Creepin'
by LA Banks, Donna Hill, Monica Jackson, JM Jeffries, and Janice Sims; paranormal (2007)
Kimani, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-373-83060-2


Creepin' is a spooky paranormal anthology which promises to deliver plenty of sexual sizzle and sass. Of the authors featured in this anthology, Janice Sims is the only one dipping her toes for the first time into full-fledged paranormal romance.

LA Banks, easily the biggest name of the group when it comes to the urban fantasy subgenre, gets to go first. Payback Is A Bitch is a story with a title that can be taken literally, heh. Goodness, it starts out with a pornographic scene of a threesome involving one man, two women, and plenty of cocaine placed on strategic intimate spots. Sports manager Douglass West may have taken one snort and one hussy too many though as his wife Sidney Coleburn-West is not going to take his nonsense lying down. She offers $20,000 to a mysterious and of course handsome "enforcer" to gather some hard evidence of Douglass' affairs which she can use as a leverage for a problem-free divorce. She ends up being involved in more than she bargained for, however, as Mitchell "Brick" Brickland is an alpha male in the local werewolf pack. Douglass has a few tricks up his sleeve, but like the title says, he's going to regret the day he messes with a woman scorned.

This one is a quick and easy read with plenty of spicy moments between Brick and Sidney. However, as I tend to do with Ms Banks' longer works, I find that some of the prose here a little too stilted, with the characters often delivering monologues instead of spontaneous conversations. As a result, the raw sexuality in this story often clash awkwardly with some of the more stilted prose in this story. It's not easy to get down and enjoy the sizzle when sometimes the author comes off like a pretentious grad student.

Next is Donna Hill's The Heat Of The Night. Heroine Christine faces an unusual problem. While her love life isn't exactly on fire, she has these sexy dreams that always leave her feeling that they may be a bit more... real than she would expect. Is she going crazy? Christine, after all, doesn't go for men in real life, so why is she dreaming about penises? When Christine starts experiencing these episodes where she seems to be sexually assaulted by something she can't see when she's wide awake, perhaps it's time to call in the spook squad.

I have been trying to think of a way to describe the premise of this story in more tasteful terms, but it's pretty much our heroine being driven over the brink by an invisible sex fiend and learning to like these constant assaults on her body even as the line between sanity and insanity begin to blur. The Heat Of The Night leads down a most unexpected direction to culminate with a side of Donna Hill that will probably shock her fans more used to her contemporary romances. I like this one - it's a twisted and macabre story that takes me down the road, so to speak, to a most unexpected side of Donna Hill that I never knew existed.

In Monica Jackson's Vamped, our heroine Joy wants to take her perfect boyfriend Andre to the Black Hole. No, that's not a dirty sentence, the Black Hole is a club. Andre is literally the perfect boyfriend when it comes to looks, personality, and the stability he offers the heroine, except for that eccentric part of him where he never leaves the house except to go to work. In her own words: "You go to work and then rush to your car to come home and don't leave your house until it's time to get into the garage and go to your car again. I can't even pry you out of here on weekends. You even have your freaking groceries delivered!" Joy delivers Andre an ultimatum: they need to compromise if they want the relationship to work and she's tired of being cooped up in the house like some kind of prisoner with him so for this one time, she wants him to come along with her to meet her friends in the Black Hole. It turns out to be a night to remember as she finds herself experiencing her first lesbian experience and subsequently a brawl with a vampire that ends up with her turning into one herself. This leads to a complication: Andre, having been a vampire's thrall, hates vampires, so Joy now has to hide her vampire nature from him.

This is a pretty sweet story despite the graphic language. I admit I'm a little disappointed because I am hoping for more naughty stories such as the one Ms Jackson did for the anthology Dark Thirst. Vamped is nonetheless a most readable story although a part of me feels that this story would have been much better being longer or even a full-length book. There are many things that happen in this story and most of them feel rushed as the story hurtles towards its conclusion.

JM Jeffries' Balancing The Scales sees singer Paloma Alexander coming home early from a business trip only to catch her husband Keith shagging some other woman. The part where Paloma watches her husband go at it feels like a very obvious attempt by the author to fulfill the sex quota of her story, but I have to laugh at this paragraph:

Paloma felt bile rise in her mouth. She swallowed. When her husband finished with Syrah, he lay back and started stroking himself. Syrah leaned on her elbow and watched him. At one point, she checked her watch and Paloma could only stare. Syrah was in the middle of having hot and horny sex with Paloma’s husband and she was checking the time. Did she have a bus to catch?

Paloma rather predictably realizes that her manager husband and her accountant have been systematically fleecing her all these years. It takes Paloma's mother what seems like little effort to discover this, so I really wonder about Paloma's brainpower, especially since she is aware that the signs that her marriage with Keith isn't going well are there all along. Paloma decides that the only way to get back at Keith is to head over to the house of Miss Odile, the voodoo priestess of Bayou La Lune, New Orleans, and ask Miss Odile to put a good hex on that man. The price may be too high to pay, however, as Miss Odile asks for Paloma's voice as payment. Meanwhile, a potential new love looms over the horizon in the form of younger man Darius Montgomery who also happens to be a hotshot moviemaker.

This is a revenge story rather than a romance. I feel really filthy after reading this story. The previous stories have some very graphic language and behavior, but Balancing The Scales crosses the line and becomes outright skanky with all those really coarse scenes that depict sex acts for the sake of titillation. I really don't need to read about Keith's you-know-what smearing the heroine's face, for example. The sex scenes here are rough, not tender, and not... nice. It's all about people using each other. As a result, this one is too skanky and tawdry for my liking.

While the previous stories are more cynical in nature, Janice Sims' closing story Avenging Angel has lines starkly drawn between good and evil. Detective Sarai Wingate is married and from all appearances looks like a human being, but she is actually an angel out to hunt down criminals with a vengeance. When an ex-boyfriend who also happens to be an angel of the opposite faction reenters her life and seeks to get her back whether she likes it or not, Sarai knows that there is going to be trouble in her marriage with Daniel.

While the clear good versus evil theme in this story can be a refreshing change after four consecutive "We're so cool and bad-ass, woo-hoo!" stories, there are way too many things taking place in this story. The above brief synopsis barely touches the subplots taking place here or the out-of-the-blue late appearance of a villain. Avenging Angel has some pretty interesting take on the Nephilim and I believe Ms Sims has enough to create a paranormal series from here if she chooses to do so. However, this story has too many things going on. The result is a rushed story where many things aren't developed as well as they should be. It's an interesting story that isn't as well-executed as it should be.

Creepin' has five very different stories here with each one being interesting in its own way, so I can't say I'm bored while reading this anthology. I especially like the stories by Monica Jackson, Donna Hill, and Janice Sims but often, it feels as if the authors contributing to the anthology have better ideas than execution. Each story is interesting, but each story apart from Donna Hill's also has some kind of fundamental flaw. As a result, Creepin' is like a small nibble instead of a satisfying meal. I like what the authors have done here, but I also find myself wishing that these stories are longer so that all those kinks presented by length constraints can be ironed out, especially for Avenging Angel, which could have been a really bad-ass story, I suspect, if the author has some 100 or more pages to work with.

Rating: 80


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