Publisher: J Taylor Publishing
Formats Available: E-book
BLURBS from J Taylor Publishing
I have decided to read this book now, which was given to me by J Taylor Publishing in exchange for my honest unbiased review, by giving you the individual blurbs for the individual short stories and then adding my review directly below, so that is why this review differs from my usual review template.
Way back in May when I did the cover reveal for this anthology this is what I thought to the cover.
I like this cover as it is very wintery looking so appropriate for the time of year of it's release. there's a little bit of mystery there as we only see the back of the person in the red outfit. I also love books that have bylines on them. On this book the byline reads "Where Illusion can't hide all the secrets..." so it makes you wonder about the book.
I am looking forward to hopefully reading and reviewing this book. I love anthologies as it's a less expensive way of trying new authors that you haven't read before. J. A. Belfield is headlining this book, which is good as I love her style of writing even if the short tale in this book is not a Holloway pack one, I am sure I will enjoy it! I also like the sound of the other short tales in the book too.
So now I have read the book does my opinion change. Not really I would only add that I personally think the girl in the red cloak that appears to be travelling to the castle, is Loclyn the wiccae from Petrified by Kelly Said. It is a good representation of a scene from that short story.
Sacrificial Oath by Terri Rochenski
An impetuous act unwittingly makes Alesuela the fulfillment of the Sovereign’s Blood Oath to their Goddess. In five days, she’ll be forced to make the greatest choice of her life: become the virginal sacrifice already promised, or force the man she loves most to die in her place.
A really great start to the anthology, this story has a mythical edge in that the people in the book pray to the goddess. Alesuela's father, King Amant is away at war, so she is praying to the goddess for his safe return, whilst somewhere in the heat of a battle, the King is making a blood oath to the goddess in return for the safety of him and his men. The King Amant
swear 's he will sacrifice the first virgin he sees upon his return to the castle. Fate plays quite a mean hand in that it creates a no win situation for King Amant and his beloved only daughter, Alesuela. What will they choose to do? Go against the goddess, try to haggle a different bargain with the goddess, or go through with the blood oath?
I really enjoyed this one, it flowed well and though short had plenty going on and plenty of little twists and turns and discoveries to be made. I will definitely be checking out more titles by this author!
So to score out of 5 as I usually do with anthologies......5/5! loved it!
The Amulet of Ormisez by J. Keller Ford
There is only one way to save Elton Fletcher’s brother from an insanity-ridden death.
After years away from home, fighting for his people, Elton returns to discover his only sibling, Cayden, possessed by greed and malice, and responsible for malicious, unthinkable deeds. Cayden, though, isn’t the only one afflicted by the Amulet of Ormisez, and Elton finds himself in yet another battle, where the price of failure could be his own life.
This short story has two brothers in it, Elton (the eldest) who has been away at war against the selkies and Cayden the younger brother who stayed behind, with his parents and fianceé.
Elton return to a very changed Cayden. Cayden has married Marsali de Ceara as his parents and previous fiancee died from a disease that could not be healed.
The story revolves around an Amulet that Cayden wears. Since he began wearing it he has become gradually worse, greed etc
There's lots happening in this story but to say much more would reveal too much of the tale. I also enjoyed this tale very as I have not read a great deal about selkies. I would look out for other books by the author and dependent on blurb seriously consider reading them.
So I would give 4/5
Birthright by Lynda R. Young
Christa can mask the pain and hide the scars, but running from a birthright is impossible.
She’s tried to escape her grief by fleeing to a small town in Florida. Much to her frustration, the locals think they recognize her even though she's never been there before. To make things worse, a man named Jack spouts outrageous theories about her.
Both spur Christa to bolt, to start fresh yet again, but there’s something about Jack that intrigues her enough to stay. The only problem? Someone else wants her to leave, and they won’t stop until she’s dead.
This tale has a contemporary edge to it. a woman has basically run away from Christmas, her mother and sister are dead and she wants to be alone and sort of forget all about Christmas and what it entails. People keep asking Christa questions about her family and saying she look familiar and that she must see the "Williams" family tree in the museum. The museum owner is Jack. Who happens to be rather..."dishy" boyfriend material.
There is also a danger aspect for Christa as someone wants her to leave or else....Of course Christa is by now so attached to Jack she wants to stay...what happens?
Again this was an interesting story, fairly slow paced in comparison to the other tales in the book, but still a good read.
So taking all into account 3/5
Petrified by Kelly Said
A mysterious storm has replaced summer with winter, devastating crops and smothering Castle lands in snow. Prince Sterling August stands alone as a leader, lost in personal grief as well as a desire to help his people but with an inability to do either.
The answers he needs await him, but without Lochlyn, a woman who’s just as isolated as Sterling, he’ll never see what stands before him, cloaked in illusion.
The King Silverus is in his bed unbeknownst to his subjects he is frozen in a "petrified" way and seems in much pain. His son Prince Sterling has to try and work out why in the time of year that should be summer they are having orrendous winter conditions, animals and plant life are dying as his father seems to be too. The House Wiccae Elexus is trying to help the King but it seems to no avail. Sterling sends for another Wiccae. He sends a falcon with a message to come to Castle Kestrel. The bird find Loclyn a homeless now alone wiccae who longs to belong somewhere and who is still sad and grieving her companion and teacher wiccae Estes. Loclyn immediately sets off to Castle Kestrel and upon arriving tries to sort out the mystery illness the King has as well as the strange winter conditions, What does she discover? Can she help?
I really enjoyed this one even though I usually don't go for the whole Castle, Kings and Princes type of books. I loved the Wiccae element and would like to read more about Loclyn, or even Estes as a younger Wiccae. This tale is a little like a jigsaw, first we read of Loclyn becoming alone and her longing to belong somewhere, then we have the King and Prince's need for another Wiccae. Then the pieces come together into the tale.
So for this one 4/5
Last Winter Red by Jennifer M. Eaton
Emily is a Red, a woman whose sole purpose in life is to produce offspring. When her husband dies and leaves her childless, she risks her life and forsakes the safety of Terra—a disease-free city born after the nuclear holocaust. Beyond its boundaries, she knows, survives a man with whom she can be properly paired.
The Outside, though, holds secrets the government struggles to keep, and what Emily discovers on her quest for a mate will change her life forever.
This one is a kind of dystopian tale in that Terra is surrounded by a wall to keep out the "diseased", the people inside are known as Reds. Reds are supposed to marry and have many children to increase the population as they all seem to die young. Outside the people are known as Grays, or vermin. The two are not supposed to mix ever.
There's a "red" doctor trying to help the grays and give them health care as they seem to be living to older ages and have age related ailments that need medical help. Emily is a Red besotted with the doctor who ferrys the doctor supplies from Terra to Outside. Emily's husband died before they have children so she now needs to find a new husband and begin having children to contribute in Terra and be considered a good valued Red.
I enjoyed this as the dystopian genre is one of my favourites. I would also love to read more about these characters too. Maybe this short story could be the start of a series?
So I would give this story a 5/5 I want more!
Escort to Insanity by J.A. Belfield
From a charity auction, to a stroll in the park, to the craziest night of her life. Nicole Harrington can’t help but wonder how a simple event went so drastically wrong.
Of course, the male escort she booked is wholly to blame. Not only charming but shrewdly intelligent, Benjamin Gold drags Nicole into a platoon of unimaginable problems—ones from which she’ll have to find the courage just to survive.
As you may know I am a biiiig fan of this author's Holloway Pack series so I approached this short tale with high expectations and also wondering what it would be about....
So the main character is Nicole Harrington, or as her friends call her Cole. Cole lives a good life in that she has plenty of money. She needs it when she is summoned by her father to attend a charity auction in his place. Cole doesn't have a suitable date to take her so at her lodger Kellie's suggestion, she hires an escort.
When the escort arrives he is everyting that Cole would say the ideal man is. He rescues her multiple times during the charity auction from her fathers stuffy friends and her awful ex- boyfriends. Finally they leave the auction and head to a donut place that Benjamin raves about only they get accosted as they take a shortcut through the park. Then things just go from bad to worse for Cole.
So I loved this book so much I really want more, more, more, could this be the beginings of a whole series, or vaguely end up linking into the Holloway pack somehow. hmmm I'd love a new series...
So 5/5 and more more more please!
So after reviewing this anthology I guess I should give an overall comment too. This anthology is brilliant. I loved J Taylor Publishing's last anthology Tidal whispers and I love this one too! When's the next one?? This anthology has a really great mix, with something for everyone, not just the paranormal fans! I would love to see some of the short tales in this anthology become part of their own series. I enjoyed all the authors in varying degrees, and there were none that I would say I wouldn't want to read again