Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review of Wild and Steamy: An Anthology

Review for Wild and Steamy by Meljean Brook, Jill Myles, and Carolyn Crane

Let's review my criteria for writing a kick-ass novella. I actually love shorter stories. If they are done well. Which is difficult. You can't squeeze in a lot of stuff with 15,000 words. A novella should be an amuse-bouche. Just a taste....satisfying in one, single bite. A quick introduction to the author's voice, a quick snippet of a love affair, a brief and intriguing look into a paranormal world.

Making one bite good and satisfying is extremely difficult.

Some folks are left wanting more, and feel gypped.

Some folks are left saying...."What? That's it? I don't get it."

Some folks get a perfect single bite, an explosion of tastes and textures, and say...."Holy macarena! That author is the master of the universe!"

In addition to this, an anthology should have some sort of cohesive theme holding it together. For example, a Christmas anthology is all holiday-themed. A Bearotica anthology is all about hairy, gay guys. Stuff like that. Just throwing together a bunch of short stories willy-nilly does not make an anthology.

Now, onto Wild and Steamy.....

1.) I read the whole book and thought...."These stories do NOT go together. Why were they in an anthology together?" Then, I went to Amazon to read the book description...."Three all-new novellas of the supernatural and steampunk kind...." Hmmm. Interesting. But it makes no sense. Brook's story was steampunk, Myles story was an erotica, and Crane's story was UF. There was no cohesion in this anthology at all. They were a mismatch.

The title: Wild and Steamy? What the hell is that all about? Brook's story was not wild or steamy. Myles' was extremely steamy, but not wild. And Crane's book was neither. A misnomer if I've ever seen one.

2.) The Blushing Bounder by Meljean Brook

Absolutely freakin' fantastic. Everything a novella should be. A taste of her quirky steampunk world. Fabulous characterization in a short amount of time. Suspense, intrigue. This is text-book perfect how to write a novella. Even got an awesome HEA at the end.

Let's face some facts here. You just don't have time to lay down all the world-building details of a paranormal setting in a novella. Can't do it. Not enough time. Brook didn't even try. She just threw us into the world and let us sink or swim. I have read The Iron Duke, so I knew what I was getting into. I do think a brand new reader would find this story intriguing enough to continue with the series.

I LOVE Constable Newberry. What a great character! What an adorable love story. This is an epic win!

Grade: A

3.) Vixen by Jill Myles

I have read a couple of other stories by Myles, and I really liked them. I was NOT expecting anything like this from her. In fact, her book Island Heat would be perfect for a Wild and Steamy collection. It was certainly wild and steamy in a great way. Loved that one.

Unfortunately, this was not fabulous. It was basically a vehicle for a lot of sex. Menage sex. The fact that the characters were shifters did not add anything to the story. Except as a way to explain why they were so horny, and as a lukewarm storyline. The Blushing Bounder was a hard act to follow, and this was not the right way to do it.

Grade: C+

4.) Kitten-tiger and the Monk by Carolyn Crane

I am a huge Carolyn Crane fan. I adored Mind Games....thought it was one of the most unique, well-written, intriguing books I've read in the last 5 years. This story is part of her Disillusionist UF world.

What I didn't like: Way too much backstory. It felt like 90% of this novella was backstory...Sophia thinking about her family and her time with Monk, and Monk thinking about his childhood and his relationship with Sophia. If you are writing a full-length book, it's okay to have a certain amount of backstory to get the readers up to speed. But not too much. It's an info dump, it slows down the pacing, and it doesn't grab the reader's attention. In a novella, it's a huge no-no. There is not enough time to bog down the novella with that much backstory.

What I loved: Crane's UF vision is absolutely superb. It is twisted and terrifying and fascinating in a sick way. Once she got out of the backstory and into the present tense, the story picked up, although I wish Sophia and Monk had been able to spend more time in the Tangle. What an amazing setting! The resolution of their relationship was very satisfying, and surprisingly sweet for this dark UF world. I really liked it. There is just a bit of sex in this one....I would not call it Wild and Steamy.

Grade: B

My overall impression of this anthology? Worth the read. A great introduction to Brook's world, a nice introduction to Crane's UF series, and not the best taste of Myles' writing....I would recommend Island Heat over this one. This anthology was not really Wild and Steamy, but it's still worth an exploration.