**I will review each story separately and then as a whole**
Speed Mating by Jessica Sims – Estrella may be going into heat, but she’s determined to remain in control. Just because she’s ovulating doesn’t mean she has to settle for just any man (or his beast). Her sexy alpha’s determined to find her a tiger to take care of her heat and father her child…but no one seems to look quite as good as the man in charge. Will giving in to her need for her alpha ruin her tenuous relationship with her clan or be a match made in heaven?Part of Sims' "Midnight Liaisons" paranormal romance series, which I enjoy greatly because its such a cute and fun series, didn't quite hit the right chord with me. Maybe because I felt like the whole debate over whether Estrella would keep the baby (or even have the baby) was repeated too many times. Estrella went from just wanting to get laid, to figuring out what to do if she got pregnant, to making it a condition of whoever she slept that they wanted to be a daddy. Several folk mention she should be barren yet...well. Apparently not so.
I liked Vic, thought he was pretty cool even if he wasn't exactly my type. Estrella must be screwy to not realize how he felt--he was broadcasting loud enough that his clan members knew to not lay a finger on her. Regardless this had a lot of humor and some surprise cameos. This was also one of the least tension filled stories I've read in a long time since the only real enemy was Estrella's high standards for a bed mate and low opinion of herself.
Conjuring Max by Carolyn Crane – The witches of the world ridiculed and rejected nerdy Veronica for trying to use newfangled computers to enhance old world spellcasting. Well, it’s 1984 now, and she’s perfected her spellcasting computer program. Hey, who needs friends when you can conjure virtually anything…or anybody? So when Veronica makes powerful new enemies, she conjures Max, a pitbull of a cop, to deal with the pesky hitmen who keep coming around. Maybe Veronica can finally get some peace and quiet so she can work on her computer. But tough-guy Max is in no mood to play lapdog to a gorgeous witch.This story just did not work for me. From what I understand its a prequel to Crane's current series (or one of them at least), but it felt...weird. It took a while for me to realize its not set in present times (the way Veronica speaks about computers and tech made it seem like they were everyday items, which they weren't in 1984). Then there was the kind of weird disdain Max felt for Veronica's magic, but his utter infatuation with her.
I don't think that Veronica really confronted her issues either, Max basically smashed them to pieces for her. It felt like they were going in a good, healthy, direction yet he solution felt more contrived. I'm interested to see the first book, which centers around Veronica's niece Alix, presumably in more modern times. This story however just didn't jive with me.
Wrecked by Meljean Brook – Elizabeth has spent the past five years running from her father; her father’s huntsman, Caius, has spent the past five years pursuing her. But when he finally catches up to her on an airship flying above Europe’s zombie-infested cities, Elizabeth discovers that Caius isn’t the only danger she has to fear—and now that he’s found her, Caius doesn’t intend to let her go…This was, as can probably be expected, my favorite story of them all--also the longest. This was as long as the other two stories combined I think. The "Iron Seas" novels and novellas have been extraordinarily good at handling the mash up of genres that Brook has thrown at them. Victorian times, steampunk, zombies, romance, horror--seriously there's a lot in these books. "Wrecked" is a perfect gateway as well.
By in large Brook keeps the "Iron Seas" stories fairly self-contained. There's more crossover in the novels themselves, then in the connected novellas so that if a person were to read this without prior knowledge they wouldn't get lost in the details of the past stories. I found "Wrecked" to be no different. Elizabeth is a gutsy, intelligent and above all else cautious person; you wouldn't believe what a difference it makes to have your heroine actually wary if she's on the run.
Caius is immediately a draw. Between Elizabeth's idea of him and his own description, its hard not to feel for him. As much as Elizabeth he wants to do what's right. Both are very conflicted individuals with one very simple wish--to be able to live in freedom.
Overall this anthology was a bit of a let down. I loved "Wrecked" but "Conjuring Max" made me feel faintly uncomfortable with the whole romance and "Speed Mating" was hampered by the way too obvious solution smacking the leads in the face. Still this is a great gateway drug into each of the author's writing and books and paired with "Wild & Steamy" a wonderful way to spend a weekend.