The Bite Anthology offers up paranormal vampire tales by authors Clare London, Ruby Moone, Sue Brown, and Joanna Chambers. While I enjoyed the collection overall, I can certainly say that some stood out over the others. Each one has a different take on what vampires can do and how they exist. But each one makes the case that vampires can and do fall in love and that is the focus of all the stories. Overall the anthology was good. I felt that the stories could have been a bit stronger and each had a few problem spots, but there is no denying these are four talented authors who have put together an entertaining collection.
Out of Time by Clare London
Spanning nearly a century, this story begins with Ambrus finding a newly turned vampire on the battlefields of World War I. It then takes us through time to the year 2000 and tracks the interactions between Ambrus and Edward. I found it really difficult to find any connection between Edward and Ambrus; the love Ambrus felt for the man was often one sided until near the end when it felt as though Edward finally gave in and just accepted his fate as opposed to really wanting to be a loving companion for Ambrus for all eternity. I have read other work by this author and think that this was not her typical fare. Usually her characters are strong and exciting, while this story felt tepid and unfinished. 3 stars
Christmas for a Vampire by Ruby Moone
Christmas for a Vampire is a companion story to another novel by Ruby Moone, The Christmas Curse. While I wouldn’t necessarily say that you should read that novel first, I can say that I think I would have had a better understanding of the characters if I had. This tale draws its origins from the time a vampire found Ellis, Trent, and Ellis’ lover, Quinn, dying on the battlefield. He offers the three immortal life and when Ellis awakens next it’s only he and Trent who seem to have transitioned, being told that Quinn had chosen to die rather than join his lover. Now some twenty years later, Ellis has failed to really embrace his vampiric nature, mostly because he still nurses a broken heart over the Quinn’s betrayal.
It’s here where the story begins and the revelations that happen in the ensuing chapters shed a great deal of light on their sire, Lord Heath, who chose to intervene in the lives of those he turned in order to teach them a lesson. I have to say while I enjoyed this story in many ways, I felt that perhaps having more background knowledge on these characters would have made what Lord Heath did make more sense and seem less hurtful and unkind. I wondered if reading the first novel may have given me that insight and allowed me to more fully enjoy this short story. Either way, I still felt it was a well written and entertaining contribution to the anthology. I particularly liked the dynamic between Trent and Ellis and their friendship, as well as the resolution to the mystery behind Quinn’s decision. 3.5 stars
A Tale Told in Darkness by Sue Brown
Sue Brown offers up a story within a story in her offering, A Tale Told in Darkness. It focuses on the lone and powerful vampire, Lord Oliver Brook, who has sired many over the years, but now prefers to be by himself, taking willing and unwilling victims as he sees fit, but no longer making new baby vamps. When a young man named Michael moves into the building next to his, Oliver is immediately drawn to him and becomes painfully aware that this human is quite possibly his mate. Now he must not only grapple with the fact that a vampire can be viewed as weaker for needing a human mate and how that may challenge his status as an alpha vampire, but must also find a way to change the mind of the obstinate young man before he loses him for good. You see there is a madman on the loose torturing, raping, and killing indiscriminately, and Michael may just be his next victim.
I really loved how the author set up this story and the surprise ending, which had the potential to be very sad and turned out to be a positive instead. While I often felt that the transitions between scenes were a bit disjointed and abrupt, I did very much enjoy how the author slid from the present action to describing the parallel actions of the serial killer. Those brief moments were shocking and spine tingling and made this short story much more dramatic than any of the others. I also liked how Michael was strong even in the face of the often times cold and calculating Oliver. It was the attraction Oliver felt for Michael that finally thawed his heart and moved him to be a bit more ”human” when it came to his interactions with his prey and it was that affection that grew between Michael and Oliver that turned this selection into a moving love story rather than just a murder mystery. 4 stars
Lamb to the Slaughter by Joanna Chambers
By far this had to be my favorite of this collection. I absolutely loved how the Joanna Chambers turns the tables on the reader and manages such a delicious twist to the story. I nearly laughed aloud with glee. This author does historical fiction so well and brings that ability to her story, Lamb to the Slaughter. It is the 1800s and Lucien St. Villiers, a known rake, is about to seduce a man almost twenty years younger than him, the naïve and beautiful Marcus Lamb. He has slowly wooed Marcus and is set to finally have him in his bedchamber, but the tables are about to turn on Lucien and he has no idea.
I really enjoyed this story. Not only were the characters obviously smitten with each other, but to see the very slick and polished Lucien brought down a peg was so much fun. Marcus was just perfect and the chemistry between the two men was palpable. I love when historical fiction is done well and this author never seems to falter when crafting her stories. I would love to see her use these characters and craft a full-length novel featuring them and how they get on in the future. 5 stars