Reviewing anthologies is much different from reviewing a single title. Sometimes we choose to highlight a couple of stories, sometimes we give a general overview, and sometimes we give a short review for each story. I've been using this anthology, Into the Mystic, Vol. 3, as a palate cleanser between longer stories, which is both why this review is a bit late and why this review is going to be Option 3 - short reviews for each story.
Overall, the book is exactly what I've needed these last few weeks. As with any anthology, some of the stories worked better than others, but it's a really strong addition to the small subgenre of f/f paranormal romance. If it helps you to know, I immediately bought volumes 1 and 2 upon finishing this one.
One of the things that worked well for me while reading the volume over a period of weeks was the variety among these nine stories. Some are close to erotica, some leave it at a kiss. Some are set in a world much like ours, some are completely fantastical. I didn't find that the book worked well when I tried to read it straight through, probably for this same reason. Reading an anthology is really like reading nine books, after all, even if the total page count is less than 300. Each story requires you to sink into a new world, after all.
Let's talk about the stories!
It Started Before Noon, by Ava Kelly
This is the first story in the anthology, but it remains my favorite. The main characters are a story gardener and a scientist/engineer. The story gardener grows story ideas, which can be used by story weavers to make stories. The gardener hasn't been able to make her romance "puffs" grow, so they sit on a little table in the corner of her nursery. One day, a scientist shows up and the gardener sends her away, over and over, until finally she relents and invites the scientist in for tea. They have tea every day, and a sweet romance blooms, in more ways than one!
Heart’s Thaw, by Bru Baker
Calliope is secretly in love with Lady Helena, but she's her hired companion and Helena must marry to preserve her father's title. Helena has no interest in all of her male suitors, however, and is eventually cursed by one of them to have a heart that gradually freezes and kills her. Sex to the rescue! This is one of the stories that relies more heavily on sex and has a definite Happy For Now ending rather than a Happily Ever After.
Fire and Brine, by Lis Valentine
This one was also heavy on the sex, but it worked so well for the characters that you can't say it's gratuitous. One of the heroines is a succubus and one is a siren (mermaid) and they have an attraction that neither can resist. It's the coming together of two very powerful supernatural women and it's very hot.
Dance with Me, by Michelle Frost
A vampire hires a butch werewolf to find something for her and sort of also work as her bodyguard during. This one didn't work as well for me, as it felt like the author was trying to put a full book into a short story. I would have liked to spend more time figuring out who the characters were, rather than zooming around the city on a motorcycle from club to club to club.
My Cup of O Pos, by L.J. Hamlin
This was another story that didn't work for me, but not because of any plot points, just some clunky writing. The author and the vampire heroine are both disabled, and it was a welcome change to see a vampire who wasn't magically healed of any "flaws." I liked the gentle building relationship between the vampire and her human ER doc, but I just couldn't get into the flow of the writing.
Home, by K. Parr
Another favorite for me! Farah is a newly turned werewolf who ends up shifting back to human the morning after a full moon in the yard of a gorgeous Alpha werewolf. Farah's pack is entirely femme, but it's made clear that they vary in sexual orientation. It was short, but after a bad day, it was nice to get a quick HEA with a bunch of women supporting each other.
Swoon, by Artemis Savory
A cursed pirate has to steal someone's voice before she dies, but doesn't want to be like her sisters and take without consent. I had some issues with her sisters' behavior, but I think that's intentional. I was also annoyed at the heroine because she does assault a woman before realizing what she's doing and stopping. I didn't particularly want their HEA after that, if I'm honest. On the plus side, it's a creative fantasy setting and not everyone will react the way I did to that scene.
The Hunt, by M. Hollis
A vampire comes of age and sets out to find her first willing blood donor. The whole thing is wonderfully awkward and sweet and ends with a hopeful HFN that I really liked. It reads like new adulttt, which is totally appropriate for the characters.
By Candlelight, by Ziggy Schutz
This is a mildly spooky story that takes place after the heroine, Zoe, dies. She's been sick for half of her young life and is really curious about the ghost who comes to help her family through their grief after she dies. Like the first in this anthology, it's a beautiful, sweet story with unique fantasy elements and it ends on a kiss. I liked this one a lot more than I thought I would, and it was the perfect way to end the volume.
So there you have it, a very long review of Into the Mystic, Vol. 3!
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