Triskelion Publishing, $5.99, ISBN 1-933471-00-X
Fantasy Romance, 2005
If you are familiar with BelleBooks’s Mossy Creek books, you will have an idea what this anthology is like. Only this time replace the Southern apple pie heartwarming nuggets with vampires, werecreatures, witches, demons, incubi, succubi, and even some trolls and dragons. Stories run rampant from just plain silly to very silly to laugh-out-loud silly, and it’s all for the International Red Cross, so this book isn’t a bad way to use a spare $5.99.
All the stories in Bewitched, Bothered & BeVampyred are too short to be more than a quick breezy read. The anthology is only 234 pages long and with nineteen authors, some of them contributing more than one piece of writing, depths and character development are a luxury.
260-year old Janice Thinksalot is our main character in the sense that she is a constant presence through many of the stories in this anthology. She is a witch-of-all-trades (cop, doctor, mediator – what the situation demands, she’ll do it) in the town of Brokenoggin Falls, Michigan. Through her, the reader gets to encounter the colorful characters in this definitely unusual town. There is a woman who discovers that her husband (and so is therefore, unfortunately, her mother-in-law) is a dragon in Mary Jo Putney’s A Dragon’s Tale. A lonely centaur inflicted with, um, a horsey condition spends his free time Googling his name (Rowdy Vanderlight), looking for love, and being a UPS guy in Elizabeth Holcombe’s surprisingly romantic The Loch’s Stressed Dragon’s Half-Sister.
Emma, a rather normal citizen in Brokenoggin, wants to be extraordinary and accidentally causes everyone in town to have amnesia, although this spell also cures amnesiac vampire Seth in the process in Vicki Lewis Thompson’s A Spell Of CRAFT. CRAFT stands for Can’t Remember a Fucking Thing, by the way. Teenaged witches Withering, Scornful, and Derisive (who are understandably not pleasant children given their unfortunate names – I blame their parents) decide to liven up their birthday party by unleashing giant ponies that terrorize the rest of the townsfolk in MaryJanice Davidson’s Night Mares.
And there are more stories, of course.
Since it will be impossible for me to evaluate all the stories, especially when these stories shine best when they are read as chapters in a story of the wacky town of Brokenoggin Falls rather than standalone stories, I will just say that this anthology is a a nice breezy read to provide some chuckles for a good cause. Some of the stories are just plain absurd while there is also a noticeable overreliance on “woman behaving sexy” running gags as punchline (Alesia Holliday’s amusing Suzi Stiletto: Recovering Demon Slayer, in which a demon slayer also moonlights as a sex toy saleswoman, is a good example of this), but all in all, it’s about the authors letting their hair down and having some fun coming up with the wackiest and silliest scenarios possible. Even if there are misses, there are enough hits to make this anthology worth my time and money.
Memorable stories include Susan Grant’s A Dance through the Garden of Good and Evil, a romantic tale of a jobless demon who finds love from an unexpected quarter, Sophia Nash’s charming and unusual tale of the hazards of paranormal conception in Crunching Scientist, Hidden Dragon, and Jennifer St Giles’s hilarious and sexy Dorothea’s Wizard, in which Dorothy and her dog go to Oz to discover a well-endowed naked wizard whom you bet sends Dorothy home via several detours to heaven and back. Linda Wisdom and Judi McCoy have a hard time living up to the titles of their stories (Lord of The Forest Trolls: Return of the Garden Gnome – Trolls Gone Wild and Lord of The Forest Trolls: Return of the Garden Gnome – Sam’s Repentance respectively) but they manage to deliver enough to make any reader’s curiosity worthwhile. Come on, admit it: you are intrigued by the titles of those short stories.
With unfettered tomfoolery and absurdity running rampant like an out-of-control food fight at a children’s camp Halloween’s party, readers not keen on obvious comedy that sometimes goes into slapstick territory may want to approach this book with caution. For everyone else, this book doesn’t pretend to offer anything more than a temporary feel-good time, so if that’s what you are looking for, feel free to join the party. If there are some genuine romantic undertones and some genuine sexy moments to be found amidst the ongoing silliness, consider that a karmic bonus for your good deed in giving $5.99 to the International Red Cross.