It’s been a few months since the attack on SearchLight campus, an attack that left students and staff alike reeling. While the vampires and grand Fae have been dealt with, the aftermath of the attacks is still being felt. Guilt, anger, shame, and rage from those who were attacked and those who were only able to watch, helpless, as classmates were raped, fed from, or tortured. For three couples, love and friendship may be one part of the answer as they try to find a way through the darkness and into the light.
Secret Identity is the first book in this anthology, and my favorite of the three of them. Brett is a rarity even in the Fae world, a male dryad. Dryads, we learn, are afraid of male children, who they believe are born to be rapists and monsters. Instead, dryads choose to self-fertilize and produce only daughters, but Brett’s mother fell in love with a mortal man and chose to have her son. A son she abandoned when he was a child, a son who has only recently shown himself to possess a powerful and rare magic that he used to help defend himself and his friends during the attack on campus. And now, his mother wants him back.
At Brett’s side is the all-too human Adam, whom he loves with all his heart. Whom he’s afraid of losing. When Adam is attacked, Brett tries to push him away, thinking he’ll keep Adam from being hurt, while trying to ignore the hurt he’s caused Adam, himself. Fortunately, Adam is forgiving and stubborn and willing to do anything it takes to prove to Brett that their love is worth fighting for.
The second story, Secret Hunger, offers the most world building as Kwaku Peacemaker shows us a glimpse of a Ghanian character. As a Shadowwalker, Kwaku is able to take the shape of a gazelle, and can read the history of objects, something that has caused him great pain as he was able to feel the death of his lover, back in Ghana, by touching the ground on which he’d died. Now he’s dealing not only with the guilt of not being there for his boyfriend, but of being the roommate of the man who, back in February, let the vampires and grand Fae onto the campus. Kwaku feels guilty and responsible, and as if he deserves the pain he’s suffering.
Fionn O’Sullivan is a leprechaun whose mother suffered from severe depression. He sees, in Kwaku, someone in pain — as well as someone he wants to get to know. Slowly, between friendship and what was supposed to be a fling, the two of them become lovers. But Kwaku is afraid to be open about his sexuality and Fionn is afraid of giving his heart to someone who doesn’t want it. Their relationship, the most fraught in the book, also had one fo the sweetest resolutions.
Secret Keeping is the final book, and the reason I wanted this anthology. Patrick has cerebral palsy, and is fortunate to simply be alive. The Fae tolerate no physical imperfection, and only his father’s rank has protected him, even as it isolated him most of his life. But going to SearchLight has shown Patrick more of the world and its freedoms, and introduced him to John Little.
John loves Patrick almost at first sight, drawn to the other man’s confidence and charisma, his openness, and his inability to be anything other than what he is, the scion of a powerful Fae family. For all that this story deals with some of the mobility issues that Patrick has, the focus is on the growing romance between them. However, this last story also had the least emotional weight and, while it was cute, wasn’t my favorite.
The biggest problem with this story collection is that I felt very much like I was jumping into book two or three in an ongoing series. A grand, violent, and horrible event happened to the characters, resulting in growth and loss, and I’m only catching the tail end of it. Previous characters from Carrington’s other series and books make appearances, but I found it hard to appreciate the cameos because I was still trying to piece together what was happening here. If you’ve read her previous stories, you’ll probably enjoy this more than someone who goes into cold. If, however, you are unfamiliar with the author’s other works, you might (like me) find it hard to get your footing. But for those who enjoy paranormal romances and urban fantasy books, you should be able to muddle through well enough. The stories were sweet and light and make for a nice change of pace when you want a book of nothing but happy endings.