Silhouette, $6.50, ISBN 0-373-21822-2
Fantasy Romance, 2003
If this anthology is an indication of the quality of the upcoming Harlequin Luna line, I think I won’t be getting to excited soon. The best story of the bunch happens to be a window-dressing paranormal story while the other two stories are horribly plotted and populated by annoying characters.
Susan Krinard’s Kiss of the Wolf is a very predictable werewolf story. Let’s see if you can join the dots here. Dr Dana Saint-Cyr, city girl, comes to Louisiana to discover what happened to her missing cousin Sally. She meets a very rude man, Remy Arceneaux, that growls at her to leave the place. She meets a very handsome and charming man, Chad Lacoste, that offers to help her. You have ten seconds to identify the hero and the villain in this story. The story is bizarre enough when Dana learns that Remy is withholding crucial information from her but she is okay with that because the person Remy is protecting can’t be guilty just because she says so and she is in love with Remy! But the most perplexing thing is, Remy doesn’t have to be a werewolf and this story will still be fine. This is therefore a very predictable story that doesn’t break new ground or even offer one teeny-weeny twist, and it’s one with wolf-motifed window dressing as well.
Tanith Lee’s Shadow Kissing stars a heroine that is an artist and a hero that spends his time either insulting the heroine or shagging her silly. And the author calls this “love”. Vivien Gray is an artist and while I understand that artists like to be self-absorbed, this woman is pathetic. She wails about her life, she lets her “friend” treat her like an unpaid servant, and she falls in love with a statue. I understand liking a sexy naked statue enough to buy it and put it at home to provide some eye candy, but to fall in love with one? Shall I call in the men in white coats now? Vivian is babysitting her friend’s big house for free (see pathetic above) when she finds this statue and wails that she’s falling in love with it, oh no. Then she realizes that the statue is a dead ringer of that really rude, obnoxious Connor Sinclair.
Connor, for some reason, assumes that she’s a squatter and this is excuse enough for him to sprout off some really antiquated misogynistic nonsense. He especially seems to have this belief that women don’t know Shakespeare. And this is, of course, assuming that quoting Shakespeare is enough to make one a literate person in the first place. Not that Vivien is any prize. She’s self-absorbed, a professional victim, and even better, a complete klutz. The paranormal element here is some evil forces wanting to separate Connor and Vivien from their destined love. If you ask me though, any force that wants to stop these two losers from procreating isn’t evil as much as it is benevolent.
Evelyn Vaughn’s The Devil She Knew is the script that even Brad Kern, the producer of the three-cent TV series Charmed will balk at using as a basis for an episode of that show. Idiot newbie witch Marcy Bridges is the kind of heroine that I love to loathe: she is clumsy, she is inept, she falls over her feet with every step she makes, she does everything wrong, and she goes into hysteria even as she has to turn to the man she stammers, stutters, and claims to be terrified of for help. Marcy has accidentally cast a spell that opens a portal to Hell, or so she claims. It’s a wonder that Lucifer doesn’t take one look at this woman and shut the portal at once. Marcy calls the superintendent Tomas Martinez because her cat is missing and she is Not Leaving until she get her cat back. (Translation: “Will Mr Strong Man go to Hell and get clumsy silly me my cat back?”)
Tomas is a stereotypical oversexed Hispanic lover, which is pretty bad in itself if Marcy isn’t such a high-maintenance Wiccan Barbie doll in comparison. Following her thought processes is a form of torture in itself, such as when she suspects Tomas of being a Dark Sorcerer only to melt like putty when he smiles at her. Is that Charmed idiot sister Phoebe ever this stupid, even during the worst Cole-Phoebe romance moments? It’s a tough call. If The Devil She Knew is any longer than it is, there will never be a Judgment Day because Lucifer will take one look at Marcy and cancel the party at once.
When the most predictable story where the paranormal components aren’t even necessary to the story is the best of the bunch, this anthology is an SOS signal waiting to happen. I can only hope that the influx of science-fiction and fantasy authors, established or newbies or failed ones hoping to get a new lease of life and all eager to make lots of moolah, into the Harlequin Luna line will present something more palatable than When Darkness Falls.