Anthology: A Faerie Tale, by Paige Burns, Jodi Lynn Copeland, Rae Monet, and Tiffany Aaron
RING OF FIRE (***), written by Paige Burns, begins this anthology on four faerie princesses forced to live on Earth (separately) and find love before their 28th birthday. All four of these stories are very readable, and they don't just portray how much the guy wants the girl but how much the girl wants the guy back (beyond the responsiveness). In RING OF FIRE, our nature faerie Damia meets scientist Mateo De'Acosta in a jungle where he's studying and measuring an active volcano. This qualifies as a very rare romance/erotica story where the guy isn't a notorious rake, but rather a studious research scientist. He's very attractive though and our libidinous faerie Damia directs her ample charms on Mateo. The passion is heated and the chemistry palpable. Towards the end, Damia's special faerie powers aid Mateo and his project on the volcano. Mateo, meanwhile, falls hard for Damia and both discover true love in each other's arms.
The second story features the faerie sister Albinia in Jodi Lynn Copeland's INTO THE ARCTIC (****). Some amusing twists to the common werewolf storyline make this tale an enjoyable and yet very passionate affair. Geologist Flinn Gregory is a were-penguin who is studying glacial tectonics at an outpost in the frozen tundra to save his imperiled species (were-penguins). Along with a couple guys, Albinia arrives at the post under the guise of a student named Erin finishing her masters in geophysics. Albinia coaxes Flinn to allow her to stay with him at his outpost to study glacial drifting while the two other guys (Lance and Rusty) move on. Albinia and Flinn enjoy a very heated passion and similar to the previous story, Albinia saves Flinn's life along with finding a means to salvage his race.
The third story showcases the the faerie of luck and fortune Nortia in Rae Monet's LUCK OF THE DRAW (**). The focus shifts here a bit to south France where Nortia uses her powers to win at slots in a casino called Ranger's Palace. Owned by Brice Ranger, Nortia's vast winnings compel Brice to investigate her. Passion takes over from there but this story lacked the fresh appeal from the prior two. It was also the most mundane in this anthology because unlike the volcano and penguins in the first two stories, LUCK OF THE DRAW lacked a compelling premise.
The final story, TIGER BY THE TAIL (***) by Tiffany Aaron, focuses on the final faerie sister Alida, the faerie of glamor manifested by her singing talent. Taking place in Australia, Cyno Wellington is a were-tiger, the very last Tasmanian Tiger in fact. Cyno attends one of Alida's concerts and of course he's mesmerized. The plotting here deals with Alida stalked by her Aussie manager Jason via anonymous threatening notes. Cyno and Alida's chemistry resonated in this one and the passion was definitely heated.
Anthology: Pleasure Raiders, by Katherine Kingston, Arianna Hart and Dawn Madigan
These three stories are about space pirates discovering love in a science fiction universe. The first story, CHECKMATE (**) by Katherine Kingston, is interesting to say the least. Written entirely from the heroine Devonne's perspective, Captain Dev crosses paths with her hero Raje. Both are pirates of a sort. Devonne and Raje share an early passion and later Devonne learns he's none other than Prince Reginald of Gambria. His uncle is the Grand Emperor. Devonne recoils feeling he used her for a short time. Circumstances land both Devonne and Raje in a bind with the Sangari government. The Sangari people enjoy exhibition and in order to escape charges, both Devonne and Raje must successfully perform various acts in front of a live audience. They involve combat, mazes, and of course, sex. One scene with another couple was especially memorable. In the end, the Sangari trials prove to Devonne that Raje really loves her.
The second story, Arianna Hart's CONCUBINE'S REVENGE (***), also represents the most heated and passionate. Space pirate Triona Fallon of the The Bunny's Revenge captures Captain Drake Cantor and his ship. Drake is Traminian where it's customary to own concubines as slaves. Triona was captured from her rural home and forced into the concubine slave trade on the planet when she was 16. A cruel Traminian master abused Triona for a two years before she finally escaped to engage in space piracy. Triona takes revenge on the captured Traminian Drake who offers sexual services in exchange for his freedom. Triona agrees and puts a collar around Drake controlled by a remote. The premise engages from the outset. Although Triona's treatment justifiably angers Drake in the beginning, I was rolling my eyes at Drake's lovesick introspection relatively early. He forgets about escape and instead he's emotionally enslaved by Triona too early. Both obviously discover true love in the ruse and the love scenes are hot.
The final story here, Dawn Madigan's CRASH COURSE (*), is weakest of the lot although the initial premise intrigues. Navy commander Blade Steele hounds captain of the Ambrosine pirate Chiliad-Kai Jayrt'ian. In an act of desperation, Chiliad orders his ship the Ambrosine to hyperleap without a functional navigational system. A smuggler and scoundrel, Chiliad prays he doesn't end up in the heart of a supernova. Our heroine is virginal Valasca ("Val") of an Amazon-like race of females who make their home on the planet Chebrri in uncharted territories. Val chances on Chiliad in the desert of her home planet and agrees to help him find fuel for his ship. An entertaining belligerent quality characterizes the early exchanges between our hero Chiliad and Val. Chiliad initiates Val to passion and it's first story which saves any oral until the very end.
London Falling, by Eve Vaughn (****)
A very short read, this is about our alien heroine London who falls for ordinary nice guy Matt Taylor. Ordinary nice guys who haven't had a myriad of nameless, faceless women are a rarity and Matt is exactly such a guy. Although he's dated plenty, women dump him because they find him cute, but lacking in enough sex appeal. Matt isn't bitter about it though, and he perseveres reasoning he isn't looking for a beauty queen just someone he could talk to and share his deepest thoughts with. Unfortunately, Matt only seems to attract abused women who want him to clean up the pieces. Meanwhile, London is a princess on another planet who refuses to marry the General. Instead, she falls on Earth in what looks to Matt in his telescope as a comet or falling meteorite. The story is sweet and although it doesn't contain the obligatory rakish hero, I thought it was very passionate.
Last Kiss, by Dominique Adair (*)
In her mid to late 30s, Elaine Nichols decides to attend her millionaire friend Dirk Prentice's weekend party. Organized for sexual excursions, Elaine wants to have lots of sex before succumbing to her cancerous tumor which grows worse by the day. At Dirk's ostentatious castle, Elaine meets Count Alexei Romanov, a man whose very presence calls to her. Elaine has been having dreams of a mysterious man all of her life and she suspects Alexei may have some answers behind her dreams. As you might suspect, Alexei and Elaine cozy up and when Elaine's tumor catches up with her, Alexei reveals he's a vampire. Apparently, in prior lifetimes, Elaine has been with Alexei but Elaine tragically died. Hence, her fractured dreams. Determined t0 be with Elaine forever this time, Alexei explains their history and turns her into a vampire so they can finally be together. Why he didn't turn Elaine in one of her earlier reincarnations is beyond me. I wasn't moved by anything here: neither the premise nor Alexei and Elaine's "connection."