Blind Eye Books, $12.95, ISBN 978-0-9789861-4-8
Tangle Girls contains six stories with lesbian main characters, but do be aware that these characters’ sexuality is not the central theme of each story. Likewise, while some stories contain romance, I’d personally not consider the stories in this anthology paranormal romance as the romantic elements are not the central plot of these stories.
JD EveryHope starts off the show with Raccoon Skin, a rather flimsy fantasy story featuring a heroine who exchanges skin with a raccoon and in the process becomes one in order to enter Beyond. Sophia wants to save her girlfriend Caterina’s family. Why can’t Caterina do the job? She expanded her energy flying to Sophia’s side to show off her ability to transform into an eagle, gets injured in the process, and is now unable to do anything useful. Sophia is strangely accepting of the strange circumstances she finds herself in, and the whole story ends up coming off like a mushroom cloud in motion.
Jesse Sandoval’s Amazons is a short but powerful story about how love can drive even the most unassuming woman to commit acts of violence. The story ends shortly after the act of violence has been committed, and some readers may not appreciate the lack of closure or moral message. I think the author has done the right thing where the story is concerned though, because the impact of the story would have been diluted if the author had kept the story going.
Trent Roman’s The Conclave is an amusing story of a young human lady, Tanya Drake, who allows her sidhe girlfriend Erin to bring her along to a party in the Other Side. Not only does Tanya learn too late that King Oberon has banned his people from tangling with humans, she also realizes that love with a sidhe isn’t exactly fun and games. This one not only has a pretty strong world building element, the main character is too much fun to follow. Her reaction to this new world she is drawn into is realistic and yet amusing, making her a great placeholder for the reader in the story.
Dr Philip Edward Kaldon’s Under Suspicion is set in the 25th century. Ensign Lily Branoch is a sober by-the-book military person who is attracted to the apparently more easy-going Lt Daniella Cruz-Ortega. However, love isn’t smooth sailing all the way – Daniella could very well be involved in a smuggling ring. This one resembles a more conventional romantic futuristic story the most of all the stories present here, so it may be my bias showing, but I really like this story. The writing is upbeat and fast-paced and both characters show great chemistry considering the limitations caused by the short story format.
Erin MacKay’s Cupcake is the longest story in this anthology. This is another solid short story that has strong romantic elements. Stasya, an assassin for hire in a futuristic setting, receives her newest assignment: a man heavily in debts and facing the ruination of his company has decided to have his wife killed in order to cash in on her life insurance. This unfortunate wife, Mitsuko Jennings-Villega, however, has a few surprises in store for Stasya. This is actually a familiar story if you have read enough stories of assassins who fall for their targets, but the author manages to take a familiar spin and make the story work here. There are no whining, no silly moralizing, no emo assassins here, just a fun and well-written story of love set in the shade of noir.
And finally, there is Tenea D Johnson’s Dead and the President. I think this is the story of Dead, a Black woman in a futuristic America who can… phase around the place? And somehow there are discrimination taking place here and some attempts to end the segregation? Or something. This story is so hard to follow, especially with its abrupt switches between first and third person points of view and haphazard chronology. Too many things are going on here but the author’s deliberately opaque writing style makes it very hard for me to figure out what these things are. This is easily the weakest story in the anthology.
It’s four out of six where Tangle Girls are concerned, which for me is actually very good where anthologies are concerned. I like this one and I would heartily recommend it, as long as you are aware that this one isn’t exactly a collection of romantic stories.