The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2
Edited by Trisha Telep
Published 2010 531 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Paranormal romance was never going to be content with just vampires and werewolves. The fantastic stories in this new collection lay claim to much, much more: paranormal serial killers, gaslight Victorian rendezvous and the urban mayhem of fantasy and steampunk.
Here you will find well-loved bestselling authors writing under new pseudonyms, fresh stars, and steadfast favourites, together offering a feast of mind-bending subgenres…
Contributors are: Lara Adrian, Ava Gray, Karen Chance, Gail Carriger, S.J. Day, Jackie Kessler, Sharon Ashwood, Sonya Bateman, Michele Hauf, Seressia Glass, Kim Lenox, Moira Rogers, Helen Scott Taylor, Elissa Wilds, Nathalie Gray, Sherri Browning Erwin and Shirley Damsgaard.
I don’t know why I decided to get The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2. I never read the first Paranormal Romance collection and I’ve not read any other books in the Mammoth series (of which there are plenty, covering such diverse topics as Bizarre Crimes, Special Ops Romance, Tasteless Jokes and Filthy Limericks to name but a few.) That the contributors included four of my favourite authors may have convinced me to give it a try but what ever the reason, I can safely say it’s highly unlikely that I will ever read another book with the word Mammoth in the title again – it’s just not worth the risk of overwhelming teeth-grinding frustration interspersed with mind-numbing boredom that was my experience with this book.
It’s a paranormal romance short story collection – how bad could it be? Well if the editor had actually stuck to including only short stories that met the expectations and conventions of the paranormal romance genre, probably not as bad as the mess that resulted in MBPR2. Let me explain. The editor’s foreword tell readers that the contributing authors all sent in “long” short stories (Karen Chance and S.J. Day’s offerings touch on novella length for starters) ending up with the average story length coming in at around 30 pages of small print. This meant that the advertised 25 short stories had to be cut down to 17 to fit them in the book. This means that 8 of the authors originally advertised have been left out. If you want to only read stories by specific authors it worth checking to see that they are still included (I’ve listed the included authors above.) The other problem with “long” short stories is that they lack the tightness and punch which short stories should have whilst also lacking the word count to develop the story into a meaningful piece of fiction.
The next problem with a number of the stories in this collection is that they lack suffer from a general lack of romance. We have some urban fantasy stories masquerading as paranormal romance – this isn’t anything new publishers have been muddling the two genres up for sometime now – but if you are a romance fan you may not be so keen to be foisted off with sexy UF. Another problem for me here is that some of the stories which are romances follow a formula of nice girl meets bodacious paranormal guy and immediately has best sex of life – followed by happy ever after. Is this romance? Where are the hearts and flowers, the dinner and dating, the witty repartee and meeting of the minds? It’s just lazy.
A number of the stories also appear to be based the author’s existing works (not unusual for an anthology when most fantasy authors write series offerings) but some of them are really hard to get into without the back story. They are just about understandable, but as a new reader I felt like I was missing out on something vital.
And finally there is a distinct lack of vampires in this collection. Only one of the stories features a vampire hero. While this opens the field to angels, dragons, gods, witches, shapeshifters and assorted immortals it still leaves a vampire-shaped hole in the collection. Paranormal romance without vampires is like spaghetti without bolognaise sauce – yes, you can have something different but you are ignoring a tried and tested, timeless classic.
Enough of the complaining let’s look at what’s good about this collection. Gail Carriger’s story “Marine Biology” is by far the best offering in this book. It is not set in Carriger’s steampunk Parasol Protectorate world but is in a modern day timeframe instead. It follows the romance between a werewolf and a merman, oddly this is a male/male pairing, but there’s actual real romance, some humorous dialogue and a subtle twist. Brilliant!
“The Getaway” by Sonya Bateman, is good story that sees a bickering couple stranded in the remote woods with a sinister djinn stalking them. It’s a spin off from Bateman’s debut urban fantasy novel “Master of None” which I haven’t read but was good enough to make me want to know more about the characters and check out the author’s full length novel.
Another good story is “Fragile Magic” by Sharon Ashwood. Ashwood is a favourite author of mine and while this story is more cutesy (think injured baby gargoyle and hot werewolf vet) than her usual writing style I liked the story a lot and it developed a more serious theme before the conclusion making it a satisfying read.
“Eve of Warfare” by S.J. Day is one of those stories that will probably make more sense to established fans of Day’s Marked series, there was a lot of back story crammed into 45 pages of vampire-hunting angel adventure, but it was enjoyable even for a Marked newbie like myself and made me want to know more about how the characters ended up here. I’ll definitely be checking out Day’s full length novels.
Finally “Ask The Wicked” by Kim Lenox was a vaguely incomprehensible story featuring immortal beings in Victorian London. While I have little idea what was going on here (I think this was due to the constraints of the short story length and the need for complex world building) the descriptions of the setting and characters were vividly written and I’d like to know more about the author’s Shadow Guard world.
Overall this is a poorly defined collection of paranormal romance stories but (for the reasons stated earlier in the review) I feel the fault probably lies with the collection’s editor rather than the contributing authors. In my opinion these stories aren’t really representative of the quality of these authors’ best works either. The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2 is a slow, head-banger of a book. It’s got Mammoth problems – approach with caution.
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