On the Prowl is an anthology of novellas by four urban fantasy/paranormal romance writers, so I’m just going to treat each story separately.
Alpha and Omega, Patricia Briggs
I adore the Mercy Thompson series, so moving on to the Alpha and Omega series was practically a given for me. This short story was surprisingly more substantial than just a teaser. Anna thinks that she’s the most submissive wolf in her pack; turned without a choice, she is threatened frequently by other pack members and has been subject to gang rapes and other such cruelty. When she sees a man missing on the news and realizes that her pack leader has not only turned but sold him, she finally calls the Marrok, the leader of all the werewolves, and he sends his son Charles to investigate. The connection between Charles and Anna’s wolves is immediate and he helps her to realize she’s not worthless after all. I liked the relationship between them and the fact that they don’t exactly act on their animal impulses. Restraint is something that doesn’t happen very often in this type of novel and I love that Briggs’s characters are always building their actual relationships, not just hopping into bed with one another because they want to. I feel that this is a delicate handling of Anna’s horrible situation and I liked the resolution of this story. I’m looking forward to reading the next two in the series but I do think that I could have stopped here satisfied at how it stands alone.
Inhuman, Eileen Wilks
This story reads much more like a teaser for a series. Kai Michalski is a physical therapist who also believes she’s a telepath. She’s friends with Nathan, a police officer who isn’t exactly human. When suspicious deaths begin to occur, Kai is immediately blamed thanks to prejudice against magical people from politicians and because another creature has taken her form, fooling credulous officials. While all her affairs on earth are cleared up, thanks to a handy deus ex machina that Nathan can summon at will, the story ends in a massive “buy my book if you want to know what happens now”. It’s a shame because I did like this one, although somehow it managed to feel too long, perhaps because it is all background and not really a story on its own. I might be interested in reading the Lupi series, of which this is a part, but I am not in a rush to do so.
Buying Trouble, Karen Chance
This was my second favorite story in the anthology. Claire has the ability to calm magic around her, so she’s been hired at an auction house to prevent the magical devices going wrong until the duped customers can get them home. One night, however, she discovers that she herself is on auction because of her skills; she can be killed and her abilities drained to make a bomb. Lucky for her, she is rescued by a Fey, Heidar, who realizes that there is even more to Claire than she herself suspected, not to mention a reason for her pesky attraction to all Faery men. This story alone was actually very funny at times and I really liked the main characters, Claire and Heidar. It struck a good balance between action, humor, and romance, and it was a great self-contained short story, not an ad for a book like the other three are. After reading this story I put a request in at my library for another of Karen Chance’s books.
Mona Lisa Betwining, Sunny
This was my least favorite story in the anthology. Basically, it felt like an infodump with lots of sex attached. Mona Lisa is a new Monere Queen, but she’s special because she’s half-human. In this story, she’s called to account for the death of another Monere Queen, who was part demon, and she laments the death of one of her lovers. She also makes an unpleasant discovery about herself. A lot of the story consists of recounting what happened before to get to this point. In the meantime, she has sex with two different men and one of the scenes made me very uncomfortable. The story is only 60 pages long, so at least it went by quickly, but I probably would have skipped this one if I’d known. I went on Sunny’s website and it turns out that her books are mainly paranormal erotic romance, which I really don’t like, so that explains my reaction to this. Her novels have won a number of awards so I’m assuming they have more actual plot and less recapping, but I don’t intend to try them.
If you have this hanging around, I’d recommend it for the Read-a-thon, which is coming up soon!