Saturday, September 25, 2010

Joint Review: Burning Up by Nalini Singh, Angela Knight, Virginia Kantra, and Meljean Brook

For this little gem of an anthology, Jane and I decided to split up Burning Up and each review our favorite parts. It absolutely one of the best anthologies that we have come across in quite some time. Jane's reviewing the stories by Nalini Singh and Virginia Kantra and I have the other two. Here we go...

"Whisper of Sin" by Nalini Singh

This is a prequel to her Psy-Changeling series and takes place around the time that Dark River is still trying to establish their territory. A crime ring has made their way into San Francisco and is frightening the residents of Chinatown into paying for protection. Ria, a human, is attacked by one of its gang members but is rescued by Emmett, a leopard changeling working with the Dark River pack. There is an instant attraction between them and it continues to build (think hot and steamy) as they work together along with others from the pack to put the crime ring out of business.

I purchased Burning Up mainly for this story and I wasn’t disappointed. I enjoyed finding out how Ria ended up becoming the executive assistant to Lucas, the Alpha of Dark River. When it explained how Ria blew out Emmett’s eardrum....well I just about spewed coffee everywhere it was so funny. (Jen: That part was pretty funny. I would’ve liked to have seen your spit-take!) I loved Emmett from the start and warmed up to Ria as she showed more backbone as the story progressed. The secondary characters were surprisingly well developed for a novella and I really got a kick out of Ria’s somewhat crazy family, in particular her grandmother. This was a very enjoyable read, especially if you follow this series.

“Blood and Roses” by Angela Knight

“Blood and Roses” is set in a medieval world where vampires are common and women who are known as Blood Roses are females born with magic and are taught and trained to be perfect mates/lovers for vampires. They are often used as political bait as “the king alone could grant a Blood Rose’s hand in marriage.” Here, a half-vampire Blood Rose named Amaris is blackmailed by a wizard who holds her three-year-old sister captive into capturing a vampire favored by the king. The idea is for her to seduce this vampire, Lord Raniero, so that he would become more favorable to their plan to aid an invasion and overcome the king. What the wizard and his minions didn’t plan on was Amaris and Raniero falling for each other.

I haven’t read many Angela Knight stories, just a few of her tamer ones sprinkled among some anthologies. Her books are generally too explicit for me and this one was also smokin’ hot. Amaris and Raniero have some serious chemistry which is great for them but they also both have some serious emotional baggage to deal with: the daughter of an evil vampire, Amaris was the victim of an attempted rape by a vampire she thought she was in love with when she was young and naive while Raniero has never known a Blood Rose who didn’t betray him, beginning with his stepmother. Raniero begins to change his mind once Amaris takes a great personal risk and protects him from from bloodthirsty soldiers while he’s defenseless. I liked Amaris and Raniero. They found love in the most unlikely of places and each took a chance on the other. While I thought that “Blood and Roses” is a little too hot for regular ‘ol paranormal romance and it’s not my favorite from Burning Up, it’s a decent addition to this anthology. (Jane here: I agree with you Jen, while not my favorite, I still enjoyed this story.)

"Shifting Sea" by Virgina Kantra

This story, a continuation of her Children of the Sea series, tells the tale of Jack and Morwenna. Major Jack Harris has recently returned from battle (1800’s Scotland), tired and wounded, to find that he has inherited a piece of property from a cousin. All he wants now is to make his land prosper and to find someone to grow old with. Morwenna is an elemental, a child of the sea, also known as finfolk or a selkie. She is longing for something more in her life but she’s not sure what. Exploring his property one day, Jack came across a small cottage next to the sea where he finds Morwenna. As they fall for each other, Morwenna needs to decide whether she is willing to give up her immortality and become human and Jack needs to come to terms with her being a selkie.

This is a wonderful gentle story, a fairy tale type of story inspired by Celtic lore. Even though I say gentle, there is certainly some heat. Not only did Morwenna invite Jack into her cottage when they first met, but also into her bed. I found both characters endearing and really enjoyed this enchanting story. (Jen: I recently caught up with this series - finally - and what I’m interested in seeing the most is what happens with Morwenna’s brother, Morgan, in Immortal Sea. He’s more confused about humans than anyone, or so it seems when he pops in here to visit.)

“Here There Be Monsters” by Meljean Brook

This is a prequel for Meljean’s new steampunk series that begins with The Iron Duke, released on October 5, and is even more entertaining than I expected. It’s also the longest short story in this anthology. It’s peripherally related to the main character in The Iron Duke, Rhys Trahaearn. Thahaearn’s partner-in-pirating, Eben “Mad” Machen, is a notorious pirate with a reputation for being ruthlessly cruel and is the man who the heroine, Ivy Blacksmith, approaches for help. Ivy wants out of London and is willing to do or pay anything to make that happen, including giving away her virginity. Machen is shocked by Ivy’s proposal but agrees with his own stipulations, prompting Ivy to escape at the first opportunity. Even though she tries, Ivy can’t stay away from him forever because Machen can’t forget her.

I hadn’t had any experience with steampunk before reading this short story and I am in love! The juxtaposition between the Victorian time period and the technology used is really cool. The nanos present in everyone’s bodies reminded me of Lynsay Sands’s Argeneau vampires series with the way they are constantly at work, healing their hosts. (They don’t need to drink blood though.) Ivy and Eben are an interesting couple; she’s a genius blacksmith and he’s a pirate fighting for a good cause. Their romance is a hard-won battle but I thought it was worth the fight.

Jane said she bought this book for the Nalini Singh story but this is the one I most wanted to read. I am a big fan of Meljean’s Guardians series and I can’t wait to read The Iron Duke.
(Jane here: This story took me completely by surprise. I didn’t think I would enjoy steampunk but...boy, was I wrong...this story rocked! I see The Iron Duke in my reading future. Jen: No worries, it's preordered!)

No comments: