Susan Krinard, Tanith
Lee & Evelyn Vaughn,
When Darkness Falls
(Silhouette, 2003)

Whoops! I swear I didn't know this was a romance novel when I picked it up! I definitely started to suspect it though, once I reached (very early on) the gratuitous lust and sex scenes in the introductory story by Susan Krinard, "Kiss of the Wolf." I'm not saying I'm opposed to a little nookie in my book, but, really, I think it goes not just too far, but uncomfortably far here. I felt like I was privy to a very private (and not very smoothly enacted) moment for two people who should have been allowed a little dignity.

Besides that initial complaint, I found the characters vanilla. Each was a caricature of type -- the successful plastic surgeon Dana St. Cyr, who drives into the swamps of Louisiana wearing Prada mules. Duh. The Man About Town, Chad Lacoste (for heaven's sake!) and, finally, the swamp monster, (OK, werewolf) Remy Arceneaux, with his tendency to speak untranslated French at people. Sure, it's a romantic language, but not if we don't know what he's saying. The characters seem ultimately false, though the plot is all right. Final analysis: I would have skipped this story.

Tanith Lee is the reason I chose the book. I have read her stories in several other collections, and have always enjoyed her writing. Again, this was the case, for more than the charming tale. I was so pleased to see that "romance" can be written with style and imagination. I feel that these characteristics set "Shadow Kissing" far out of the realm of the ordinary Harlequin offering.

It's a lovely story beginning with main character Vivien Gray finding herself falling in love with a statue of an Adonis-like man. The plot turns when a ringer for the statue shows up in the person of Connor Sinclair, a moody and darkly handsome young man. As the characters develop and begin to fall in love, they become more and more compelling. I was forced to stay up reading until 5 in the morning to find out what became of them! What I most enjoyed however, was the low-key, sweet conversation between the two. They seemed genuine and kind. Only one objection to this story could I find -- and I suppose it's a necessity of the romance genre -- but the perfection and strength of Connor seemed all the more trite next to the 5-foot, 4-inch, 107-pound frame of Vivien, which I just felt to be very unhealthy. Otherwise, it's a beauty of a story.

The final story, "The Devil She Knew" by Evelyn Vaughn, is both amusing and surprising, as there was actually no sex whatsoever in it at all! The lead character, Marcy Bridges is even found to be, well say, unacceptable to the devil in her closet who desires her for his bride. It begins when Marcy opens her closet to find a portal to Hell installed there, rather than the obsessively neat rack of clothing she had expected to find. After ruling out the fire department, Marcy instead calls on her mysterious (and super sexy) maintenance man for help. While this may seem an unlikely source, it turns out to be very fortunate indeed, as Tomas Martinez's abuela (grandmother) is a bruja (witch). It's very possible that Tomas can fix Marcy's awkward dilemma, if only it can be determined whether Marcy brought this on by dabbling in magic, or could someone have cursed her?

The answer is an interesting plot twist, and it's definitely worth a read.

- Rambles
written by Katie Knapp
published 13 March 2004

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