Thursday, December 15, 2011

Burning Up

Summary: I liked it.  This anthology features four well-crafted stories of true love and hot sex in a fantasy, paranormal, or steam punk setting.  Although all the authors each have popular series, all of the stories stand alone and can be enjoyed by non-fans.  Woo hoo.

Burning Up totally works as an anthology.  Although the stories were pretty disparate in terms of setting, it felt like they hang together in terms of personality, if you will.

Whispers of Sin, by Nalini Singh, is the first story.  In it, a Chinatown resident is attacked by a thug trying to shake her parents down for protection money.  She's saved by a changeling (were-leopard) member of the pack that's trying to claim San Francisco as their territory.  It's true lust and protectiveness at first sight, and it evolves into something deeper as they continue to spend time together.  Their respective family and pack really enrich the story.  I've never read her popular Psy/Changeling series, but I've heard of it, so will probably look it up based on this story.

Blood and Roses, by Angela Knight, is a high-magic fantasy with vampire knights.  It wasn't bad, but it was the weakest of the quartet for me.  I think it was partly because I'm not a big vampire fan in general, partly because I didn't completely buy the setting, and partly because I felt the story was a little too predictable.  The premise is that the heroine, a Blood Rose (a magic user specially bred and and trained to be mates to vampires) is blackmailed by evil villains into helping capture a vampire knight in a plot to take down the kingdom.  She doesn't trust vampires because of bad experiences, and he doesn't trust blood roses because he's been likewise burned by twisty scheming ones. Of course, they soon see the good in other, fall in love, have lots of sex , foil the bad guys and live HEA (not necessarily in that order).

Shifting Sea, by Virginia Kantra, ended up being an unexpected treat.  It's set in 19th century Scotland, with an English former army officer who's recently inherited a title and land and tenants. He comes across a beguiling woman in a remote cottage on his land who propositions him.  They have sex early in the story, and I thought that this would be the smarmy exception in an otherwise well-crafted romance collection.  Not that I have anything against plot-free erotica, but I don't like it when I'm expecting something different.  In any case, that's not what happened in this story.  I don't want to give anything away, but it was actually a touching story.  I believe it's set in her Children of the Sea universe, although it's a prequel set outside of the main storyline.

Here there be Monsters, by Meljean Brook, was the story that originally got me to buy the book.  I'd loved Iron Duke and so was looking for other "Iron Seas" series stories.  It's steam punk pirates! I don't even especially like pirate stories, but that just sounds cool as shit.  Except in a good way.  Not literally.  Anyway.  The story starts with Ivy desperately trying to get out of London.  She goes to Mad Machen, a pirate captain she's gotten to know from his visits to her work (she's a blacksmith, although it's steam punk blacksmithing, so think less horseshoes and more replacing limbs with metal prosthetics and creating automatons).  He doesn't say anything so she sweetens the deal by offering her virginity, and he accepts.  I know, right?!  BUT this is one of those stories that unfolds and has twists and character growth and everything, so it turned out to be wonderful instead of creepy. Yay!

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