Charmed and Dangerous, an Anthology
Authors: Astrid Amara, K.J. Charles, Charlie Cochet,
Rhys Ford, Gin Hale, Lou Harper, Jordan L. Hawk,
Nicole Kimberling, Jordan Castillo Price, & Andrea Speed
Publisher: JCP Books LLC (August 25, 2015)
Page Count: 480 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Paranormal/Fantasy
* I was given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. *
When I saw this anthology announced, I made a shrill noise that had every dog in a three-mile radius perking their head up. First off, it’s a collection of stories about magic and m/m romances, which in itself is exciting. But then you look at those names! These are the stars of the m/m genre… Jordan Castillo Price, Jordan L. Hawk, K.J. Charles… I’m over here swooning like a Victorian maiden, in case you can’t tell.
This book is a behemoth, too. In paperback form, it could probably squash a small child. Well, okay, maybe a very small child. Like, a leprechaun or something. But it’s so chock-full of amazing stories that I’m going to have to divide my review into two pieces.
The review below covers the following stories: “Dim Sum Asylum” by Rhys Ford, “Swift and the Black Dog” by Gin Hale, “A Queer Trade” by K.J. Charles, “Magically Delicious” by Nicole Kimberling, and “Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns” by Jordan Castillo Price.
(All quotes are referenced to the ePub version.)
Dim Sum Asylum, by Rhys Ford (★★★☆☆)
Rhys’ contemporary and crime drama novels have always been among my favorites, but her recent foray into fantasy has been less exciting for me. I wasn’t a big fan of her debut fantasy novel, and I’m not overly thrilled with this short story either.
For Detective Roku MacCormick, working Arcane Crimes is his passion. Now cleared of any wrongdoing for shooting his last partner, MacCormick is given back his badge… as well as a new case and partner. Trent Leonard isn’t exactly what he’d expected, but then nothing in San Francisco’s Chinatown ever is.
The plot and details are a bit over-the-top, and the characters suffer as a result. Roku had some really interesting backstory, but I just couldn’t buy into his relationship with Trent, who appeared mid-story and didn’t leave any lasting impression.
Unclipping his notebook, the cop said, “I’m sorry about your partner, Detective, but I’d have shot him too.”
“Thanks.” I nodded. “Hopefully the dragons will leave something behind. I’d like my Captain to have something than my ass to chew on.” (15)
Swift and the Black Doc, by Gin Hale (★★★★☆)
This is an author that I’m not actually familiar with, but I really liked her style, and she created a rich world with intriguing characters.
When Jack Swift killed a tyrant and won the revolution he became a national hero. But someone in the new government prefers dead heroes to living, swearing, cynical wizards. Caught between bullets, revenge and desire, Jack had better be swift indeed.
While Jack was a really interesting character, I thought the side characters and the little glimpses of the world they lived in were far more interesting. There seems to be a bit of modern-day and steampunk mixed in with the fantasy elements, which made a really unique setting.
“Stupid prick actually thought I’d gone straight. Like any wizard ever could. I knew you wouldn’t make that mistake. You’d know it was all wrong.” (73)
A Queer Trade, by K.J. Charles (★★★★★)
K.J Charles is one of those authors that I would follow to the ends of the earth, and it was her name on the cover of this anthology that really drew me in. Her Magpie Lord series is a gorgeous historical fantasy about lords and magic, and this short story is set in the same ‘verse.
Apprentice magician Crispin Tredarloe returns to London to find his master dead, and his papers sold. Papers with secrets that could spell death. Waste paper seller Ned Hall can’t resist Crispin’s pleading—and appealing—looks. But can the wasteman and the magician prevent a disaster and save Crispin’s skin?
What a fantastic story! It definitely fits the billing, featuring both charm and danger. The plot is excellent, and I could practically see the sparks flying between the two characters.
“Well, I mean… the thing is…” Crispin took a step forward. “you said we’d be magnificent, you and me. I wondered if you’d like to see if you were right.” (171)
Magically Delicious, by Nicole Kimberling (★★★★★)
This story wins hands-down for most hilariously appropriate title. It’s also a really funny story with some lovely, complex characters. There’s Gunther, the incredibly hot goblin who’s a badass Strike Force agent, and his plain, human boyfriend Keith, who works for the magical equivalent of the FDA.
Occult attacks against NIAD agents aren’t remotely Keith Curry’s department. But when his lover, Gunther, is assaulted, Keith refuses to just sit back and fill out paperwork. He’s on the case—even if that means enraging powerful mages, crossing leprechaun picket lines, or braving dinner with Gunther’s goblin parents.
I couldn’t stop giggling while reading this. Keith is (unintentionally) funny in a sarcastic, droll way, but he’s also surprisingly brilliant. It looks like he also appears in another anthology, Irregulars, which I’m definitely going to check out!
“He’s from NIAD, don’t you know?” The leprechaun whose crinkly, orange beard poked down toward his pointed shoes like a fuzzy carrot spoke not to Keith but to a compatriot, whose green felt hat sported not one, but three decorative buckles.
“NIAD, you say?” Three Buckles said. “Doesn’t that stand for something?”
“Nasty, idjit, arsehole, dingleberries, I think it is,” Carrot Beard replied. (187)
Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns, by Jordan Castillo Price (★★★★☆)
One of the biggest draws for me to this anthology was the promise of a PsyCop short story! Victor and Jacob are definitely one of my favorite couples in this genre. And Jordan did a good job of explaining her world to someone who hasn’t read the series (although if you haven’t, definitely go check out PsyCop right now!).
Psychic medium Victor Bayne can spot a ghost any day of the year, but Halloween holds some special surprises. His psych-groupie boyfriend Jacob coaxes him to the location of an old spirit sighting, but they can’t ghosthunt without enduring a cheesy “haunted house” that’s even more disturbing than they realize.
This was a Halloween story that was part spooky and part sexy (because with Victor and Jacob, those two go hand in hand). Haunted movie theaters, ghost clowns, and Men’s Rights Activities… it’s enough to give anyone a fright! Super enjoyable story.
Jacob was raring to go, holding open the door, and it occurred to me that I’d grown phenomenally blasé if I was willing to face off with a freaking clown ghost just to give him a few jollies. Blasé, or stupid. (247)
So that’s my review of the first half of Charmed and Dangerous. I can’t wait to dive into the second half for more amazing stories from some brilliantly talented authors!
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