REVIEW: Hell with the Ladies – Anthology – by Kathleen O’Reilly, Julie Kenner and Dee Davis
I think most romance readers view anthologies as a mixed blessing. Readers get a chance to read favorite authors or try new ones in a short format. Sometimes the stories work but usually there’s at least one which doesn’t. I’ll cut short your suspense and say that in “To Hell with the Ladies” that usual premise didn’t hold true for me: two stories were OK while one was quite good.
Ms. O’Reilly, you start things out with the story of Lucifer’s oldest son. Jack has waited almost 1000 years for the chance to follow in his father’s footsteps. His current occupation is running a casino in Vegas but he jumps at the chance to fulfill his father’s demand and thereby take over the family business, namely running hell. All Jack has to do is go to an old, family run bookstore in NYC and buy one little book, The Book of Souls. Piece of cake, Jake thinks. Especially when Jack finds that the store is run by a pretty but naive young women. A little wining and dining, some killer shopping sprees and great sex later, Jack learns that not every women will be satisfied with the material things he has to offer. Will Jack discover what Gabriella really wants and more importantly, is she worth losing hell for?
At first I wasn’t sure how well I’d like this one. Gabriella comes off a little like NYC trailer trash. She’s young, naive, willing to be seduced by the trinkets Jack can lavish on her. But then, she straightens up, looks Jack in the eye and tells him what he can do with his baubles. Jack is bewildered. No woman has ever turned him down and aren’t all women just after more stuff? B- for creating a woman who’s wiser than she appears and a hero who ends up being worthy of her.
Ms. Kenner, you take up the trilogy next with the middle son. Nick’s well known around the world as a hot young artist and suave ladies’ man. What people don’t know is that it’s not just his artistic talent which makes his paintings so life like, it’s the little piece of each sitter’s soul that Nick adds to his creations. When papa dearest offers Nick the chance to take the reins of hell, Nick thinks he’s got the deal sewn up. All he has to do is paint one portrait of the daughter of minister….and put her entire soul into it. As the painting progresses and Lila Bennett slowly loses her inhibitions along with her soul, Nick finds himself wondering for the first time about what he’s doing. Sure Lila will end up with what she claims she’s wanted all the time, fame and notoriety for having sat for him, but can he bear to cause her such a loss even as he’s falling in love with her?
Lila was just a bit too innocent for me. The mix of sweet, shy woman with alluring sexpot who manages to tame the rogue is a hard one to pull off and Lila doesn’t quite do it for me. Nick is better as a man slowly realizing what his actions are doing to this woman. C+
Ms Dee you wind up the anthology with Marcus’s tale. After his first two sons failed him (well, folks it isn’t really a spoiler since this is a romance anthology!), Lucifer turns to his youngest son with the same deal. Only this time he wants a priceless, famous ruby. Finding the Devils’ Delight is right up Marcus’s alley. A former pirate and now cat burgler of sorts, Marcus has tracked down lost and unaccounted for works of art for centuries. And this time, he gets to work with a former lover whose father also wants the gemstone. Celeste and Marcus reluctantly agree to work together to fine the ruby with the understanding that after that, all bets are off as to who actually gets to keep it. But will Marcus be any more willing to sacrifice the woman he loves in order to fullfill his father’s demands?
This ended up being the best of the bunch for me. Celeste is more worldly wise and Marcus isn’t quite as jaded as his elder brothers, both of whom are starting to grow weary of immortality. I liked that Celeste is a stronger character and she seemed more balanced with her hero. The action/adventure theme was also more fun. B for this one.
I don’t really care for anthologies and I’ve only read maybe four and all of them had a author in there whose story blew away the other two. Those authors were Robin Schone and Pam Rosenthal’s one short story. A LOT of the anthologies today are compiled of authors who I don’t read. MUST admit that I started to get the anthology with Lisa Kleypas on the cover with another author, forgot who it was, but I haven’t exactly enjoyed Kleypas lately.
Anthologies are so hard to get right because I do think there is a certain art to writing in such a compressed space. Have you read the Nicole Camden anthology story? Great, great story. Wish she was still writing.
I wish that some authors could actually make a real living off writing the kind of novellas that comprise anthologies — like Shannon McKenna and Robin Schone, for example. Some authors actually do better, IMO, when they have to save space. I love both McKenna and Schone’s short stories but have difficulty with their longer works (except for McKenna’s first book, which, IMO, was by far far far her best). I know everyone wants to write novel length manuscripts, but writing a great short story or novella takes a hell of a lot of skill, IMO, and I wish that was acknowledged by way of anthologies published with writers who actually excel at that kind of storytelling, not as bait for readers drawn to one or two big names on the cover.
Robin, I agree that some authors are born for shorter length stories. This isn’t a slight by any means. I’m so used to reading anthologies and thinking, “If only this story had 50-100 pages more, it would’ve been fine” that when I come across one that really works in a short format, I’m so happy.
Jane, I loved the Camden book. I immediately went to Amazon expecting to be able to load up on her backlist/current books and was bitterly disappointed to learn that this was it.
Keishon, ITA about Schone and Rosenthal’s short stories. They are wonderful.