TBR Challenge Review: Under Her Skin by Jeaniene Frost, Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook

Format: ebook
Pub Date: October 2010
Publisher: Stories originally published by Running Press in the Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance.
Length: 101 pages
FTC: Purchased myself during a sale of some kind

This month's TBR Challenge theme is paranormal or romantic suspense. And, since I spaced the challenge again until exactly two days ago, I decided to scope out my digital TBR for a quick read. I picked this up during a promotional sale some time ago, and promptly forgot about it. Basically, here are three short stories, repackaged from another book. I normally love all three authors, but two out of three of these stories were decidedly underwhelming.

 Pack by Jeaniene Frost

Jeaniene Frost is known for her Cat and Bones series. About vampires. So werewolves are a departure for her. Honestly? This was the worst of the three stories. It was trite, cliche, and brought nothing new to the genre. Additionally, it was missing her "voice." It sounded nothing at all like any of the other JF books out there.  I read it last night, and have already forgotten the names of the characters and most of the plot.

My Grade: C-

In Sheep's Clothing by Meljean Brook

Normally, Meljean's writing smacks me in the gut with its power and simplicity. Part of what I admire about her writing is her ability to say a lot with only a few, carefully chosen words. That elegance was missing here.

This more than any of the three stories is a romantic suspense book with a paranormal twist. A serial killer is haunting a small town, and this time, he picks the wrong prey. I liked the suspense and gory details in this story, but I felt that they took too much away from the relationship between Emma, our heroine, and Nathan (aka Sheriff Studly). The "reunion" lacked any real emotional punch.

My Grade: C

Grace of Small Magics by Ilona Andrews

Thrown in an anthology with two werewolf stories, this one is definitely odd-story-out. But it's also the best of the lot.

Grace, a young woman with minimal magical talent, is told that she must fulfill her family's obligation to another clan. That she has no choice and the family has been bound to serve.  The man who has summoned her is a revenant, a man who died and stole another's body, which isn't as gross as it sounds. Think more possession than zombie, here.

As Grace vacilates between terror and a strange attraction to Nassar, the revenant, she also discovers that she has more power than she ever thought possible. She learns the truth about her family's history, and enters a deadly game where her role is to protect Nassar, something she's surprised to discover she wants to do.

There's Ilona Andrews' trademark gore—the same details that make me squirm while reading the Kate Daniels series. There's also some well crafted attraction (including the moral quandry Nassar faces, since Grace is bound to serve him.) There's plenty of fantasy violence. And there's a somewhat satisfactory ending, although, again, the relationship resolution is just tacked on.

My Grade: B-

Overall, this is a collection that is easily forgettable. Three stand-alone stories that aren't all that important, and fans of all three authors are likely to be disappointed.

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