Wild & Steamy

Wild & Steamy - Meljean Brook, Jill Myles, Carolyn Crane 3+ overall, but the individual stories definitely varied in quality and substance.

The Blushing Bounder by Meljean Brook: 3.5-4 stars. This Iron Seas novella featuring Constable Newberry (first name "Edward," in case you didn't know) and his wife, Temperance, is sweet and adds some background and depth to a strong-but-silent secondary character found in the first Iron Seas book, The Iron Duke. Considering this is the last of the available Iron Seas stories that I had to read, I was excited to see little glimpses of characters that I had already learned about (e.g., Mina in her inspector role, mention of the latest published Archimedes Fox story). The story of Newberry and Temperance's romance is itself a sweet story of a married couple who came together over a misunderstanding that, at its heart, was driven (unbeknownst to Temperance at the time) by Newberry's love for her. He is a gentle giant (indeed, we learn in the story that he's a virgin, too), but he feels strongly for Temperance and will do anything - even move her across an ocean and risk her hating him forever - to save her from the consumption that is eating away at her health. Temperance believed (falsely) that Newberry was a gold-digging manipulator who deliberately compromised her into marriage and handing over her inheritance to him. The story does a very good job of showing his (completely pure) motivations and his steadfast dedication to her. Once Temperance understands and accepts his actions as pure and driven by love, the couple and their romance fall neatly into place and ends with the consummation (FINALLY!) of their month-long marriage.

Vixen by Jill Myles: 2 stars. Mehhhhhhh. I got a whole lot of meh out of this short erotica piece. First off, it features themes I avoid in romance - menage and, ultimately, a polyamorous relationship. I tried not to let that cloud my judgment as I forged ahead and dove into this story of a reclusive were-vixen, Miko, who has, up til this story, been denying her natural were-vixen sluttiness (for lack of a more refined term) by remaining a hermit. The two heroes show up when Miko's mother sends them as bodyguards to protect Miko from (illegal) fox hunts that have recently cropped up in the area. The plot in this one is paper thin, and it only serves to advance the "romance" when Miko does TSTL I'm-putting-myself-in-danger-and-you-can't-stop-me things. I just couldn't relate to Miko, both in her waffling over which hunky guy she wanted and in her TSTL moments, and I didn't feel like we learned anything substantive emotionally about the two guys. Also, as a general criticism to the editors, I thought this anthology was marketed in the non-erotic mainstream romance genre, so a story with menage and a long-term m/f/m relationship just doesn't fit into expectations. It just was a disappointment in the end, but was okay as a vehicle for spicy sexytimes.

Kitten-tiger & the Monk by Carolyn Crane: 4 stars. Verrrrrrrrrrry cool. Really liked this story set in the "Disillusionists" world. I was only 10 pages into it, and I had to go online to queue up book 1 of that series on my library requests. This is a second-chance romance story that features an anti-heroine by the name of Sophia, who regrets the path that life and her ability to erase/replace memories have taken her. I didn't think I'd like her, and I actually didn't for a large part of the story. What she did to Robert when they were teenagers in love was heartbreaking. Just the reminiscing that Robert does about their love and their falling out made me want to smack her in the face with a two-by-four. The story and strong world-building yield a setting that is an industrial alternate universe, giving me a feeling of gritty urban life and a sense of general dystopia. We learn secrets on both sides that really help for each of them to trust and understand each other better. The thorough backgrounds and intricate setting definitely left me with the impression that a LOT of thought went into this short piece and the world as a whole. It's got a dark and rather depressing overall vibe, but I really enjoyed this one and, despite my usual aversion to urban fantasy, will definitely check out the series.