don't Dance
- by MaryJanice Davidson
Grade : C Sensuality : N/A
MaryJanice Davidson's Dead Girls Don't Dance was better, but I have to admit to not getting the humorous appeal of this author. This short story takes place in the time between the action of Undead and Unwed and Undead and Unemployed. Betsy Taylor makes a short appearance, but only as a minor character. Our heroine here is Andrea Mercer. She's been a vampire for six years and still adjusting to her transformation. At the beginning of the story Andrea toys with the idea of ending her miserable existence. Then by chance she meets up with Daniel Harris, her college crush. He literally stumbles over her on the beach where she has burrowed herself away from the sun for the night. Andrea begins to feed on Daniel, and then she remembers what a nice guy he was, even if he never returned her burning passion. So she persuades him to take her to Minneapolis where she can pay homage to the new vampire queen (and most likely die).
If you liked the humor in Undead and Unwed you will probably like it here. Andrea is a more angst-ridden heroine than Betsy, and nowhere near as shoe obsessed, but the dialogue is in the same vein and there are a number of goofy situations milked for comedy. Daniel isn't too bright for a hero, but he is kind and he accepts Andrea for what she is. He also listens to her sad story, which is emotionally cathartic for her. Andrea herself is rather impatient and prone to caustic remarks. Not what many men would want, but her insults will probably fly over Daniel's head, so an HEA is not out of the question.
- by Eileen Wilks
Grade : B- Sensuality : N/A
Originally Human by Eileen Wilks is set in the same universe as her short story from last year's Lover Beware anthology. This time around the heroine is a succubus, and the hero is a big mystery.
Three-hundred-year-old Molly Brown is walking the beach when she finds a naked man at her feet. He's young, beautiful, and badly hurt. In helping him into her Winnebago, she learns that he is magical, that he has a number of interesting abilities including self-healing, and that he's not from around Galveston. His English is odd, like he just learned it. But most interestingly, he can't remember who he is.
Wilk's choice of a succubus as a supernatural creature is an interesting and unique one. Molly is sort of like a vampire, only she feeds off sex instead of blood. This does raise questions about how many lovers she has had; one has to assume in the high hundreds. Molly's supernatural universe is also complex and fascinating and is filled with people who believe very different things, both about God (or the Goddess) and about magic and its correct uses.
The story moves along at a good clip, and Molly keeps her secrets to herself until it is necessary to reveal them, which makes the reading experience unpredictable, but in a good way. The love story between Molly and the man she names Michael is somehow less compelling than the other stuff that's going on, however, and the fact that their love develops in a very short time made it less than completely believable.
- by Rebecca York
Grade : C Sensuality : N/A
Rebecca York's Burning Moon rounds out the anthology. Grant Marshall is related to the family of werewolves from York's Moon series, and he uses his natural hunting skills to track down the man who poisoned his wife and set fire to his house. He arrives in Sea Gate, New Jersey shortly after another such crime has been committed. It is the off-season for tourists, but local bed-and-breakfast owner and blind tarot card reader Antonia Delarosa offers him a room. Antonia, you see, has been expecting him. A wolf has been showing up in her cards for weeks. She doesn't know what it means, but she is determined to find out.
This is a story about a fast-forming bond between a werewolf who still considers himself mated to his dead wife and a woman who is recovering from the man who jilted her when she went blind. It's pretty standard stuff. Grant is angst personified, and of course he can't commit to another woman partly because he's still bonded and partly because he plans on ripping the throat out of the killer and then doing himself in afterward.
Antonia is less developed. She's blind. She reads tarot. I guess that's it. They get involved emotionally and sexually almost instantaneously, and Grant's being a werewolf (and the physiological and genetic issues that accompany his condition) doesn't even make Antonia blink. Readers who enjoy romances about love at first sight (or, in this case, no sight) might find all this more believable than I did. Or maybe not.