I got this anthology for the Kit Rocha story; I requested an ARC because I was so eager for another installment of the erotic, romantic, gritty Beyond series. If you aren’t familiar with this series, it’s a sort of dystopian/post-apocalyptic world, and the sex is frequent, varied and hot. And while that novella was definitely my favorite of the three, I enjoyed both of the other stories well enough that I would try those authors again.
“Beyond Temptation” is Noah’s story, and it definitely hit my buttons. Much as I’ve enjoyed seeing the macho men in the earlier installments of this series reveal their vulnerability when it comes to love, my personal preference still runs to intellectual, nerdy men. Noah is a computer whiz and a technology expert. He’s also in love with his best friend’s little sister (hello, favorite plot device!), and if this isn’t THE most messed-up case of that I’ve seen in romance, it comes damn close. Plus Emma, the “kid sister,” is a great heroine — she hasn’t waited around to be rescued or protected, and she doesn’t let Noah get away with bullshit (a common theme in these books, and one reason I love them). It’s a great story, with a satisfying ending. Also, hot sex. And tattoos.
Lauren Dane’s “All that Remains” is also futuristic fantasy, and I gather it’s the start of a new series. I thought the world was intriguing, and I’ll look for more in this setting. This is a menage a trois romance, and it worked for me. Summer is (almost too) instantly attracted to Charlie, then she finds out that Charlie already has a partner — Hatch, the love of her life who broke her heart when he left her behind years ago. The level of suspense here was pretty low; it’s obvious that eventually Hatch will grovel enough to convince Summer that he really loves her. There’s never a sense that adding Summer to their relationship would threaten Hatch and Charlie in any way; while that contributed to the low sense of conflict, it was also nice to have a world in which a triad relationship is considered an acceptable norm. The sex scenes are written well, without any of the coy devices I’ve seen in books where the m/m part of m/m/f is either too much the focus or too little. I honestly believed these were three characters who all loved each other. There’s a bit of sequel-baiting involving Summer’s sister, whom I suspect will be the subject of the next book in this series, but I didn’t mind it. I actually welcomed it, because I’d like to see the world that’s just background in this story get more fully developed.
Vivian Arend’s story, “Rocky Ride,” was a little odd to read in the context of two futuristic fantasies. (Alas, the rather sexist world of contemporary law enforcement is all too real.) It’s very much set in the here and now, among the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Anna, the heroine, is an RCMP officer; she’s very aware of her position as a woman on the force, and she hides her erotic nature and avoids relationships in order to preserve her image and reputation. Secretly, she’s shagging Mitch, who is a biker bad-boy type (although that’s mostly looks, not behavior). Internally, Anna needs to overcome her reluctance to be in a relationship and let others see her as a woman in that way, while externally she needs to find the balance that will preserve her job while allowing her to have a sex and love life. I got a little tired of everyone except Anna seeming to know what was best for her and acting on that knowledge, and a couple of times I wanted to smack Mitch upside his head, but in the end I felt that her agency was validated.
If you’re interested in hot shorts (although long enough to have developed romance plots), I recommend these. Especially at the current price of $2.99 (it goes up March 1).