KITTEN-TIGER & THE MONK by Carolyn Crane
Reading shorts in an anthology can be a hit or a miss at times. You either have the short stories, which are part of a series that read like they are deleted scenes and you really need to be up-to-date with that series to have a Scooby on what is going on. Or you have the other short stories, that although they take part in the same universe, the story either concentrates on characters that you meet in the main series, but gives them a bit more screen time or it’s a stand-alone story with the main character is completely unrelated plot to the main series.
For me, on first impressions, this story falls into the character/own story short and thankfully it meant I wasn’t lost having never ready the parent series.
The author manages to give you just enough detail on the world in which this story is set. It comes across as kind of near-future/x-men type of world, where normal people develop extra-ordinary abilities. In this case, our main protagonist is Sophia. She has the ability to wipe and re-write someone’s short term memory. She is in search of a person named The Monk, who can effectively give her a clean slate after some of the more dodgy assignments she has taken. Unfortunatly for her, she has to go through an ex, named Robert, who she really wronged in the past.
Sophia is a very complex character and at first I felt some sympathy towards her as it was clear she wanted out of her current life. The novelty of using this gift to get the outcome you wanted had waned and she wanted to start over.
This changed as you began to delve deeper into her past and especially with what she did to Robert, the supposed love of her life. It was so cleverly done, and though I knew that Sophia’s family wasn’t the pillars of saint-hood, the revelation on how she was involved in their dodgy dealings was still a shock.
I’m glad to see that she was redeemed and that her actions in her past were not down to sheer greed. Also, her refusal to leave Robert to his fate with a group of sleep-walking cannibals that lived underneath a structure called The Tangle, showed that she did truly care for him.
My only real criticism of the short was the fact I couldn’t get any feeling for the character of Robert. Yes, he has a really horrible life, but there was nothing in his character that made me root for him. His sole purpose seemed to be to provide the catalyst for Sophia to change her life. Maybe if it had been a full novel, we would have learnt a bit more about him. For the purposes of this short, it wasn’t desperate, though I do hope that in the novels we will see more of the characters.
VERDICT: I really enjoyed this short and it was a great insight into the series. In a few short pages, Crane managed to cram in a hell of a lot of story and plot development. So much so, I think this series may go on to my wish-list. 3.5/5
VIXEN by Jill Myles
I knew my slightly sheltered self was in trouble within the first few pages of picking up this story:
Miko jerked the door open, about to snarl something unpleasant through the screen. [...] Every hormone in her body went on instant alert. Both men were gorgeous…
I suddenly realised this was going to be no ordinary romance! I wouldn’t really class myself as an erotica fan. I read romance, but for me that is about the love and the happy endings, they have to have a good story and the sex scenes are a bonus of the chemistry and spark I’ve enjoyed along the way.
Vixen was more erotica than romance. And well as you might have guessed from the quote it was about two guys (Sam and Jeremiah) and one lucky lady (Miko). The story was short and sweet (and filthy!!). There was some actual plot with were-fox Miko needing protection from fox hunters, but much of it was about them flirting and the build up to the big *ahem* climax.
The sex scene was well.. erm, phew, yes well, *fans oneself*! Rather raunchy to say the least! But Miko’s a were-fox and they need more then one man to keep them happy, so everyone was happy! It caused me amusement and blushes in equal measure.
VERDICT: This was a fun and sexy book, perhaps not a genre I would particularly read again, I think I prefer monogamous relationships. But it made for an entertaining evening read. And I might even be tempted to pick up something by this author again. 3/5
THE BLUSHING BOUNDER by Meljean Brook
This is the first piece of writing I’ve read by Meljean Brook, and I liked it. It did feel as though it was part of a larger work but for the most part it was engaging, the characters had surprising depth for such a short story, and the steampunk world was intriguing.
In this world, humans are called Bounders, and Hordes are infected with tiny machines they call bugs. These bugs were used by the Horde to control everyone in England until a revolution.
Temperance is our leading lady who’s fallen in love with a gentleman she met in the park. Unfortunately Temperance is terminally ill with consumption and has decided to live out her remaining months/years in a sanatorium. On the morning of her departure her gentleman friend, Edward Newberry, grabs her and kisses her passionately in the presence of her family and passers by in the street. Of course, this may be an alternative America, but when it comes to being ‘a lady’ things haven’t changed much and kissing in public by anyone other than your husband is not the done thing! Temperance is forced to marry Edward.
Temperance and her new husband, Edward, move to London where social etiquette is more relaxed, and Edward is a police constable. After a few weeks and much thought, Temperance comes to the conclusion that her beau kissed her with the purpose of securing her inheritance, and with a broken heart resigns herself to living her last remaining years unhappily.
However, one night she witnesses a murder and things change between her and Constable Newberry, and there’s also a chance of a cure for Temperance, but it would mean being infected with the bugs…
Brook manages to pack a lot into such a short story. I will admit to being a little confused at times and having to read through certain paragraphs more than once to let this new-to-me genre sink in. Steampunk, as with most genre, has its own jargon, and I found it interesting but harder to get into than I would say a PNR or UF. This is probably why it felt it was part of a larger body of work, but the combination of romance and mystery within a steampunk world was a really great mix and one I would definitely like to investigate more.
VERDICT: Brook has a great writing style which I liked and I enjoyed meeting the characters. I would definitely read more from this author. The Blushing Bounder is a taster to Brook’s steampunk romance series, The Iron Seas, but can be read as a stand alone novella, but only just. 3.5/5
OVERALL REVIEWER RATING:
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