It took me two weeks to finish reading this book. Two weeks. For me, that’s an eternity because I timed myself once and I can read four hundred pages in two hours. Granted, the book was Narcissus in Chains by Laurell K. Hamilton, but that’s still pretty good, right? My point is, I’m a fast reader and it took me two weeks to finish this book because I would find myself staring at the same page for minutes at a time, reading the same paragraph over and over again, and not recognizing it as the same paragraph because they were all so dry and boring. I’d set it down, force myself to pick it back up a few days later because I have never left a book unread, then toss it over my shoulder after about 10 pages, only to pick it back up again. It was a vicious cycle. None of the stories pulled me in except for Bujold’s short story and only because it was about a giant warrior alien woman falling in love with a wee little human-sized man, but I was only mildly amused at best. Most of the time, I had no idea what was going on because a couple of the stories are a part of a series with an already established canon or mythos, so all the “in jokes” were pretty much lost on me. While reading this book, I felt like the idiot who attended a Halloween party all decked out and shit, but no one else was wearing a costume.
“A Winterfest Wedding” by Lois McMaster Bujold is told from the point of view of Roic, a lesser solder who has messed up in the past and is given a chance to redeem himself. His first job is to make sure that the wedding of Miles Vorkosigan—who I’m told is the hero of his own series—goes off without a hitch. One of his other duties is to see that no one mistreats Taurin, a giant alien warrior woman, who is a kickass soldier, but has self-esteem issues. She is special to Miles because she was his former lover, but still means a lot to him. At first Roic is repulsed by Taurin’s size and giant fangs, but eventually he realizes that she’s beautiful in her own way and works on convincing her throughout the tale to believe him. His tendency to say stupid, tactless things impedes his progress. The development of the relationship between Taurin and Roic, however, is pushed aside in favor of catching up the reader to this strange alien world and the who’s who of the series, so we hardly see the two of them together. There are some “wacky” misunderstandings, a clumsy whodunit as an attempt to give this tale a plot, and almost no chemistry between the two leads. Does this make me want to read the rest of the Miles Vorkosigan series? No. The thought of a giant alien woman dating a guy two feet shorter than she is makes me giggle a little, though.
“An Alchemical Marriage” by Mary Jo Putney is just boring and stupid. I’ve enjoyed some of Putney’s work in the past: One Perfect Rose, the Fallen Angel series, and while her prose can be a little overwrought and flowery, it’s never been as dry as saw dust. This short story, however, is not only dull, but laugh-out-loud ridiculous. Basically, it’s about a wizard named Adam Macrae, who is a Guardian (a series), and a member of a guild that protects all of England. Or something. He is imprisoned in the Tower of London for being a supporter of Mary Stuart and is approached by John Dee, Elizabeth’s advisor, to do the voodoo he does so well in exchange for his freedom. Basically, Macrae can control the weather and John Dee wants him to create a giant storm to—check this out—drive away the Spanish Armada. I’ll give you a few minutes to giggle to yourself. His assistant is the exotic and beautiful Isabel de Cortes, who is a witch of her own considerable power. Her Jewish family fled from Spain generations ago and now she wants revenge for the Spanish mistreatment of Jews. Since Macrae is a Guardian, he is reluctant to cause anyone harm, so it is up to Isabel to spice him up and convince him with her feminine wiles. Or something. Anyway, these two are supposed to combine their powers together to create this perfect storm, but what they need to succeed is to form a perfect bond. Basically, this means they have sex for England. Hey, anything for England. Except the sex is one of those lame fade-out ones and we don’t get to see anything good. I tried reading this in bed, closed my eyes for a moment, and when I opened them, it was morning. Make of that what you will.
“A Stained Glass Heart” by Catherine Asaro, whose The Charmed Sphere I kind of enjoyed, would have been an okay read if it weren’t for the fourteen year old whiny ass hero, who reminded me of a cross between Billy Elliot and Hayden Christiansen as Anakin Skywalker. Anyway, Veryl, a prince, is in love with a simple country girl who is also fourteen, but since he is royalty, he has to marry a much older woman for political reasons. He whines about having to marry someone he doesn’t love, he whines about not being able to dance (he lurves to dance, but the men on his planet don’t dance, period), and he whines about being a political pawn. I know he’s just a teenager and teenagers like to whine, but he takes it to a new level. If he marries the older lady, he can dance to his heart’s content on her home planet, but if he goes with his fourteen year old girlfriend, he’ll have to give up his love of the dance. Either way, the storyline just annoyed me and the ending which finds Veryl’s older fiancé with her own true lurve, was wrapped up a little too neatly for my taste. I might check out Asaro’s Skolian Empire series, though, but I’m not in a rush to do it.
“Skin Deep” by Deb Stover is your run-of-the-mill matchmaking angel story. Stover doesn’t even try here. It’s a clichéd, trite story that we’ve read about in countless Harlequin books, and there is nothing new about this one that sets it apart from the others. She probably wrote this while sitting on the john, sent it in, got her check, and bought herself some new tires and a nice purse. Nick, a jerkweed when he was alive, is now a low-level angel angling for a promotion. His assignment is to go back to Earth to find a man for his grieving widow, but he has to do it as… a woman! How nouveau! The man who his widow is supposed to end up with is a DEA agent named Jarrod, who was the only man that Margot, his widow, has ever lurved until Nick set it up to make it look like Jarrod was cheating on her, and Nick ended up with Margot. There’s even a stupid “twist” at the end that I called a few pages into the story and only served to piss me off some more. Let’s just say that after this story, I just set this book down and refused to pick it up again.
And that’s why I have no idea what the remaining two short stories are about. One’s by Jo Beverley, who is a “prolific” historical romance author and whose work I have never quite gotten into, and the last is by Jennifer Roberson, who writes the Sherwood Forest stories and I just wasn’t in the mood for it. I’m totally pissed because every time I pick up a book I don’t finish, I literally feel sick to my stomach. I just don’t like picking up something I can’t finish. No matter how bad it is, I try to read through it, but sometimes, it’s just so bad that I can’t deal with it anymore, so with a heavy heart, I set it down. This book I just want to set on fire. I think I might still do that. It occurred to me as I was reading this book that the reason it was so damned dry is that the romance writers like Putney and Beverley tried to sound like the other sci-fi writers and failed miserably, especially because they’re known for their flowery, overwrought prose. As for the other writers, I’m not really familiar with their work, so any established mythos or canon they have created would be “alien” (heh!) to me. Mostly I’m just pissed because I spent 8 bucks on this book because I was looking for something new. Damn, I should have just picked up the latest Katie McAllister. That would have been good for a laugh, at least.
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