Just in time for summer, Brava churns out another one of their sexy anthologies. Sun, Sand, Sex features "big name" Linda Lael Miller, "medium-sized name" Jennifer Apodaca, and "eBook author moving to NY" author Shelly Laurenston. There are a couple of bumps in the road, but all in all, this was a satisfying read.
The biggest bump comes in the first story, Miller's "One Last Weekend." Teague (only romance novel heroes are named Teague) and Joanna Darby were college sweethearts. But despite 20-odd years of marriage they've grown apart. The problem here is that they've stopped talking to each other. Their divorce attorney convinces them to spend "one last weekend" at their cabin on an island off the coast of Washington. They reluctantly agree, and when a storm grounds the ferry they find themselves stuck. In their romantic cabin in the woods. Whatever shall they do?
The problem is that this story is only 60 pages long, and while Teague and Joanna reconnect by having a lot of hot, sweaty sex, they don't solve the root of their problem. That is, they still aren't really talking to each other. One wonders if they'll head back to the divorce lawyer once they've run out of sexual positions to try. Grade = C.
"You Give Love A Good Name" by Jennifer Apodaca is the fun story in the anthology. Lexie Rollins is a wedding planner under duress. When her Mom had a heart attack her family guilt-ed her into taking over the family business. It's going fine until a drunken groom flashes her his Mr. Happy and she protects herself with a staple gun. To add insult to injury, the guy has no sense of humor and files charges against her. Then Lexie picks up a stalker and nobody (not even her family) believes her. So she packs a bag and heads to San Diego to lie low.
Nick Vardolous is the bounty hunter hired to bring Lexie home for a court date. He also knows her, since she planned his sister's wedding. He's very attracted to her, but she turned him down when he suggested they get to know each other better. He's a one-night kind of guy, and Lexie just isn't. When he catches up with her and finds out about her stalker he vows to protect her.
This is a fun and fast read, with a lot of sexual tension. The mystery isn't much of a brain-bender, but the plot hums along and both characters act like adults with emotional baggage. I especially liked that even though she was in danger, Lexie didn't play the part of helpless, clueless, damsel in distress. Fine, nobody believes her about the stalker - that means she's going to have to hire her own private investigator to look into the matter. And she does. Go on with your bad self girlfriend. Grade = B.
Anthologies are a good way to get an author's name "out there," which is why I'm sure Shelly Laurenston was invited to the party. But one has to wonder about the logic of including a paranormal story with two contemporary ones in an anthology called Sun, Sand, Sex. I mean, does the paranormal really scream "beach read" and "summertime" to readers? Not this one, but oh well. I'll also ignore the fact that outside of the phrase "strange goings-on" (which could mean anything) there is nothing in the back cover blurb to suggest this is a paranormal story. Just saying.
Outside of all that (which is out of the author's control) I did like "My Kind Of Town." Emma Lucchesi is a witch from New York City who has come to tiny Smithville, North Carolina on business. Her Coven has opened up a portal and they need to close it before anything really nasty crawls through. But it's too late, and that something nasty causes her to crash her car.
Enter Deputy Kyle Treharne who doesn't trust Emma as far as he can throw her. For one thing she's lying. For another she's a Yankee. Sure the town is inhabited by shape shifters (Kyle is a panther - and there are lions, hyenas, dogs, you get the idea), but things are stranger than usual. That means keeping Emma close until he gets to the bottom of things.
What we have here is an adversarial relationship that works pretty well. I think in a longer novel it would get annoying, but for a short story it means lots of banter and plenty of sexual heat. The story screams series to me, so one suspects that Laurenston hasn't closed the book on Smithville. The best part? Not a vampire in sight. Grade = B.
So final verdict? Great beach read or vacation book. It won't change your life, but it's fast and fun. I do think the Laurenston is worth a look for paranormal series junkies, and Apodaca continues to make a seamless transition from mystery to romance. The Miller story, while the weak link, was hardly horrible, and fell firmly under my average umbrella. Worth a look, especially if you're gunning for some new-to-you authors.