Fire and Frost is the newest collaboration between authors Meljean Brook, Carolyn Crane and Jessica Sims. The novellas are unique and almost impossible to compare, but they do have two things in common: the charming, compelling characters and the way the “hot and cold” theme has been cleverly incorporated into each story.
In Speed Mating by Jessica Sims we meet Estrella, a mixed tiger and lion shifter (or liger) who is about to go into heat and asks her clan’s alpha to help her find a suitable male to have sex with. Hilarity ensues. Well, not hilarity exactly, but as the title suggests, this is a light, tongue-in-cheek story that’s all about having fun while still managing to sneak in an interesting and welcome take on the ubiquitous shifter romance.
Speed mating is a fun and simple story, but it’s detailed enough to form a clear image of the rules and workings of its particular world. These characters have an animal side that sometimes takes over them in ways that are both natural and inconvenient, but they also have choices and are, above all, rational humans. So ultimately Estrella can decide whether to have sex or not (even if not having it can be quite difficult), she can pick a mate, and her alpha stops himself from actively pursuing the woman he wants just because he’s in a position of power over her and doesn’t want to abuse it or make her feel forced.
It was perhaps a bit too short and rushed, especially at the end where the love declarations came out of nowhere, but I had a lot of fun with it.
Next we have Conjuring Max by Carolyn Crane. Set in the 1980’s, it tells the story of Veronica, a reclusive witch who’s being chased by the mob and uses a computer to create a complex spell that allows her to conjure people from a picture. That’s how she ends up with Max, a cop who was recently murdered by the same people chasing Veronica. Her plan is to use him as a bodyguard, but things get complicated when they fall in love, even if neither is aware of the other’s feelings.
The premise is weird and slightly cheesy, but the story was surprisingly charming and even a bit sad. A nerdy witch that uses a magical computer program to bring photographs to life sounds like a weird premise, but once we see how alone this woman is, how badly the dead cop wants to live, and how much they need each other, it becomes clear that as interesting and weird the setting is, Veronica and Max are the real stars.
The romance was very emotional and heartfelt, even if it was never clear exactly why he was so in love. I had the impression that he was confusing need with love, and his emotional response to her was similar to hero-worship. Yet seeing Veronica through his eyes was enough to make me root for them.
Last but not least is Wrecked by Meljean Brook. Elizabeth has been running from her father for years. Caius is the huntsman in charge of bringing her home. She always liked him, but thought he hated her; he tried really hard not to like her, but thoroughly failed at it. And now they meet again under slightly different (and dangerous) circumstances. Basically, this novella is an unrequited love twofer with a touch of adventure. And I loved it.
Wrecked is a bit longer, which means that we get more insight into the character’s history. Elizabeth is a strong, kind and resourceful heroine; perhaps a bit too sweet, but never annoying. And Caius spends the whole time being emotionally vulnerable. The result is a lovely romance and a reader filled with all the feelings. All of them!
On top of that, there’s action and a disturbing villain. What keeps this from being a 5-star read is that the resolution was slightly rushed and too convenient, but other than that, it was entirely satisfying.
It’s unusual to find an anthology where all the novellas are equally strong, albeit for different reasons. Each story is part of a series, but they all stand alone well. I highly recommend it to everyone, but especially to fans of Paranormal Romance who are feeling bit tired of all those overbearing alpha males. You certainly won’t find one of those here.
Review by Brie
Overall Grade: 4
Purchase: Amazon. And for those who prefer print books, the print edition also includes the previous anthology, Wild & Steamy.
From the authors who brought you Wild & Steamy come three all-new tales of lovers who create their own heat, even when they're surrounded by ice...
Speed Mating by Jessica Sims - Estrella may be going into heat, but she's determined to remain in control. Just because she's ovulating doesn't mean she has to settle for just any man (or his beast). Her sexy alpha's determined to find her a tiger to take care of her heat and father her child...but no one seems to look quite as good as the man in charge. Will giving in to her need for her alpha ruin her tenuous relationship with her clan or be a match made in heaven?
Conjuring Max by Carolyn Crane - The witches of the world ridiculed and rejected nerdy Veronica for trying to use newfangled computers to enhance old world spellcasting. Well, it's 1984 now, and she's perfected her spellcasting computer program. Hey, who needs friends when you can conjure virtually anything...or anybody? So when Veronica makes powerful new enemies, she conjures Max, a pitbull of a cop, to deal with the pesky hitmen who keep coming around. Maybe Veronica can finally get some peace and quiet so she can work on her computer. But tough-guy Max is in no mood to play lapdog to a gorgeous witch.
Wrecked by Meljean Brook - A Tale of the Iron Seas - Elizabeth has spent the past five years running from her father; her father's huntsman, Caius, has spent the past five years pursuing her. But when he finally catches up to her on an airship flying above Europe's zombie-infested cities, Elizabeth discovers that Caius isn't the only danger she has to fear--and now that he's found her, Caius doesn't intend to let her go...
Fire & Frost by Meljean Brook, Carolyn Crane, and Jessica Sims
Meljean Brook, Carolyn Crane, and Jessica Sims. May 25, 2013.