Enthralled is an anthology of four new novellas that focus on paranormal storylines.
The first in the book, “The Devil’s Due,” by Lora Leigh is part of her Breeds series. I’ve never read any if the books in the series, and I felt like that lack of knowledge about the world was a serious detriment to my enjoying and understanding much of the story. The idea was cool: that there are these people who have been genetically enhanced with the abilities of different animals. But the novella as a whole work felt very… Well, it was kind of all over the place. A novella has a limited amount of space to convince me of a HEA and this one spent a lot of time focused on other characters. It actually felt like a side story plucked from a larger book. I liked a couple of the other characters much better than the couple I was supposed to be reading about, and I’m curious about their stories, so I may look into this series. However, a lot of this story actively annoyed me, for reasons I’ll get into later.
The second story, “The Curse of the Black Swan,” by Alyssa Day, was just a freaking delight all the way around. I loved how the characters talked to each other and interacted and connected, and it was all just so, so lovely and cute and weirdly very real for a story about a chick who turns into a swan and an undercover half fire demon firefighter. I totally bought this world, and I adore it, and I want lots lots more. The ending was rushed, the Bad Guy reveal annoyed me a bit, but I so didn’t even care. I totally bought into the whole thing and adored it.
The third story, “Salvage“, by Meljean Brook, is part of her Iron Seas series, which I will admit, I am unabashedly, madly in love with. Oh my god, I love these books. Anyway, this story focuses on a minor character from Heart of Steel, Big Thom, who’s a salvager and diver, and his estranged wife Georgiana, and holy crap. It was fantastic. They talked, they worked out their issues in a realistic way, they had crazy adventures, and there was a scene that I will not share that had me rolling around howling with laughter. It may very well be the perfect novella. AND it was full of steampunk awesomeness. So much joy. I would have liked to have seen more, just because I love this world and these characters so darn much, but I still think it worked astonishingly well as a novella.
The fourth story, “Ecstasy Under the Moon“, by Lucy Monroe, part of her Children Under the Moon series. Again, cool concept: shapeshifters were the ancient Picts, that split up into different clans, and are now (but this is still in the medieval period) trying to mend fences and join forces and all of that. Very cool. Occasionally the language felt forced and Una had something terrible happen to her, but we don’t really get the details. We get one detail, and it’s terrible, but, as bad as it was, feels anticlimactic to what I expected the story to be. I basically didn’t feel any connection to any of the characters, though. And…
Okay, quick little rant here. I hate the idea of two people being “destined” or “chosen” for each other, and then that’s it. That’s the whole reason why they’re together and they’re in love. It happened in “The Devil’s Due” and in “Ecstasy Under the Moon”, and it made me freaking insane. I mean it’s cool that they have some chemical or spiritual connection that draws them to each other. BUT you gotta show me that even without that predestined factor, these people would still choose each other. In “Ecstasy Under the Moon,” they had all these meetings where they talked and apparently bonded, and I didn’t get to see any of it. I was told that they bonded, that they shared stories, etc., but I didn’t see it. So then they get together and it’s all good because they’re soulmates or something and I’m like, ugh. I get it. It’s a novella, there’s not a lot of room. But, in my mind, watching the couple that I’m supposed to be connecting with and rooting for a HEA for come together in a real and meaningful way should be the main freaking reason why I’m reading the book. In “The Devil’s Due,” I missed out on two weeks of their relationship and then they were HEA because of all this stuff that had happened off the page and I’m FURIOUS, because right now I don’t believe that they love each other. I believe they’ve got some crazy chemical reaction thing going on, they’re hot, and they’re both good in the sack. And that’s it. That’s annoying as hell. One of the reasons why I adored the other two novellas so much was that I actually saw these two people talking and interacting and laughing and being vulnerable and falling in love. I am totally convinced of their HEAs because of that.
Okay. Rant over.
It’s tough grading this book as a whole, because of my wildly different reactions to the stories contained. Since one I’d grade a 5.0 (“Salvage”), one a 4.5 (“The Curse of the Black Swan”), and two I’d give 2.0 (“Ecstasy Under the Moon” and”The Devil’s Due”), I’m going to average it all out and say a 3.0 for the book. This is with the caveat that everyone needs to read Salvage immediately, or I’ll beat you up. Not really. 🙂