Office Romance by Tamara Allen : 2,5 stars
Competent and delicate, but bland with a whiff of pathetic in the angst. Not my thing.
Introducing Mr. Winterbourne by Joanna Chambers : 3 stars
Soooo....Regency setting and tropes, I thought for half a second that Lysander's father was about to announce him his arranged marriage with Adam, limited face expressions, a twitching hole...That's definitely guilty pleasure material, and although I don't think I'd bear it for 250 pages, I had mindless fun. I'm almost mortified. ;)
The ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh by KJ Charles : 3,5 stars
A Regency romance too, a fallen angel who is the architect of his disaster, a card game, and nothing much more than UST *woo* and style making the difference. Entertaining and very enjoyable.
Unfair in Love and War by Kaje Harper : 4 stars
I expected a sweet, conventional romance, and it's what I got as far as the romance alone is concerned.
As a historical and as a story, it is by far the most achieved in the anthology. Kaje Harper wrote something complex in the sense that she truly rooted her characters in their time, which gives them consistence, and allows her setting to be much, much more than a mere pasteboard decor. Her story telling has a background, a beginning, conflicts (note the plural), a climax that is not a double orgasm and a conclusion. It has depth.
I wish she would venture farther in the shadows, but it was a pleasant surprise on many levels.
Carousel by Jordan L. Hawk : 2,5 stars.
It was okay. The prerequisite is to be a Whyborne's fan though; and since I've only read book #1, I felt strongly that I didn't have the member card.
Deliverance by Aleksandr Voinov : 3,5 stars
I'm partial to stories set in the crusades, I find the Templars fascinating, and I've missed Voinov.
It is rough and tormented, and there's this beautiful dichotomy between sin and redemption, and I was riveted to the story, and it just felt so good! .... And the climax left me hanging incredulous, unsatisfied, and wondering how the tables had turned. It is perfect as the first chapter of a novel, but it is not reaching achievement as a story, and it is puzzling that all this polished setting and character building are only the prelude to(show spoiler)
Still 3,5 stars because I'm partial to the setting and I've missed Voinov and it felt so good almost until the end.
About the anthology as a whole.
"It's beginning to be perfectly clear that queer people of all sorts have always been here. We too have been walking the mazes and dancing the dances of our culture throughout all recorded history and beyond."
I saved the last word for Alex Beecroft whose foreword set the tone with thoughtful words, stating the importance of queer historical fiction in rooting queer people in history. In my opinion, only two stories achieved that : "Unfair in love and war", and "Deliverance" in a smaller extent.
I have nonetheless rounded up my mathematical average, because stories are also meant to tell a tale and entertain. None of those stories are bad; my lowest ratings are more a matter of taste than an unforgivable problem in the writing. In this regard, it is a fairly good anthology that provides different stories in different times and places, with different styles for different tastes.