by Anne Avery, Madeline Baker, and Kathleen Morgan; paranormal/futuristic (1994)
Lovespell, $5.50, ISBN 0-505-51974-7
If there is one good reason to read this anthology, it's the ever-reliable Anne Avery's Dream Seeker. The other two stories fade into insignificance beside this brilliant, utterly fantastic futuristic novella, although Kathleen Morgan's The Last Gatekeeper isn't too bad. Madeline Baker's ghost romance Heart Of The Hunter... well... er... you get the idea.
In Ms Baker's Heart Of The Hunter, Kelly McBride, our heroine, travels to a Lakota settlement in Montana to seek out a historical site and search for relics that would make her name in the local historical museum. Her grandfather tells of a hidden cave filled with treasures in a mountain somewhere behind the McBrides' Triple M ranch, and while Kelly thinks the old man may have a bit too much of an imagination, she does find a well-preserved Lakota hunk in her excavation, a dead one. Soon Kelly is being visited by this Lakota ghost, Blue Crow, who guards the treasure. To make things confusing, a real live Lakota hunk, Lee Roan Horse, is strutting his cute butt around and offering to buy Triple M. Kelly won't sell, he won't budge, and you know they're going to have wonderful babies together. Put in some bad guys who also want the treasure and the whole situation becomes a mess.
Part of the problem about this novella is that I have no idea who's the hero - Blue Crow or Lee Roan Horse. Both loves Kelly, and Kelly isn't sure which one she wants to explore her Womanly Pleasures with. This novella is actually one of Ms Baker's better romances and Kelly is brainier than your average buxom blonde bimbo heroine of the many ersatz American Indian romances out there. But most of the time I'm too busy playing guessing games - Lee or Crow? Crow or Lee? Eenie meenie.. - to the point that I'm absolutely lost when the external conflicts start pouring in.
Then there's the wonderful Dream Seeker by Anne Avery. Oh, let me gather my thoughts in readiness for a grant gush. This novella is simply too short - it should have been a grand science fiction trilogy. That's my only quibble with this tour de force.
In a distant galaxy in another gazillion lightyears ahead of our time, people can now bend dimensions to travel great distances. In this sort of space travel, pilots require the mental guidance of those with a gift for psychic navigation to make sense of the nothing they are travelling in. Sort of like ripping holes in space and travelling in the "tunnels" adjoining these holes.
Calee is one such navigator, a "dreamer". She has lived a harsh, brutal life on the streets when she was a child, and now the clean, safe walls of the dreamers' academy is her sanctuary. She never leaves her dreaming chambers for long, and it is in this chamber where she "meets" pilot Bram Mason. Bram needs a guide to help him travel to a distant planet where there might be a rich source of chemicals an enemy could use to make hazardous biological weapons. And Calee is the best dreamer for the job.
Calee has never guided a male before. In fact, she is terrified of men. Yet, she realizes that her fears are nothing compared to the dangers faced by Bram. With a deep breath, she says, "The stars have a voice, pilot. I would share their songs." The magic begins.
She is safe within the confines of her chambers, and he is somewhere adrift in space in his spacecraft, the only thing binding them is a psychic bond. Yet, oh, they slowly learn about each other, things that make them realize they need each other more than they thought. For Calee, she learns the meaning of courage and standing up to actually do something about her fears. And with Bram, a half-Dreamer who spends his life in solitude, Calee slowly turns from a naive yet amusing diversion into his sole link to sanity when things go out of control. Calee touches the vulnerable humanity of him beneath his polished, jaded surface.
And from the initial bumbling introductions to the shared soul-searchings, Calee and Bram succeed in making me believe that yes, they really love and need each other. Their developing relationship is simply beautiful - from the funny way they "see" through each other's eyes ("Your feet are too long!" Calee gasps despite her best intention) to the bittersweet confessions of their fears and yearnings - is simply heartwrenchingly amazing. The beauty of it is made more memorable by the irony that these people are millions of miles apart in reality, separated by lonely outer space, yet in this short moment, they know each other's heart and soul better than most married couple do. And they still haven't a clear idea of how the other look like by the end of the story!
It is the grand ending that cements my opinion about this novella. Keeper - no, make it Grand Keeper Material. You haven't read about lovers willing to die for each other and actually doing it until you've read this story. Thankfully though, there's a happy ending, one that paves the way for future sequels. I really wish the author would expand this novella into a full-length book. Really, I insist!
Kathleen Morgan's The Last Gatekeeper is unfortunate to come after DS. Really unfortunate, as by this time, nothing could match the heady euphoria DS gives me. Karin de Cedrus summons Targe Marwyn, a grand Beastslayer, to help slay a monster terrorizing her people. Thing is, Targe's dead. Who's left is the son Thorn who is not only a brute, he also refuses to "commit suicide" (his words) for a bunch of people he has no care for. But our intrepid heroine has her ways of working this brute into helping her. She kidnaps him. They bicker, he tries to escape, she thwarts his attempts, they kiss, and when they kill the beastie, it's time for some ooh-la-la's. TLG is really a decent story although the hero comes off a selfish and brainless oaf in the first half of the book. It's readable, but well, it is a rather disappointing follow-up to DS.
What this anthology do is to actually make me feel nostalgic about the days when futuristic romances actually can be found on bookshelves. It drives home that a really good futuristic romance is really an experience to savor. Hence in a way Enchanted Crossings is a decent futuristic/ghost anthology that offers some great read, as well as a sad reminder of a genre that has fallen casualty to marketing demographics.
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