Four very dark romance novellas
Reading Level: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Pages: 401 pages (in print version)
Listening Length: 10 hours and 43 minutes
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
I experienced this collection of four different novellas as an audiobook narrated by the brilliant Renee Raudman. I was interested in it entirely for the Ilona Andrews novella. I had not read anything by the other three authors before, and their stories were not to my taste. And, unfortunately, the Andrews story was much more in keeping with the very dark tone of the other three stories than with Andrews’s usual style of paranormal romance. Below is a short summary and opinion of the three stories by the authors who were unfamiliar to me and a longer review of the Andrews story.
“Angel’s Wolf by Nalini Singh.” This is a story from Singh’s Guild Hunter universe. A gorgeous vampire falls in love with a very powerful, beautiful, female angel who is the absolute ruler of an angelic court who reign over the territory of Louisiana. I’m not a big fan of stories about angels as cruel, vindictive entities, so I was not drawn strongly into this story, though for what it is, it was well written.
“Nocturne by Sharon Shinn.” This is a story within Shinn’s Samaria universe. In this story, a woman falls in love with a blind, depressed angel. Again, I’m not a big fan of angels who are evil, tormented, or capable of having physical bodies that can have permanent injuries. But for what it is, this story, too, is well written.
“Ascension by Meljean Brook.” This is a story within Brook’s Guardian universe. Marc is a mystical Guardian charged with protecting a particular community. This story is a murder mystery in which he seeks out the killer of a teenage vampire. A romance is woven into the mystery when he reunites with a former lover, Radha, a fellow Guardian, and they work out their previous misunderstandings. I wasn’t clear what a Guardian is, but I preferred this type of magical being, entirely made up, rather than one about evil angels.
“Alphas: Origins by Ilona Andrews.” Much like in a Twilight Zone episode, Karina Tucker, who sees herself as a very ordinary single mother with a six-year-old daughter, is driving a van of children home from her child’s field trip when she makes an unplanned detour to a seemingly ordinary motel for a brief rest stop. Unfortunately, while there, she encounters terrifying monsters she was never meant to see, and the man who appears as her salvation offers a shocking trade-off: in order to prevent the barbarous massacre of herself and her daughter, she must agree to be his captive permanently and live out a horrifying fate that, in many ways, makes a quick death at the claws of the monsters seem preferable. Only preserving her helpless, fragile daughter could have driven her to make such an appalling choice.
I won’t grade down a really well written story due to my own idiosyncratic preferences, but as a huge fan of Ilona Andrews, I have read everything this husband-and-wife writing team has ever published, and I have to admit that this was my least favorite Andrews story. I normally really like the Andrews team’s urban fantasy, and I especially enjoy their paranormal romances, but this particular paranormal romance I found excruciatingly dark and depressing. I’ve never been a fan of captor/captive romances in general, and this one is rather gruesome. The only way this heroine could believably fall in love with a hero like this one is to develop a major case of Stockholm Syndrome, which isn’t exactly a guaranteed prescription for readers to find her (or him) sympathetic. Yes, the ending of this novella does qualify as an “uplifting” type of HEA (“happily ever after”), that is an essential part of any paranormal romance, but getting there requires a certain type of taste in romance plots that I myself don’t share. For my particular preferences, the plot goes too far in the direction of horror, and it felt more frightening than sexy to me.
Again, however, that’s just my personal taste. A great many semi-horror-plot type of paranormal romances, both adult and young adult, have been highly successful over the past 20 years, and many fans of the Andrews team will like this book.
I personally, selfishly, hope this isn’t the beginning of a series, because it will take up valuable writing time to produce, and the world the Andrews team has created here is about endless, brutal war. I think I will be, unfortunately, too squeamish to keep reading about it.