Contains novellas by Christine Feehan, Maggie Shayne, Emma Holly, and Angela Knight.
So, a year or three ago, I picked up an anthology called Fantasy, headlined by Feehan. I must confess I was still feeling a bit snobbish about vampire fiction and found it all kind of silly. I don’t think I finished most of the stories.
Times change, my friends, and so does reading taste. I had some leftover reluctance for Hot Blooded, due to the similarity of cover art and two of the same authors as Fantasy… plus, I have to admit, as the month draws to a close, I’m getting kind of burned out on anthologies.
But I was pleasantly surprised. Given that I have surrendered my disbelief on the vampire subject in general, I was in a much more receptive frame of mind for these stories and really enjoyed them. As a whole, each author did a good job of limiting the world-building complexities to just what was needed for the novella. Since I’m not a follower of any of these series, that was definitely a concern.
I mean, I could tell there was a lot going on in the Carpathian universe that I don’t (yet?) know about. Frankly, I think most modern authors who have ditched the whole “going to ground” element of vampire mythology have done the right thing, because I found that fairly offputting, and there were more loose ends hanging than I would accept from a full-length book, but that is sort of the nature of writing a series, I guess. All in all though, it was an engaging story that I was able to read and enjoy with zero external grounding (heh, sorry, groan) in Carpathian lore. For whatever reason, I continue to resist Feehan as an author, but I’m strongly tempted to cherry-pick through her backlist to see if I can find out what goes on with the secondary female characters in this story.
Maggie Shayne had an entry in Wild Thing, which I liked but didn’t love—it was clearly a part of an ongoing series and I had some other issues with it (review pending). What she did right with the Hot Blooded novella, Awaiting Moonrise, was to make it a completely stand-alone story. If it’s part of some other series, I can’t tell. The hero is a loner, the victim of a generations-old voodoo curse, and not part of a pack, pride, clan, patria, gaggle or seraglio of other Others, so there is less of a societal fabric that the reader needs to be oriented on. One nitpick would be the behavior of the hero when she first meets him—he’s a doctor, and behaves improperly. I don’t care if it did make her hot, it pissed me off. (Maybe it works for people with medical fetishes, I don’t know, those gross me out.) Other than that though, Shayne does the insta-heat thing pretty well, a visceral connection between the hero and heroine; there’s a little bit of a bad guy, a little bit of voodoo, and ultimately a happy ending.
Emma Holly… oh my. It’s shaping up to be a love-hate thing with me and her. After loving her historical, and hating the weird alien thing in Hot Spell, I was pleasantly surprised by The Night Owl (nothing to do with actual owls, by the way.) This was everything a romantic novella should be. It is the story of two people falling in lusty, sexy love, and very little more. It is part of Holly’s upyr series, which I snubbed those years ago, and it helps that the vampire lore is fairly standard: they drink blood, they “turn” humans (though their society has restrictions on this to prevent detection), they can’t bear sunlight and hang out in basements during daylight hours. There was some minor villainy, dealt with in a satisfactory way, but overall it’s the story of how Bastien has to take some risks to win Mariann over to the dark side, so to speak. If I have a complaint, I would say that there wasn’t much development of the relationship, per se. We get a good feel for both Mariann and Bastien (a bit later), but not so much why he falls in love with her. That’s just sort of as writ. Though I have to admit, if I (let’s assume, an unmarried version of me) were to experience that kind of mind-blowing sex, I’d probably convert to whatever, too. Just sayin’.
Angela Knight. Hmmm. What can you say about a universe that incorporates human legends through time by making them *actual* Mages, furthermore, a premise that requires the female counterparts to such legends to be fucked into their full potential by said Mages. Yes readers, Mage semen is magically delicious. If some guy chats you up in a bar and promises you immortality in exchange for a weekend in Cabo, he might be an Angela Knight fan. Despite the absolutely preposterous premise, I liked the characters quite a bit; the sex scenes were creative, athletic, funny, and still very very hott, although I did sort of feel like I should have a bowm-chicka-bowm-bowm soundtrack playing in the background.