Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Several authors - Anthology Australia

A romance anthology with over THIRTY original, never-before-seen stories from bestselling and award-winning authors. Each piece was written for this anthology to benefit firefighters and wildlife in Australia. AUSTRALIA is only available for a limited time, so one-click your copy before it's gone.
All royalties from this project will be donated to relief funds in Australia, with 50% going to a firefighter charity and 50% going to a wildlife charity. We aren't affiliated or endorsed by these charities. We are simply authors who want to support an important cause.

Comment: I purchased this anthology, like many other readers, mostly to contribute somehow to the cause of helping the aftermath of the fires that destroyed a large area of the Australian territory.

There are 37 stories and the task of reading them all sounded both amazing (a lot to be engrossed with) and easily postponed (too much to go through). I didn’t want to just get the anthology and not read it so I started this month with it.

The only thing that seems to be common between the stories is that they all would try to incorporate a little bit of Australia in them. I had a good enough time reading the stories but to be honest, I didn’t like them all.

Everyone knows short stories in anthologies can be a hit or miss, are obviously short so the danger of lack of development is always on sight but I think clever authors can make it work. It was with this disposition I embarked on this read.

In order of appearance, these are the stories and my quick opinion:

1) The Last Song by Skye Warren
A violinist travels with her husband to perform in Sydney. This is part of a series, has alternate POVs and seems to take for granted we already know the character’s history. I don’t plan on reading more of the author. 5/10

2) Pash, No Rash by Penny Reid
A clever but socially awkward heroine drinks at a bar thinking on an Australian co-worker and he shows up and they start talking. Potential for a full length I think; 1st person narrator; more quirky than full on sexy tone. 7/10

3) The Rule of Always by Kennedy Ryan
The two protagonists plan on traveling to Australia, are in lust of one another. I think too much precious time is wasted on sex thoughts; not much happens. I have another book by the author in the TBR but this one let me down. 5/10

4) Be There With Me by Giana Darling
The two NA protagonists get together. Non existing plot, the heroine seems to be like a “poor rich girl”, her father is Australian. Heroine felt immature but could develop in an interesting way. Sadly, didn’t. 3/10

5) A Pretty Penny by Meredith Wild
A couple meets at the restaurant where the heroine works, they feel attracted, he’s richer than she is, and he wants to help her financially. This had potential for a longer book, especially because of their different financial status and other personal issues. They drank Australian wine, I think… 5/10

6) Where the Current Takes You by Emma Scott
Biologist heroine travels to Australia on what should be her honeymoon; she goes alone but wants to study wildlife. Meets a stranger surfing, they hit it off but it’s clear their paths will cross again. It was good, rather believable pace and potential. 8/10

7) I Mean, It’s Cool by Tijan
This is a YA story, mentally ill heroine telling us about her life (in Australia?) and the worries surrounding her in a 1st person narrative. It felt like a weird but seriously toned story. It was intriguing, but rather vague too. 6/10

8) Date For Hire by Noelle Adams
Heroine owns business of companions in Australia for those who need dates for their work outings. She asks the hero to help her on an award ceremony; they are attracted to one another and sleep together. After a misunderstanding, they hit it off. This one was OK, too much sex thoughts instead of character depth. 5/10

9) Kennedy’s Aussie by Nana Malone
This is a lovers reunited trope of an Australian man who pursues his ex after solving his life. After two years, on their first meeting again, they have sex right before the heroine is doing a work presentation. Not appealing behavior, their pursuing feels arrogant and stalkerish, story told in 1st person, alternatively. 4/10

10) Just Jane by Jewel E. Ann
The heroine travels to attend a friend’s wedding in Australia, has a sexual encounter with a stranger at the airport, casually finds out he is the groom and has a fall out with her friend Jane. Later, he finds her again because they “clicked”. Unappealing plot; interesting writing. 6/10

11) Fireworks by Aleathea Romig
This is part of a series. The heroine travels to places because of her company’s expansion; needs to be protected due to a potential kidnapping. One security agent she is attracted to helps her, they bond, she tells him she dreams on visiting Australia and they end up together. Predictable plot and slightly underdeveloped. 6/10

12) 3,2,1 by Parker S. Huntington
The hero plays a sport in Australia and decides on getting a second chance with the heroine. A story with clichés, even a scene of them being locked down together to “make peace”. This felt like a superficial story, that I will not remember much. 4/10

13) Virgin Ride by A.L.Jackson
First person narrator in this NA story featuring Australian neighbors and she offers help when he is locked down of his house. They have sex, have many lustful thoughts of one anoanother another, some annoyingly inner thoughts of themselves and the fact he hid another. We learn he hid from her he works for her criminal father as a payment for his MC club. There is age gap and no plot. Annoying behavior for what is supposed to be “smart” characters. 2/10

14) Dare to Dream by Carly Phillips
The hero isn’t looking for love, of course, when he hires his new assistant but they are attracted to one another and eventually hit it off. The heroine’s friend brought her candy from Australia and she takes some to the hero while he recovers from a transplant. Steady but unoriginal writing style, set up of a series. 5/10

15) A Real Man Down Under by Jenika Snow
A couple celebrates their anniversary in Australia and they have oral sex. Nothing more happens besides this. It is a forgettable story despite some descriptions. 3/10

16) Basket Day by Rebecca Yarros
Part of a firefighters’ crew went to help in Australia while the small town in Colorado contributes with an auction, called basked day and people bid on their favorite baskets. After six years, the hero is coming back and he plans on wining the heroine again and everyone seems to know it. Slightly cute but not done as well as it could for me. 5/10

17) Until Next Year by Annabel Joseph A couple meets in an Australian beach every year, in the same month they met when they were both trying to commit suicide during a storm and saved each other. After this weird meet up, they continued talking, exchanging messages, meeting once a year. Now they seem to have healed enough to move on and be happy together. Interesting story. 7/10

18) Mal + Ann+ 1 by Kylie Scott
This is part of a series I have not read, like a sort of epilogue or sweet moment in the established couple’s life. A baby is born and a family is happy about it. I’m still thinking on where is the Australian connection. It was cute. 7/10

19) Waltz With Me, Matilda by Tamsen Parker
The heroine is interested in ballroom dancing, wants to feel feminine and when that fails she asks for help to her tall reclusive neighbor. Although they never had a personal conversation she admits to him she wants to cede control, even in bed. This felt confusing; she is a competent professional who had a whiny “inner voice”. There are some BDSM tones, which I don’t care for, forgot the Australian connection. 3/10

20) Sanguine by Sierra Simone
Set in Australia, this m/m PNR story features a vampire and an ex priest who can’t take him out of his mind. They talk, share things, and feel attracted to one another. Sweet and more serious notions are exchanged; the dialogue is fluid and cute. This felt both romantic and hot; very easy story to read which also felt well-structured and well timed. 9/10

21) Love You For Always by Willow Winters
A married couple lives in Australia but he works in a distant city. They have a date while he’s home and he decides to come back, so they can be closer and she really likes it because she discovered she’s pregnant. This was a bit rushed but was sweet. 7/10

22) Caroline’s Surprise by Susan Stoker
A couple is celebrating their 25th anniversary on the beach. The hero planned the whole thing, secretly, but the heroine is very happy to see all their friends and family attending. She tells him about wanting to visit Australia. This is part of a series. 8/10

23) Bad Reunion by Robin Covington
The heroine used to live in Australia where she learned to work in a bar. Now she’s back home, is opening her own bar and the hero, her ex she left when she left the country, is there to carry some stuff. They seem to make peace somehow after issues between them (both familiar and related to them alone) and she discovers he arrested her criminal father. Really over the top drama for such a short story. 3/10

24) King of Libertines by Pam Godwin
Pirates in an historical setting. The heroine has her own ship, inheritance from her pirate father, he left her a compass with a secret. Two other pirates who have been to what was Australian back then join her ship, she ends up teaming up with one to discover the compass’ secret. This was OK but there’s a lot of sex instead of real plot. 5/10

25) The Vow by Dylan Allen
This is part of a series. The heroine planned a secret wedding she surprised her fiancé with while in vacation in Australia. They are expecting a baby and confusion follows when the hero sees so many familiar faces appear somehow. There are too many characters, and it looked as if people thought they could do this and that because they afford it… meh. 5/10

26) The Boogieman by Mary Catherine Gebhard
The heroine works as a psychologist in prison; dreams of visiting Australia. One day she is attacked and then saved by a man with a fierce but dangerous look and personality. He bounds her and she feels attracted to him and the fact he’s dangerous. They have a sexual encounter. This is not romantic but I suppose it works for those looking for kink and erotic content although it was really weirdly developed. 3/10

27) Shopping for More by Julia Kent
This is a short snippet, part of a series I have not read. The main couple reunites the whole family. It was a sweet story, there are some interesting details but not very memorable to me. 7/10

28) Tenacious Bond by Emma Hart
This is a cozy mystery type of plot and part of a series. The main couple unites efforts (she is a PI and he a cop) to solve a case that appears to be a suicide. There are lots of characters and it makes for a little confusing read. There are some editing issues; this is told in 1st person, but works well enough; set in Australia. 7/10

29) Stiches by Melanie Moreland
Set in Australia, there’s a meet cute when doctor Ian helps Chloe and her mother Samantha and when they part ways he finds the little girl’s missing koala bear. Later on, they reunite when they attend the ER he works in. They start spending time together and become a family. Despite the more cliché choices, this was romantic, sweet and cute. 9/10

30) Sweet Caroline by Audrey Carlan
It seems this is part of a series, the hero is a tattoo artist and the heroine is the client. A couple, friends with the hero, is there too and thy have sex in a back office while the hero is working. He and the heroine have sex, carried by the other couple’s sounds. Besides the total lack of professionalism seen in this little story, there’s also the fact he belongs to a MC club, a type of story I dislike and has unrealistic thought processes: who thinks about oneself like that? 2/10

31) The Date Arrangement by A. Zavarelli
Set in Australia, told in alternate 1st person, this is the story of an actress heroine who is asked by two friends to flirt with their friend, out of a bad breakup and they want him to have a good time at a party. They start speaking, reluctant at first and then with pleasure; spend the night together after sharing confidences. He discovers the truth, gets mad but they make peace. I liked this one, there was quite a lot for a short story but overall, well done. 8/10

32) Taken by the Hobo by Kaity McGee
The heroine always gives something to the husker on the corner of the coffee shop near her work; he often has weird clothes, like a coat with koalas. (Australian connection?) One day they go on a date (!) and after spending the night together he tells her he is actually a famous musician. This has a sort of cute tone but is completely unrealistic. 7/10

33) Preston by Michelle Heard
Part of a series; the hero is shy and socially awkward and meets a more confident but weird bird lover heroine. They have an also weird meet cute over a flying bird and she invites him on a date. Later on he is invited to have dinner at her house because he knows her father from work. She tells him she raises birds since she decided to help Australian bird races to not become extinct. This is cute and a little funny but very weird. 7/10

34) The Candy Acquisition by Celia Aaron
During Halloween, a family goes trick-or-treat and is seems mother and older child are kidnapped but it was a ruse planned by the mother without alpha type father knowing, to teach something to their kid. This is part of a series, told in alternate 1st person. Can’t remember what the Australian connection was. 7/10

35) Mine for Tonight by Brighton Walsh
This is an erotica story which I skimmed a lot because it only showed the protagonists having sex. It seems it might develop further in other installments. I cannot remember if there was an Australian connection. 2/10

36) One Wild Ride by Chelle Bliss
NA story; 1st person. The heroine became adventurous and proposed a stranger for sex during spring break. Now she is thinking about if she is falling in love or not. Seriously under developed plot; lots of sex innuendo and clichés, very unlikable characters. An apparently random mentioned guy is from Australia. 2/10

37) Lifeline by Willow Aster 
During a flight to Australia, heroine and hero sit by one another (after he changed her ticket after they crashed into each other before embarking, really?) and become close and decide on trying to be together. Heroine likes books and writes them. It was OK… 6/10

-> Having finished reading the anthology, some questions remain for me:
Will I read these authors again soon or based on these stories?
How many liked, disliked, were so-so? 
Are these "suitable" stories for this anthology? 

Looking at the grades it can be obvious most stories were not appealing to me at all. However, of the 37, I'll definitely check authors Sierra Simone(who wrote my favorite one!), Susan Stoker, Melanie Moreland and A. Zavarelli. I already have books by Emma Scott and Kennedy Ryan on my TBR.
I still feel a little bad I didn't enjoy the majority but...well, some are better than none.

I'd say I don't feel some of the stories really fit an anthology for beneficence purposes. Of course each author has their own genre and style but I was thinking the stories would address more the Australian lifestyle, landscapes, situation... I wouldn't go as far as to expect only stories about Australia but yes, more than what they were, the incorporation of Australia's customs and culture in the stories with the country as setting are surprisingly - for me - non existent.

Although I was only familiar with Penny Reid as an author when I started this, I was also still hoping the stories would be more focused on romances, as the title indicates. However, sadly for my taste and opinion, they were too heavily set on sex and sex thoughts, sex musings, sex scenes. I think perhaps the authors who did so could have attempted something less graphic, even if including sex. It felt as if the sex scenes took away precious space out of the plot and in some cases, I think nothing was left.

Several also used this opportunity to write stories that are linked or set in series they have in course or that already exist. This means some stories certainly made more sense if readers were familiar with the characters. I can understand this "tactic" but it feels a little unfair. Not in terms of structure, most of them had a structure easy to follow but... they were funnier and more meaningful to readers who already knew about those characters.

As a whole, most of these stories failed to impress me but just for the ones I really liked, this was worth it; after all, they are short stories one can read quickly, it was for a good cause and it allowed me to want to investigate a few new authors.
General grade of the anthology as a whole: 5/10

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