Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Wild Thing" by various authors

Every once in a while I like to read one of these collections, one where they pick 3 or 4 authors, give them a theme and have them pound out a short story or novella for the work. The back of the book exclaims "Four extraordinary talents bring the most uncommon desires to life in a bold new anthology of romance on the edge." I'm not sure I'd go quite that far, but three of the four aren't bad.

First up is Maggie Shayne, probably familiar to readers of paranormal romance. Her story "Animal Magnetism" is a sort of hip, paranormal, Dr. Doolittle. Macy McNamara is a veterinarian who prefers the company of animals to people. Small wonder, since she actually communicates with them. No, not through actual speech, as she explains to the hero, more through thoughts and feelings. She becomes involved with detective Jay Harris when he rushes in a chocolate lab suffering from a gunshot wound, a dog who witnessed her owner being attacked and raped. Unbeknownst to Detective Harris, the dog "gives" Macy a complete description of the criminal, something that Macy must determine if she can share with the by-the-book law officer. How will she explain her gift? Will he think she's insane, as many have before? Will she be able to stop the rapist before he attacks again?

"Paradise" by Meljean Brook is the second entry in the anthology. Lucas Marsden, a vampire, is mourning the death of his consort, Olivia Jordan. He hasn't fed in a month, preferring to exist on animal blood. He's feeling guilty and none too stable due to the substitute liquid when he's approached by a beautiful girl, one who seems to know who and what he is. She's not a vampire, but she's not human either. He becomes even more confused when she makes it clear that she's there to help him, including feeding him. Selah is a Guardian, a being akin to an Angel, one who guards the Gates that can be used by angel and demon alike. There's a Gate near Lucas's home, one that is being twisted to serve the demons, and Selah must stop the sacrifices of vampires to ensure the Gate's security. She must also get Lucas to trust her and let her do her duty. Oh, and most of the time the blood lust will lead to sex. Duh.

"Wild Hearts in Atlantis" by Alyssa Day is a short entry in the "Warriors of Poseidon" series. It was so bad I read one chapter and quit. Characters with names like Lord Vengeance, Bastien, Denal, and Justice were just too much for me. The kicker was when one of the guys calls another of the characters "dude". Barf.

The most interesting story was by one of my favorite authors, Marjorie M. Liu. I was surprised to find that it was not a story of the Dirk & Steele gang. And the style was very different as well."Hunter Kiss" is told from the first-person perspective, not something Liu usually does. It's written in a sort of noir meets paranormal meets fatalistic science fiction vein. And while the other two stories I read concentrated on the "romance" (sex), this one focused on the characters themselves. Yes, they're attracted to each other, and yes, they will eventually find themselves in bed, but there's not much in the way of description of the actual act itself. It was refreshing and it was good.

Maxine Kiss is a demon hunter, one in a long line of female hunters. She is protected by her "boys", demons themselves by night, tattoos covering her body by day. She is not entirely human nor is she very sure what sort of hybrid she truly is, that knowledge having been lost through the decades. Her mother was shot and killed by a demon. She is a loner and tries very hard to ensure that people don't get close to her. Those that do tend to die. She meets Grant Cooperon one day and everything changes. He doesn't seem phased by the demons that protect her, nor does he seem surprised when she explains that demons possess people. Well, he was a priest not all that long ago, but that doesn't seem sufficient explanation. It's not. He's got a gift of his own - he can see the auras that surround people. He knows that black ones go with people that are somehow "wrong". And he can play music that will change those auras, filling them with the colors of his music. I know, sounds kinda kooky but it works. There's a nice but brief explanation of synesthesia, a condition in which people "see" sound as colors or words with colors. Seems to happen a lot in autistic people. Anyway, Maxine is drawn to Grant and he to her; together they should be unstoppable against the demons.

Interestingly enough, this is the only story that doesn't really end. It's left open enough to give Liu the chance to develop it into a series, I hope. I found the writing to be outstanding, and I thought the plot was very intriguing. I'll be keeping my eyes out for the next story about Maxine and Grant.

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