Sometimes you just don’t have the time to read a full-length book, yet you can’t face the prospect of not reading SOMETHING! An anthology of short stories or novellas can be just the thing to fill that gap; you can dip in and out whenever you feel like it and they can also be a useful way of introducing you to new authors. We asked AAR staffers to recommend some of their favourites.
Caz: I’m not the greatest fan of anthologies as in my experience, there tends to be a huge difference in quality and you end up buying a book of three or four stories for just one good one. Thankfully, with the advent of digital publishing, lots of authors who contribute to anthologies are later able to release their contributions singly, so it’s possible to just snap up the ones you wanted in the first place!
At the Duke’s Wedding by Maya Rodale, Miranda Neville, Caroline Linden and Katharine Ashe is worth buying for the Miranda Neville story – P.S, I Love You – alone, although Ms. Linden’s contribution is also very strong. And another excellent novella by Ms. Neville – Duchess of Scandal – is a very good reason to purchase Dancing in the Duke’s Arms which also features stories by Grace Burrowes, Carolyn Jewel and Shana Galen, although the stories by those last two mentioned authors aren’t perhaps their strongest work.
Christmas seems to be a time that brings out lots of anthologies; a couple of years back I read Christmas Gifts by Mary Jo Putney, which comprised three stories, by far the best of which is The Christmas Cuckoo, which has since been published separately. (ETA – a downside of the digital publishing revolution is that it’s also easy for authors and publishers to remove some of these titles from sale and then repackage them – I’ve just discovered that this title is now available in an anthology entitled Christmas Revels)
I admit I’m not a huge fan of anthologies, but I can recommend Zombie Boyz by TJ Klune, Eric Arvin, Geoff Knight, Ethan Day, Daniel Kaine and Ethan Stone. Quite unlike anything else I have read, or will probably read again, this is a little gem of Fun, Romance and Gore (!)
Liberty & Other Stories – Alexis Hall
This is a collection of stories set around the ‘Prosperity-verse’. An unbelievably good collection with titles such as – Squamous with a Chance of Rain and Cloudy Climes and Starry Skies. The original novel Prosperity is one of my all time favourites.
I’ve chosen a holiday anthology, A Regency Christmas II, because I’ve always enjoyed the Signet Christmas anthologies and this one includes stories by two of my favorite authors, Mary Balogh and Carla Kelly.
I second the recommendation of Liberty & Other stories…
I’d like to add Poison Apples by Kirby Crow, which contains SFF four short stories, all of them exceptionally well written and featuring great world building without info dumping etc. The author really knows how to write short stories, and the overall theme is how love and connections can be found.
I really loved Midnight Scandals (Courtney Milan, Sherry Thomas & Carolyn Jewel) and At the Duke’s Wedding (Caroline Linden, Miranda Neville, Katharine Ashe & Maya Rodale). I enjoyed Gambled Away (Rose Lerner, Isabel Cooper, Jeannie Lin, Molly O’Keefe & Joanna Bourne) – though some stories were much more successful than others.
I admit that I purchased Midnight Scandals because of the Sherry Thomas novella – but it took me a moment to orient myself to the main character. I was so surprised when I realized it was a companion to the second novel in the Fitzhugh trilogy, Ravishing the Heiress. In A Dance in the Moonlight, we find out what happened to the woman Fitzhugh spurned, Isabelle Englewood, who I sort of hated until I read this story. Ms. Thomas totally redeemed her and I loved her romance with Ralston Fitzwilliam nearly as much as the one between Fitz and Millie. It’s a charming, sexy and delightful novella – a DIK for sure. I can’t say that Ms. Jewel’s book stands out in my memory, but Ms. Milan’s story was similarly excellent. A great romance – but even better, it introduced me to Ms. Milan’s writing.
I bought At the Duke’s Wedding in a frantic search for more books by Katharine Ashe (a favorite). When I saw the other authors contributing stories, it was like I hit the jackpot! I liked every story in the anthology – and they are a treat when read back-to-back. A wedding serves as the perfect backdrop for the various characters in each story, and though they are all unique, they truly complement one another. My favorite story… that’s too hard! I would give As to Ms. Linden and Ms. Neville – their stories are full of longing for that someone you can’t have – until you can (because these stories all have HEA’s!). This is maybe my most favorite anthology ever – and a terrific way to try each of these authors if you haven’t before. Off to read it again…
Gambled Away by Rose Lerner, Isabel Cooper, Jeannie Lin, Molly O’Keefe and Joanna Bourne. I reviewed this HERE and thought it was a great read. I didn’t love all of the stories but they are all entertaining and though they share a common theme, they’re all very different. My favorite stories come from Ms. Lerner (hot!), and Ms. O’Keefe. Again, this anthology was a great way to try new-to-me authors and discover new favorites. I’ve since read many more books by Ms. O’Keefe, and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read so far. I was already a fan of Ms. Lerner and Ms. Bourne (love her!); Ms. Cooper and Ms. Lin were new to me. I liked their stories very much and plan to read more books by both.
Night Magic – Rebecca Brandewyne contributed this amazingly purple-prose-filled bodice ripper piece about a guy who turns into a werewolf every full moon and in Becky Lee Weyrich’s piece a woman falls in love with an alien.
This has Roberta Gellis’ Bride Price, which is a fun retelling of Táin Bó Cuailnge, has a really sweet story by Morgan Llywelln, a nice contemporary story by Susan Wiggs and…I can’t remember Barbara Samuel’s piece, sadly.
I don’t have a particular favorite title, but I did love the annual Signet Regency Christmas anthologies back when Carla Kelly still wrote for them. I could count on her story to always be well done and heartwarming, and I invariably discovered a new author to enjoy in each book. Those anthologies are where I first encountered the likes of Edith Layton and Mary Jo Putney, just for starters.
Under the Mistletoe by Mary Balogh – Ms. Balogh is one of my favorite authors and this anthology contains some of my favorite stories by her. Each tale has an HEA and is just perfect for Christmas.
Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs. Alpha and Omega, one of the stories in this anthology, is the start of the Anna and Charles/Alpha and Omega series and I absolutely love it. What makes it great is the sweet start to their romance and how well the two characters balance each other. In Red, With Pearls is another story that I absolutely love. Let’s just say it contains justice against a whiny neighbor that satisfies my soul’s need for retribution.
Where Tree Tops Glisten – Carla Putnam, Tricia Goyer, Sarah Sundin – I like this anthology for the story I’ll Be Home for Christmas. The tale of a former bully and bad boy and a woman in desperate need of help this is a charming second chance at life Christmas story.
Wild Embrace Nalini Singh – I love it cause she’s the most amazing writer. Really – that’s why I love it. Her psy-changeling books are a treat to read and four stories in that world? Nirvana!
A Match Made in Texas – Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Carol Cox, Mary Connealy I normally avoid books with the word Texas in the title but I am a serious Witemeyer addict so I couldn’t resist. Her story was excellent, and two of the other stories were fantastic as well. I really felt the love with this one.
Those are just a few of our recommendations. If you have a favourite anthology (or several!) we’d love to hear from you in the comments.