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Length: Short-story Anthology

 

Today we are featuring part 2 of our review of the Fated Mates paranormal romance charity anthology. The anthology features the work of twenty different authors and 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 have divided our review into two parts (Part 1 ran yesterday).

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.

 

Inferno by Kiki Clark (Jay) – 4.25 stars

Riggs is a lion shifter who has just moved to a new pack in a new town. His best friend, Myles, is a human who knows nothing about the shifter world. When Myles comes to visit, the attraction Riggs has always had simmering in the background for him suddenly explodes to the forefront. Riggs has been trying to ignore his feelings for Myles while he waits to find his fated mate, so he attempts to keep Myles at a distance during the visit. Myles finds himself sad and frustrated that Riggs doesn’t seem to want him around after all, especially since he has always been into Riggs. But when some magic goes awry, Riggs and Myles are forced to not only confront their feelings, but perhaps act on them as well. It may just be the chance they both need to find happiness together.

I enjoyed Myles and Riggs together and this is a fun, friend-to-lovers story. Clark wisely has these guys start off the story already into each other, which helps jump start things for them in this shorter story format. The conflicts come in that Myles knows nothing about the existence of supernaturals, as well as that Riggs hasn’t recognized Myles as his mate before now. There is a nice light tone here with a bit of playfulness between the pair that works well with the intensity of their sexual connection that the magic jump starts. Clark handles the consent issue well here, making sure it is clear that while these guys are somewhat forced to act by the “fuck or die(ish)” situation they end up in, Riggs is clear headed enough to make a decision and they both want each other.

This story is a prequel to Clark’s upcoming Silver Oak Pack series and sets up the world nicely. There is some interesting world building and we meet some of the pack members. There was perhaps a bit too much focus here on the pack alpha for me, given that this is a short story, but overall, I am definitely eager to read more once the series comes out in 2024.

 

As the Raven Flies by Meghan Maslow (Kris) – 4.5 stars

As a favor to his alpha, raven shifter Abe has been working as a bodyguard to the new Roger of Central Baltimore. The biggest problem isn’t the constant death threats to the Roger’s life, it’s the other bodyguard he works with, Michael. He is dire wolf shifter who not only announced that Abe was his fated mate, but called him a complication. Abe wants nothing to do with Michael, and Michael seems to always say the wrong thing. After a moment of passion between them, Abe starts to thaw, but he’s not giving in easily. Not in the face of Michael’s gifts or gestures or seeming kindness. But the more time they spend together, the more Abe realizes that maybe things are different than they seemed. And when an attack hits too close to home, and Abe and Michael are fighting to stay alive, Abe realizes that his feelings for the dire wolf have changed.

This story is part of the Meghan Maslow’s Charm City Chronicles series and, while it’s not necessary to have read the other two books in order for this one to make sense, it does help with some of the background. But the important part here is the relationship between Abe and Michael. To say they got off on the wrong foot is an understatement, and Michael has to put in a lot of work to make amends. I appreciated that Michael took the time to get to know things about Abe in order to woo him.

The author does a good job of balancing the romance storyline with action. The threats to the Roger’s life keep coming, and there are other deeper mysteries that need to be solved. Nothing is fully resolved here except that Abe and Michael come to an understanding and are able to settle into their new lives together. The chemistry between them is great, even when they apparently hate each other. Overall, this was a nice addition to the series, but works as its own story as well.

 

Shiny Things by Kelly Fox (Michelle) – 3.25 stars

Wolf shifter, Thorin, is looking for a new start after having his heart broken by an avian shifter and so he moves to Texas. He’s not exactly pleased when the first man that catches his eye is a raven shifter. Thorin is not falling for those avian sparkly tricks again. Poe owns the local coffee shop and smells delicious and when Poe feels the heat between them, Thorin is unable to turn down a backroom tryst. Now, Thorin is about to get way more than he bargained for.

Shiny Things is a short, fast, fated mates story about wolf shifter, Thorin, and raven shifter, Poe. An important part of a raven’s life is finding their mate and, after so many years have gone by, Poe has given up on thinking he even has a mate. When the men realize they are mates, Thorin fights against it, leaving Poe heated and sad. The men really can’t stay away from each other in the early stages of mating and Thorin’s actions put a huge strain on them both. But fate wins out, although not before over-the-top drama at the end. There isn’t much back story on Thorin and it’s not often you see a lone wolf shifter move to a new state and there was no time to address any of the questions I had. At the end, there is mention of another book in this world that was released in 2020 about a different couple. There was little story here with a lot of mating and this one will not be overly memorable for me.

 

The Crow King’s Mate by Jennifer Cody (Kris)—4 stars

When Amos started college, he began feeding the crows because he heard they recognized faces and he didn’t want to be on their bad side. Two years later, he has constant crow companions and has even learned some of their crow names. The crows don’t think he’s awkward and shy. They’re his friends, the only ones outside of his roommate, Brigs. When Brigs convinces Amos to go see a professor dancing at a club, Amos isn’t entirely surprised to find that it’s the same professor he’s had a crush on. But he doesn’t expect Dr. Bloom—Corvin—to speak to him after the show, take him to the lodge, and inform Amos that not only have the natural crows inducted him into their murder, but that he’s also Corvin’s fated mate. In the blink of an eye, Amos’ world shifts, and he can’t say he’s upset to not only learn that shifters exist, but that he has a ready made family and forever mate.

Cody has created an interesting world here where shifter groups also include natural animal counterparts that belong to them. The natural animals strengthen the bonds in the group and keep the group happy and healthy. In this case, most of the crows Amos has been feeding are natural crows, but there have been a couple of shifters as well, looking out for him. I liked the twist on the world, and would love to see this expanded and explored more.

Amos is a shy and awkward 20-year old who has been crushing on his handsome as sin professor. Little did he know that the professor was actually the king of the crows, the alpha of his murder, and that with time, he’d learn that he’s Corvin’s fated mate. The story progresses at the expected rate for a short novella, with acceptance of the truth coming quickly for Amos and the two men finding their way easily. They are meant to be, after all.

 

Violent Secret by Ariana Nash (Michelle) – 3.75 stars

As a vampire, Aiko been part of the Blackrose Brotherhood for a long time now. Their only goal is to eliminate nyks, vampires that kill at all costs and never care about anything else. Aiko has been harboring a secret for decades.

Violent Secret is part of Nash’s Blackrose Brotherhood series and there is some expectation that the reader would be familiar with the world. The story opens 750 years in the past and shows Aiko with his forever soulmate, Kota, and then the tragedy that shaped their lives. Aiko now is a vigilante style killer with the brotherhood and he has never been able to move on from Kota. Reading Nash’s words is always a treat and the author’s world and character building are always highlights for me. The opening gives the indication that Kota was killed centuries ago and that Aiko has been pining for him for all these years. But that’s not the case and I never felt like I fully understood their story through the centuries, especially the part that happened two hundred years prior to present day. Some of the other brotherhood members appear and that added to the story and it was still great to be back in this world before the next book in the series.

 

Deader Than Dead by H.L. Day (Kris) – 4 stars

John is a necromancer who doesn’t really look like one, but he’s good at his job. When he’s called to a shady part of town to reanimate a corpse, he quickly realizes two things. The first is that the man his is fated mate, the one he’s been waiting for. The second is that the man has been dead far longer than John was told and there’s no bringing him back. John tries anyway, but it doesn’t work.

But fate has other ideas. In the wee hours of the morning, Bellamy shows up at his door. The connection between them is strong, and they know they are meant to be together. But first the secrets have to come out. And then it’s a race against time if they both want to live long enough to explore the gift fate has given them.

This story had an interesting twist that really pushed the plot along. Imagine meeting the person who you know is meant to be yours after they died? The story is told solely through John’s POV and the grief he feels about that is palpable. There are a lot of secrets in this story, and it’s long enough to do most of them justice, but at the same time, I felt like there was a lot packed into the story for its length. The way the author handles the big conflict at the end is both clever and too easy. All around it’s a good story, but may have fared better with a little more length.

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