July 14, 2008
Like any anthology, Hotter than Hell has it’s ups and downs. I immediately loved the title, because back in my college days that was going to be the name of my all-girl Kiss cover band if I’d ever gotten off my ass, learned to play guitar, and started an all-girl Kiss cover band.
Here’s a few impressions of each story:
- “Music Hath Charms” by Tanya Huff
One of the best in the collection, it’s about an struggling agent in the music industry. She’s determined to sign twin musicians whose talent is too remarkable to be natural. It definitely lives up to the spicy theme, but there’s also a real plot and a likable heroine who saves the day.
- “Minotaur in Stone” by Marjorie M. Liu
I haven’t read anything by Liu before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. A forgotten woman living in a modern-day maze comes in contact with the minotaur of legend, still trapped in a magical labyrinth. It’s written in an enchanting style and I was really drawn to the characters. But three sex scenes in just over 30 pages felt a bit excessive.
- “Demon Lover” by Cheyenne McCray
An incubus is assigned to take a paranormal writer’s soul, it’s more of a romance than an urban fantasy story, so it doesn’t really fit my taste. And for some reason I really dislike it when an author’s main character is a writer, that choice only works for me on rare occasions. It’s just too meta. It jerks me right out of the story, especially when the narrator points out how events are similar to research about their subject or thinks about how events in the story seem almost fictional.
- “Equinox” by L.A. Banks
Banks is a pretty good writer, and it’s a great idea to have an ancient goddess show up in today’s world and hunt people that she thinks are hurting the land. But the story seemed to imply that Artemis, the legendary badass herself, just needed some good lovin’ and she would settle down.
- “Ride a Dark Horse” by Susan Krinard
I don’t care if they’re fictional characters or if the heroine is really passive and is confused about what she wants. No still means no, not “grope a little more and see if she changes her mind.” Feeling up a near-stranger while she’s sleeping is assault, even if you have some kind of unacknowledged magical love connection. Sorry, but this story seriously yicked me out.
- “To Die For” by Keri Arthur
A werewolf and a wolf shifter are drawn to each other while working a missing persons case. The story doesn’t explain how Arthur’s werewolves and wolf shifters are different, but it’s made clear that they are and this causes some friction. The story has both action and drama. I think I liked it a little more than her novels, possibly because the shorter format doesn’t leave time for much bed-hopping even if the characters would have been interested in that.
- “Curse of the Dragon’s Tears” by Heidi Betts
One for the romance fans, it’s about an arrogant young man who was cursed into becoming some kind of immortal lizard guy because he yelled at a hungry gypsy group for poaching on his family’s land. Seems like a bit of a disproportionate response, no? Apparently “that time grandma turned a guy into a monster for being a jerk” became a popular family story, so one of the gypsy’s descendants goes to look for the man after having steamy dreams about him. Betts felt the need to point out that her hero had scales all over, which sounds extremely uncomfortable – if not downright painful.
- “Brother’s Keeper” by Lilith Saintcrow
The main character is a witch who gets her power from sex. This isn’t a self-contained story, it seems more like it’s setting up other events because a mystery is introduced but not solved. I doubt I’d buy a novel with this character as its heroine, because I don’t like it when plot or character traits mandate sex. I really enjoyed Saintcrow’s writing though, so maybe Working for the Devil will be more my style.
- “(Like a) Virgin of the Spring” by Susan Sizemore and Denise Little
A fun, light story about a psychic time-traveler stuck in ancient Britain.
- “Life is the Teacher” by Carrie Vaughn
A newly-made vampire longs for her past but puts it behind her. An enjoyable, character-driven story.
- “Moonlight Becomes You” by Linda Winstead Jones
A lonely apartment-dweller gets to know her neighbor, who she believes may be a vampire. This is probably my favorite of the mostly-romance stories because of the humor and sense of mystery, and because the conclusion was believable without being obvious. The main character bases her suspicions on knowledge of popular fiction’s version of the supernatural, and it seemed as if she believed mostly because she wanted it to be true.
- “Dirty Magic” by Kim Harrison
Set in Harrison’s version of Cincinnati, this story is about a banshee, a woman who feeds off the emotions of others. At first I thought the ending was a bit of a confusing, jarring mess, despite the really interesting turn of events. It seemed better after reading it again. I’m still not sure if I was too distracted on my first read or if the end of the story only seems well enough supported when you know what’s going to happen. I’m not really sure if that matters, though. If a story ends up with a big enough “wait, what?!” moment that you immediately want to read the whole thing again, then it’s certainly effective.