Got to take the rough with the smooth as they say and that's certainly true of anthologies. I guess most people will be picking this book up because it has a story by an author they like. Personally, I'm a Patricia Briggs and Karen Chance fan but I'd never read anything by Eileen Wilks or Sunny.
It's very difficult to give the book an overall rating - three stars makes a reasonable compromise - so I've rated each short story on its own.
-- Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs - 5 stars --
I've read everything by Patricia Briggs which is in print and have enjoyed them all. The Mercy Thompson universe, which is where this book is set, is a wonderful and somehow very real creation. The story is an offshoot of 'Moon Called' although you don't really need to have read it for the story to work.
Charles is the eldest son of Bran, the 'Marrok' or leader of the Werewolves living in North America, and he acts as his father's enforcer. He is sent to Chicago to find out why the Alpha of one of the City's two packs has been turning people without their consent and selling them.
In the course of his investigations he discovers Anna, a fairly new werewolf, who he realises has a very special talent - she's an Omega wolf, naturally able to quell the violent urges of her pack mates, but she's been viciously abused by her pack.
It's one of the interesting features of this author that she writes about serious issues like abuse with a sensitivity, and an emphasis on the positive action that people take in confronting and then moving beyond these horrific events, which makes you think the books are less dark than they actually are.
At heart this is a love story, but one where commitment comes almost before the relationship because as Anna and Charles get to know one another (and so do their wolves) their bond deepens very rapidly.
It's fascinating to see Charles come alive. He's quite a distant character in Moon Called, but even in that book he shows a caring side in his interaction with Mercy in Montana. Here is gets to display those wonderful protective Alpha instincts.
There are also some lovely moments with the seemingly omniscient Bran. He's a such an interesting character, so much power yet he makes so little display of it. (I may also be slightly bias as he's Welsh!)
The main disappointment was how short the story was. I would have loved more - and would happily have sacrificed some of the space given over to some of the other stories in this book.
Overall - short, but beautifully written, wonderfully pitched characters and simple, but well thought out plot. Can't wait for the next stories for these characters (and for Mercy herself.)
-- Inhuman by Eileen Wilks - 3 stars --
I'm still not sure what to make of this one. The world in which it takes place was interesting and the characters were likeable and had a believable relationship.
It follows Kai, a telepath, and her friend Nathan, who is a policeman. Nathan is also not human or at least wasn't when he started out life. They live in a sort of post-magical apocolypic world. Where talented humans are not entirely welcome. A series of horrible murders begin and Kai and Nathan find themselves draw into the chase.
For me, the plot didn't really work. The initial murders, investigations and then going on the run were fine, but the story lost me towards the end by going all high drama and fey queens. The explanations got rather convoluted and I simply didn't buy the motivations that shaped the decisions relating to Dell.
Overall - it was solidly written, readable, but nothing special.
-- Buying Trouble by Karen Chance - 5 stars --
Ah, Karen Chance - her books are always guaranteed to be funny, have a plot that moves at ludrioucs speed and be filled with crazy characters and lots of action (of all sorts.)
This may be a short story, but she still managed to pack it all in.
The story follows Claire, a projective null who can dull magic, on a voyage of discovery when she is whisked away by a magic rune and a rather attractive Lord of the Light Fey when things go spectacularly wrong at the auction house where she works.
She ends up in the Faerie, but unfortunately in the bit controlled by the enemies of her companion, Heidar. There then follows a wet, frenetic chase and Claire makes some very surprising discoveries about herself.
The story is very amusing. Claire is a great lead character - likeable, tough but still vulnerable. Heidar is adorable - probably the most 'leading man' of any of Chance's male characters (I love Mircea and especially Pritkin, but the geas and being generally psychotic do count against!)
There is a chapter or so where things get slightly fairytale princess, but it's soon back to sarcasm and our world.
Overall - I loved it. The story made me smile, I really liked the characters and would like to read more about them.
-- Mona Lisa Betwining by Sunny - 2 stars --
Hmm... well... I guess if you like this author this would be okay, but it just isn't my thing.
I don't have a problem with sex scenes in a book, but this was just too graphic without a discernible plot to break up the... er... action.
I will say that the world of the Monere was interesting and the book wasn't badly written, but the motivations of the characters, including the lead character, Mona Lisa, made no sense to me - again, if you've read other books set in this universe I guess this wouldn't have been a problem.
Overall - Not my cup of tea.
For On the Prowl overall - reading this book confirmed that I like what I like, but didn't entice me to check out anything else by the other two writers (in fact for Sunny it simply served to label her work 'avoid in future'.) Still it's a good way to test out some different authors.