Fantasy – anthology by Christine Feehan, Emma Holly, Sabrina Jeffries, Elda Minger (2002; available in print and ebook)
I enjoy anthologies, but have a pretty consistent reaction to them. In almost every four-story anthology I’ve read, I find one story excellent, one very good, one mediocre or boring, and one awful. FANTASY broke the trend — I enjoyed all the stories in it. They are all romantic and sexy (mildly explicit) and fun.
“The Widow’s Auction” by Sabrina Jeffries
Historical. Upon the death of her elderly husband, Lady Isobel Kingsley became responsible for monitoring and promoting his various charities. Justin, Lord Warbrooke, a member of the governing board of the Lamberton Boys School, is a thorn in her side. They clash on how to raise money and what type of activities should be provided for the students. If only she weren’t secretly so attracted to him. Isobel’s friend, also a widow, suggests that Isobel can both raise money for her charities and discover that sex is not really as unpleasant as she found it with her late husband by participating in the “Widow’s Auction” held by a rakish noblemen’s club. The widows are masked to protect their reputations, so Isobel decides to try it even though she is rather horrified by the whole idea. Guess who attends the auction and purchases her for the night? Does he know who she really is or not? Isobel and Justin are going to discover that neither is who or what the other thinks, and that maybe there is a chance for them to work toward joint goals. Oh, and Justin does an excellent job of demonstrating that there are indeed many pleasures to be found in bed.
“Luisa’s Desire” by Emma Holly
Historical (1600) paranormal. Luisa del Fiore has transformed herself from a peasant woman into a respected, wealthy and influential Florentine businesswoman and art patron. Of course, she’s had over a hundred years to do it, ever since she was made vampire. She enjoys her life, doesn’t regret being a vampire, but very much wants to stop living off human blood. So she journeys to a Tibetan lamasery to consult with a mystic she has heard about. The solution to her problem, and to the future of Tibet, is far different than she had anticipated.
“Mr. Speedy” by Elda Minger
Contemporary. Miranda Ward wants to do an exposé story for her magazine on the latest hot seminar that hundreds of men in Los Angeles are signing up for. “The Swiftest Seduction” seminar leader promises that men taking the weekend workshop will learn how to get a woman into bed within 24 hours of meeting her. Women are banned from the seminar, so Miranda decides to become “Randy” for the weekend. She’s sure her experience with four older brothers (note: belch after eating) and her male best friend (note: use a firm handshake; speak statements, not questions) will enable her to “pass” for a few days in the crowd. She arrives at the hotel with a very short haircut, bound breasts, and borrowed men’s clothing — to discover the first problem with her plan. All seminar participants are required to share a room.
Jake Blackhall is a famous author whose messy divorce had been the subject of nasty tabloid articles. He is considered one of L.A.’s most desirable bachelors, and although his personal life isn’t nearly as wild as reported, he certainly isn’t in need of classes on how to seduce women. He also is at the seminar to gather material for a magazine article. Jake feels very protective and big-brotherish toward his weekend roommate — poor Randy looks and acts so effeminate. Unfortunately, Jake is having a hard time coping with the erotic dreams he’s having, where the woman has Randy’s face.
“The Awakening” by Christine Feehan
Contemporary paranormal. Wildlife veterinarian Maggie Odessa barely remembers her real parents, naturalists who died when she was only three years old. After the death of her beloved adoptive mother, Maggie finds out she has inherited a house in the rainforest of Borneo from her birth parents. So off she goes to see it and try to find out about her own background. In the jungle she meets Brandt Talbot, famous wildlife photographer, who is caretaker of her parents’ house and perhaps could give her information about her biological family. He may also be able to help her with the strange physical sensations and emotional flashbacks and mood swings she is having. What he tells her about her inheritance is beyond anything she expected or is ready to accept. Maggie knows the old jungle legends about leopard-men, but legends and reality have never before mixed in her world.