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Length: Anthology

Fated Mates is a paranormal romance charity anthology featuring the work of twenty different authors. All royalties will be donated to the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and the ACLU’s Drag Defense Fund. Some of the stories appear to be total standalones, while others are either prequels or parts of a series.

The authors offered the book to reviewers in four smaller segments, and we happened to have an opportunity to read three of them. So we have not reviewed all of the stories in the collection and therefore are rating the individual stories, rather than the anthology as a whole. Also, since we had so many stories to review, we are dividing our review into two parts, one running today and the other tomorrow.

The full anthology features new, exclusive stories from Kiki Clark, Mia Monroe, Louisa Masters, Kelly Fox, Sheena Jolie, Jennifer Cody, Nikole Knight, Vinni George, Chloe Archer, Meghan Maslow, Lee Colgin, Kelex, H.L Day, Grae Bryan, AJ Sherwood, Michele Notaro, Lisa Oliver, Ariana Nash, Michelle Frost, and JP Sayle.

Curse of Silver and Blood by Sheena Jolie (Jay) – 4 stars

Alec is a fae alchemist who was sold into captivity by his stepfather. He managed to escape by blowing up the drug lab where he was forced to work and has fled into the nearby woods. Alec is rescued by Leif, a centuries-old wolf shifter who is cursed and must live alone or his curse will harm those he cares about. When Leif finds Alec, he knows immediately Alec is his fated mate, but he also knows he can’t keep him. Still, Leif takes care of Alec and helps him recover from his ordeal. But Alec has magic of his own and is stronger than he looks. Now that he has a chance at happiness with Leif, Alec is determined to stand by his wolf. They just need to stop those who are after Alec first.

This story is part of Sheena Jolie’s excellent Infinite Arcana universe, though it can easily be read as a standalone. We get some great world building here as Jolie delves further into the role of werewolves and the fae. The story has a nice fairytale-like feel as Leif sweeps in to rescue Alec and help him recover. Even believing the curse will prevent them from staying together, Leif doesn’t hesitate to lovingly care for Alec. This is a short story featuring fated mates, so there isn’t much relationship development beyond an instant connection and the desire for a future together, but these guys are sweet and really appealing together (as well as bit bloodthirsty). I am excited that Jolie notes Alec and Leif will be featured in their own full-length story in 2024 and look forward to reading more.

 

Wounded Mate by Lee Colgin (Sue) – 3.5 stars

For incubus Valius, the center of his world is the Twig and Berry. The brothel is safe and secure and allows Valius to feed, while catering to a wide array of guests who have no idea he’s an incubus. Valius thought he was content until a wounded stranger reaches out through a bond neither knew existed. Bela is not a shifter nor a human, but something in between. Desperation to find a pack of his own has driven Bela into dangerous territories where other packs lash out with tooth and claw. Now, wounded and alone, Bela’s certain that he will die. Until Fate brings a beautiful incubus to his side and Bela realizes Valius is all the pack he needs. 

Wounded Mate is set in Lee Colgin’s Outcast Mates series and, while you don’t have to be familiar with those books to enjoy this novella, I think it helps. Some of what makes the Outcast Mates series work so well is the world building and we don’t get much of that here. And while Bela and Valius are both sweet, the story is less about relationships and more about lust. I enjoyed the overall plot and characters, but Wounded Mate needed more in terms of world building and development to read as complete. 

 

Fate’s Treasure by Grae Bryan (Kris) – 4.5 stars

Mal has never really been able to settle or to form connections with other people. So it’s not a big surprise when he buys a cabin in the woods, sight unseen, and moves across the country. And even though Mal feels the rightness of being there, he hasn’t been able to make himself start unpacking. When a romp in the woods leads him down a path to an opulent home, he finds Alistair waiting for him. Mal’s new neighbor is intriguing, as is the sense of belonging that Mal feels in Alistair’s home and with the man himself. Their connection is confusing, but not unwelcome. Mal has no idea why he’s so drawn to the man. But when Alistair’s secret comes out, Mal isn’t as shocked as he should be. And when the two men can’t bear to be apart, there’s only one thing to do: mate and be together forever.

There was a gentleness to this story I really liked, and though the story is told mostly from Mal’s POV, Alistair’s personality, his calm and collected nature, just leaps off the page. The author does an outstanding job showing the connection between the men. Even though Mal balks a little when the truth is revealed, that too makes sense. The chemistry between the MCs really drives the story and makes for a lovely read. It was really about two men who were searching for something and finally find their perfect fit.

 

Black and White by Vinni George (Michelle) – 3.75 stars

Nero is great at his job as a bounty hunter, although he could use fewer jokes about him being an orca shifter. He could also use a change, and then he is asked to be a bodyguard to a younger man, Felix, whose hacking abilities have him on the radar of the wrong people. Nero has no idea his destiny is about to be placed in front of him.

This was a fun and cute shorter story that introduces a new world and the upcoming ORCA series from the author. It was great that there is shifting in the opening scene, as Nero in on the chase in killer whale form. When he then meets Felix, both men know immediately that they are mates, but Felix is thrown because as a sea otter, he had no idea his mate would not be another otter. The story balances the start of the relationship between the men and then starts to lay the plan for the rest of the series. There is a lot about Felix that is not revealed and this is not a complete story. We don’t get to see Felix in otter form and the ending was rushed with future set up, but I will be looking for more of this series when it is released.

 

True Mates and Where to Find Them by A.J. Sherwood (Jay) – 3.75 stars

Zander doesn’t usually go to the blood auction house, but he is there tonight catching up with a business contact. However, when Zander sees a beautiful, scared, but determined young man putting himself up for auction, he is intrigued enough to bid. It turns out that Max has joined the auction out of desperation to get money to help with his father’s medical bills. He expects a year of allowing a vampire to feed from him (and have sex with him), and is surprised when Zander seems to want neither. Even more, Zander is showering Max with money and gifts, even as Max tells him he is going overboard. Max doesn’t understand what is going on, but all Zander wants is to take care of Max and help him with his financial concerns. What Zander would like even more is a future with Max, but Max is taking a little longer to feel comfortable. But as Max realizes the true extent of Zander’s care and devotion to him, he comes to understand he has nothing to fear from Zander. In fact, there may just be a chance for a real future for Zander and Max together.

This one is all sweetness and fantasy fulfillment as Max makes a decision out of desperation and ends up with a man who wants to spoil him beyond his wildest dreams. The first part of the story mostly focuses on Zander showering Max with every possible luxury, as caretaking is his love language. Max can’t help but be wary, as he has no idea why Zander isn’t enforcing the contract and is instead taking such good care of him. It is a little over the top, but also fun and super sweet. There is a nice progression for the men here as, at first, Max isn’t sure he can trust Zander, mostly because he is so confused about what is going on. But over time, Zander’s dedication and steadfastness help Max to truly believe Zander will never hurt him and then men are able to move forward. There is some nice light world building here, though a few elements related to the blood contract process seemed a little confusing to me. Zander’s mind-boggling wealth is never really explained either. But this story succeeds in being sweet, lovey, fantasy fulfillment with the nice playful tone in which A.J. Sherwood excels.

 

Words Not Necessary by Lisa Oliver (Kris) – 3.5 stars

High magic user Rocky Anderson is on a case when his anchor finds her mate and abandons him. Without an anchor, Rocky can’t do magic. But lucky for him, he comes across a young girl whose brother just happens to be an anchor without a high magic user.

Neo wants to work, but the laws prevent it. He must be available for any high magic user at all times, but no high magic user wants to work with him because he can’t speak. Rocky is a breath of fresh air in more ways than one. Not only does he help the siblings out, but Rocky and Neo are fated mates, which means no one can separate them now that they’ve found each other. But when the case comes to a head, it’s a life and death fight or they’ll never get their chance.

Oliver has created an interesting world with the way magic works and the laws that govern it. Rocky and Neo are both in dire straits, though different kinds, but fate puts them together at just the right time. Despite that, I felt like this story barely scratched the surface, and things were too quick and immediate to really be believable, and because of this, the pacing was off. A lot happens, and the reader just has to go with it. While the premise was good, I wished for deeper exploration of all the emotions.