This is a collection of four stories by well-known authors of paranormal romance of the more erotic variety.
DRAGON DANCE by Angela Knight
starts off excellently with our heroine, Arial Dean, trying to negotiate the release of a woman and two children in a hostage situation. Initially the story seems to be an ordinary hostage situation, but then we learn that the man who has taken his wife and children hostage is a Hyper, someone who has some extra powers
that became apparent in the population five years earlier and can have devastating effects on the mental states of those who become Hyper.
Arial and the other law enforcement officers have to call in Tracker, a Hyper who works for the Feds, to try to deal with the hostage-taker.
When Tracker arrives, he and Arial rescue the family, but with some collateral damage - to Arial. When Arial realizes
that she has become a Hyper and turns to Tracker for help, she is starting a new journey in life where she discovers there is a lot more to the Hypers than previously thought. Arial's personal Hyper skills may be necessary to defeat the evil Kali, a woman who has taken six slaves and wants to get Tracker and Arial, too.
This story is interesting and well-written, although the sex scenes feel unnecessary to the plot, at least in the detail that we are given. The situation of the Hypers is interesting, and I would have liked more to be made of it. However, it
is an enjoyable read, and the characters were well-drawn and appealing. Four stars.
CAUGHT BY THE TIDES by Diane Whiteside follows Emma Sinclair, a young widow who sees a man washed ashore near her home in Cornwall and goes to rescue him from the incoming tide. Although he's far too heavy for her to lift, she finds that the magickal spells she learned years ago that never previously worked seem to help him. She nurses him to health, finding his recovery amazingly fast. This is because Owen Bentham is a King's Mage and messenger, and Emma herself has previously unknown magickal abilities - she is a chalice, which means she can amplify the power of a mage. Owen's mission of returning from France with the antidote to a spell that Napoleon could use to find safe UK harbors was disrupted by a local mage working with a French mage; that local mage wants to both kill Owen and take over Emma's chalice skills.
Owen and Emma have to work against him, utilizing the magick stored in Emma's house and some new magic of their own.
This is a charming enough story set in an interesting time (the time of
Napoleon) with magickal overtones. The romance side is an instant love-at-first-sight rather than anything more deep and complex but
is pleasant enough. There are some aspects of the story that didn't quite work for me, such as the Gryphon's occasional appearances, but it
is a reasonable read. Four stars.
QUEEN OF ALL SHE SURVEYS by Emma Holly is another story set in Emma Holly's Yamish world (also visited in full-length novels
The Demon's Daughter and Prince Of Ice), and the story has some similarities with
Prince Of Ice, at least as far as the special mating abilities of the Yamish royals go.
The other background of the Yamish world isn't really featured in this story, and it works perfectly well as a stand-alone short story. The hero of this story is Memnon, only son of King Ravna, whose battles in the long-running war with Queen Tou aren't very successful. King Ravna agrees to give his son to Queen Tou as a war tribute in order to have captured soldiers released. Memnon is sent to Tou's city
to join her harem of men. It soon becomes apparent, however, that there is
something special between the two of them. Tou is god-touched, and King Ravna had also received the favor of the gods - it seems that Ravna's son and Tou might have a special affinity for each other.
Much of this story is taken up with the sexual antics of Tou and Memnon, but there is also an attack on Tou's city
that forms a brief part of the plot at the end. The main focus is always the relationship between Tou and Memnon, which is described in detail. Like all Emma Holly's books, this is a well-written story set in an interesting world, but the short story form leaves little room for much plot other than the sexual relationship. I would have appreciated more detail about the rest of the situation of Tou and Memnon. Four stars.
IN A WOLF'S EMBRACE by Lora Leigh
is apparently part of a series, as there are several other characters named whom we don't actually meet. The hero, Matthias Slaughter, is a Wolf Breed, a man who has been genetically engineered with wolf genes and who, along with the other Breed,
has been experimented upon and tortured for much of his life. He and the other Breed members now work to track down those responsible and bring them to justice - in Matthias' case, often summary justice. Unfortunately when he shoots Dr. Benedikt Albrecht in the back of the head in his hotel room, he doesn't realize
that a young woman is in the room, too; not just any young woman but Grace
Anderson, the woman who is fated to be his mate. He kidnaps her so that she can't turn him in
and takes her to her cabin in the country where he can persuade her of the justness of his actions.
Much of this story consists of the conversations between Matthias and Grace where he persuades her that shooting a man in the back of the head without warning is
okay, that it is a necessary part of the struggle against those evil people who torture Breed members. His explanations don't seem that convincing to Grace, but fortunately the mating bond takes over and she seems to accept it. The story is mostly about their mating bond, with a short escape from danger at the end. There's a reasonable amount of characterization for Matthias, a man without family who's always been on his own, but Grace
is more of a cipher. It's a reasonable enough read but nothing special. Three stars.