Friday, April 11, 2008

A Torrid Celebration by various authors

TITLE: A Torrid Celebration!
AUTHOR: Honey Jans, Monica M. Martin, Christy Poff, Melissa Schroeder, Cheri Valmont, Emma Wildes
PUBLISHER: Whiskey Creek Press Torrid
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 59k)
GENRE: Erotic romance
COST: $5.49

A collection of six erotic romances, each incorporating a party of some sort into the story.

The anthology starts out strong and smooth with Melissa Schroeder’s “Going for Eight.” Gerry Dillon has been off the bull riding circuit for six months, after a terrible accident nearly killed him. Now he’s back where he grew up, and the woman he always loved but never pursued because she was a hometown girl has grown up in all the best ways. The story is straightforward, with likable main characters and an easy reading style. Though the entire anthology is labeled erotic romance, this one is the hottest of the bunch, with fully realized scenes instead of just the scattershot effects some of the later stories provide. There’s nothing challenging or thought-provoking about this, but it makes for an enjoyable, simple read, and provides a solid opening for the collection.

“The Twelfth Knight” by Cheri Valmont takes a different route. Minna is a lady on the run, joined up with a band of entertainers as she poses as a boy to escape the fate she is sure awaits her at home. A year earlier, the band rescued a man who had been left for dead, one who took her breath away. He has no memory of who he was, at least until he confronts her about her gender subterfuge. But the attraction between them is too much to resist, even when they end up performing at a betrothal celebration for his brother and the woman his brother tried to kill him for. While the writing is technically as solid as the first, the characters aren’t as fully realized. I didn’t believe the depth of the feelings between the two, mostly because I got told why they should be in love instead of getting to see it myself. Still, it’s stronger than all but one of the stories to come.

“Nocturnal Offerings” by Monica M. Martin is a vampire romance, with an immortal losing his love to old age in 1201. She vows to find some way to return to him. In 2005, Nadia is a writer who is dreaming about a man she’s never met. She’s shocked to see him take form in the guise of the enigmatic recluse, Charles Poitier, who plans on finally making his love immortal like him. What this story suffers from is a sense of melodrama that leadens the story unnecessarily. Details like the tears of blood are more worthy of eye rolling than genuine emotion, and sentences like, “…his mesmeric tone mesmerized her,” make the story seem amateurish.

Things don’t improve very much with Christy Poff’s “Masked Desires.” Set in New Orleans, this is the story of Ava Clinton and her boss. Ava is Matthew Lord’s personal assistant, and has had the hots for him for quite a while. Unbeknownst to her, he feels the same way, and sets out to seduce her at his family’s annual Mardi Gras bash. Nothing new here, though the heroine is even more stupid than they usually come in stories like this. The ball is a masked affair, and yet, when Matt asks her to dance and talks to her afterward, she doesn’t recognize his voice, even though she has been his personal assistant for months, and even traveled with him on business. Unbelievable. Oh, and let’s not forget the heroine’s ability to accurately predict when she gets pregnant as they’re having sex. Because it feels different, she says. She does this not once, but twice, but by the time the second time rolled around, I didn’t care anymore.

The weakest of the anthology is “Knock Three Times” by Honey Jans. Chemise finds a lamp in her aunt’s safe and rubs it to have a man pop out. Not a genie, he is clear to tell her, though he can still do nifty tricks like make all her clothes disappear with a wave of his hand. There’s something about him being a servant to Isis, and somebody else named Zander who’s after him, but honestly, the plot in this is such a garbled mess that that’s all I can tell you.

The final story is “Spanish Lullaby” by Emma Wildes. In 1815, Carlos Verde has returned to his English home after being away at war for four years. The woman he left behind has grown up and is now engaged to someone else, but his feelings haven’t changed. He seduces her, but that’s not quite enough when she flees from him afterward. But this is a battle he refuses to lose. After the very disappointing previous stories, I didn’t have high hopes for this one. I was pleasantly surprised then to get sucked into Wildes’ finely detailed world-building and her war-separated lovers. Carlos is endearing, while Juliet is strong without being overbearing. The emotional arcs for both characters are rich and believable. It’s easy to root for both of them as they struggle to get past their previous roots. Their romance was, by far, the most powerful and engaging of the lot. It was an excellent way to conclude the anthology.


7/10 – Mostly solid editing, the stories that end up detracting here do so because of voice rather than technical issues


6/10 – Only two of the six stories followed through on the promise of believable romance.


6/10 – The weakest aspect of the entire anthology. Most fall short in creating credible characters.

Entertainment value

6/10 – I would only seek out two of these authors again.

World building

7/10 – Many risks the authors take actually pay off.



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