After Twilight
by Amanda Ashley, Christine Feehan, and Ronda Thompson; assorted (2001)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52450-3


Oh, and before you Amanda Ashley fans run to the bookstores to get this anthology for her novella Masquerade, I guess I should tell you that it's a 1994 novella from some Topaz Man anthology that is repackaged here. Remember 1994? That's when everybody is jumping onto the vampire romance bandwagon with only one plot (maybe everybody read each other's story and decided she can do better). Remember that one? The plot is usually about this innocent, pure, and not-at-all bright virginal ballerina, opera singer, or healer walking into some empty, large mansion and falling for the mysterious Daddy figure who only appears at night, remember? Well, guess what? Amanda Ashley's Masquerade has an opera singer heroine.

In a not too subtle rehash of The Phantom Of The Opera, Davis Gaines, our hero, is a superb actor of - duh - Phantom who takes Leanne, the chorus girl with big lungs (and a hefty chest) as his portege. Leann falls immediately - how could she not, for she has naught personality? - and wonders why Dave is so eager to push her away. Well, Leanne, that's because he's a vampire who is so tired of sucking blood, oh, oh, oh, and he is too dirty and old for her, eek, eek, eek. But Leanne wanders wide-eyed into Dave's house, discovers that he is a vampire, but all is forgiven because she loves him. Purple prose ensues, Dave becomes mortal because she is so pure and virginal (uuugggh, I feel ill already), and they have a talented baby girl who promises to be like her mother. I sincerely hope not.

Overusing the phrases "innocent", "young", and "girl" to the point of creepiness, Amanda Ashley again demonstrates why she is the forefront when it comes to creepy braincell-free Lolita rehash romances thinly disguised as "vampire love stories". Virginity and innocence - are we talking about a pedophile flesh fair in Thailand or a romance story?

Moving on to Christine Feehan's Dark Dream. Sara is assaulted at her own home by a Carpathian psycho named Falcon. Needless to say, she falls for him, gives up her personality, character, individuality, and free will so that she will receive the Holy Falcon Fleshpike in return. What else can I say? This is vintage Feehan. Although I'm still waiting for the day she creates a heroine with an IQ better than a Barbie doll's.

Ronda Thompson at least offers some variety. Her novella Midnight Serenade is a werewolf story. Although again, it follows the typical plot of those days when everybody was rushing to write a werewolf romance. Remember those days? It's always about this scientist or woman looking after some lost parent or something stumbling into an injured wolf which she then saves and has sex with. Uhm, when the wolf is in guy form, of course. Anyway, here we have wolf expert Stephanie Shane saving a wolf from some hunters. The wolf tries to bite her in its delirious state, and she has to shoot it with her tranquilizer gun (well, at least she can shoot, which is far more than what I can say of the heroines of the previous novellas). The wolf flees. Next day, she discovers a hunky dude Rick Donovan, who is the wolf, of course. She wants him, he her, but he has to drive her away from her own good, et cetera.

Still, if Steph is a bit dim on werewolf lore to not even know what or who Rick is, she's at least capable of forming sentences on her own without stuttering, looking at her man for guidance, or looking up a dictionary. Her love scenes with Rick don't make me want to cover my eyes and scream for someone to douse me in bleach to get rid of the dirty feeling of mine. Hence, best of the lot, even if it isn't that original either.

All I can say is, After Twilight makes a perfect crash course for how not to write an innovative paranormal romance. If anything, this anthology is a reminder of those old, dark days when every author thinks she's the new Anne Rice with a Byronesque twist or something. I have suffered greatly in those days due to an incessant infliction of stupid and whiny characters on me. I pray LoveSpell isn't planning on starting the Stupid Renaissance all over again. I can't take that, I really can't.

Rating: 46


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