"On The Prowl" is an urban fantasy short story collection in which each of the four authors has a story.
I bought it (despite the tacky cover art that makes me glad I'm reading the ebook version) because Debbie's Spurts told me that I should read the Patrica Briggs' prequel to her Alpha and Omega series before starting the series.
The stories by the other three authors were by way of a bonus as they are all new to me.
Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs
On her website, Patricia Briggs describes the Alpha and Omega series as:
"...set in the same world as the Mercy Thompson Series, but on a slightly earlier time line. It begins with a novella titled Alpha and Omega published in the On the Prowl anthology. The decision to continue the story was made after the anthology had already been published, which has caused some confusion, since "book 1" is a actually a continuation of the short story."
She characterises the series as placing:
"... more emphasis on the romantic attraction between the hero and heroine. On a romance-readers scale, this series is sweet rather than steamy."
While it was interesting to see more of the world the Mercy Thompson novels are set in, I was a little disappointed in this novella. The story works as a standalone. The action is well-done. I just found myself thinking: "Patricia Briggs can do much better than this."
My main problem was the lack of emotional depth. It seemed to me that the "focus on romantic attraction" translated into making other emotions take a backseat.
The main female character, Anne has been attacked, forcibly turned into a werewolf and passed around the Pack by her Alpha as a rape-toy so often that she's attempted suicide.
The main male character is a laconic, emotionally withdrawn enforcer whose job is to kill those who break his father's rules.
Perhaps I'm not widely enough read on the topic but none of this sounds romantic to me.
The idea that these two would be able to set aside trauma and learned low self-esteem on Anne's side and a long lifetime of keeping emotionally distant in order to be able to kill on command on Charles' part and find a mating bond instantly was hard to take.
The attraction was well described but it seemed to be at the price of downplaying the baggage the pair have.
I think one of the strengths of the Mercy Thompson series is that when a rape occurs there, it is not downplayed and its effects are felt for a number of books.
This story felt like "Mercy-Lite". Still, perhaps Patricia Briggs needs the novel format to do what she does. I'll read the rest of the story in the first Alpha and Omega novel and find out.
"Inhuman" by Eileen Wilks
This was my first Eileen Wilks story so everything had the advantage of being new. The world building was original and stimulating. There was a relatively complicated plot for a short story. It managed to surprise me more than once, making me revisit the meaning of the title repeatedly.
The romance part was a little plodding. The people felt half-formed and inappropriately inexperienced or inarticulate. On the cusp between cute and you've-got-to-be-kidding.
The heroine's name confused me at first as everyone I know called Kai is male. Here it's pronounced like Sigh, not Hay. It took me awhile to work out that this was Kay with innovative vowel usage. I was also unclear how I was supposed to know that Kia was Native American (other than who isn't in Urban Fantasy - being WASP is so uninteresting).
The ending was a good set up for an upcoming book but I felt it walked away from a lot of what the plot was set up to do. I'd been following a hunt for a killer and when the hunt was over the outcome left me wondering what all the look-how-awful-this-killer-is build-up was for.
Even so, I was impressed with the originality of the ideas and the pacing of the execution.
"Buying Trouble" by Karen Chance
This made me laugh and it took a turn that I really didn't see coming.
It's a fast, light read filled with fast, light violence and sex and sprinkled with slightly indignant humour.
The ending was a bit - whoops-running-out-of-space-let's-skip-to-an-epilogue for my tastes but the story was a smile and the world was original so it was worth the read.
"Mona Lisa Betwining" by Sunny
I'd wondered why there was no editorial credit for this collection. The inclusion of "Mona Lisa Betwining" suggests to me that the ommission was driven by sheer embarrassment.
It's a short story that I lacked the stamina to make it to the end of.
First, there was this set of sentences which read like a rough first-draft yet are offered as the finished product:
"He was handsome, strikingly so. Like a Greek god of old. And he was more than just a pretty face. He was my new master of arms."
A little later I dragged my mind through the following sentences and realised that this prose was too awful to live with.
"I moved toward the door but he did not step away, allow me to pass. I stopped a mere foot away and looked askance at him."