Disclaimer: I received an electronic advanced reader copy of this anthology in exchange for an honest review; I consider the editor and some of the contributors friends.
Normally I keep my short story reviews, well, short, and only call out two books when I review anthologies (favorite story and story I’d like to see expanded into a novel). Since this time the editor tossed me an advanced copy of this collection, and I know Stars & Stone Books puts out quality material, I knew this volume deserved better!
This is a solid collection where even the least interesting story to me, based purely on personal opinion, was still very well written. Multiple aspects of the paranormal romance regulars are sure to appeal to all fans of the genre, and I especially appreciate the diverse cast that made up so many aspects of the romantic relationships.
“A Change of Heart” by Cara McKinnon | This story takes the insta-love trope and makes it WORK, through world-building that is solid but not overpowering for the length of the story. Nathan and Zoe come from different lives, but from the first moment, all I wanted to do was cheer for them. This novella would definitely work as a full novel, and I’d love to read more of their further adventures together. 4.5 stars
“Water Temperature” by Andie Biagini | Unexpected characters with unexpected mythology. Short and sweet, and I appreciate that both of the characters are human without the story losing the flavor that makes up paranormal romance. 4 stars
“The Flying Saltines” by Read Gallo | But not every paranormal romance is a fairy tale, and this story hits you in the face with that knowledge right away, sucking you into the main character’s life and holding you hostage (willingly) so that you want more. It’s a bit disjointed, so was hard to follow the timeline, but it turns out that was the whole amazing point. I thoroughly enjoyed the romance-infused ridiculousness. 4.5 stars
“Focal Point” by J. Bigelow | This might be blasphemy, but I think I might have liked this story without the romantic element between two of the characters. Since the characters were already known to each other, there wasn’t a lot of build-up of romantic tension. I’d rather have spent more time on the battle than on a different sort of climax. 3 stars
“Full Moon Shenanigans” by Pepper McGraw | While I didn’t immediately gel with the characters of this story, the conflict intrigued me right away. Tantalizing glimpses of this world definitely showed me that I wanted more. Bonus points added for non-traditional heroines and flipping the script on an expected trope. 3.5 stars
“Forever Love” by M.T. DeSantis | The narrative language used in this story was deliciously evocative of the fae atmosphere and worked to great effect. The premise of this story was also lovely, but a bit too steeped with angst. 3.5 stars
“The Robinson Agency” by Sheri Queen | Frequent repetition of detail caused this story to drag a bit, but all of the characters were three-dimensional and entertaining. The inciting incident took the plot in a direction I absolutely didn’t expect, and the romantic elements were a satisfying secondary conflict. 3.5 stars
“Blood Strong” by Traci Douglass | This is obviously a well-established world, but readers are able to slide in seamlessly. I love when stories reveal that “monsters” have normal problems too, like politics and moving heavy furniture. I especially love when very male heroes are also allowed to be something other than ridiculous alpha males. I do wish this relationship hadn’t come with the “destined mate” trope, because I feel like it would have been equally as solid without it. 4 stars