By Fate's Hand
by Marilynn Byerly, Anita Lynn, Kathy Greyle, Lucy Grijalva, Bonnie Hamre, Judie Hershner, Candice Kohl, and Alice Gaine Chambers; paranormal (2004)
ImaJinn, $13.75, ISBN 1-893896-20-X


The stories in this anthology share one common feature: a magical needle, created by the Three Fates of Greek mythology, with powers to heal or inspire love (depending on which author is doing the storytelling), falls into the hands of the heroine.

Marilynn Byerly writes the prologue, The Gift, where the three Atropos, Lachesis, and Clotho, collectively known as the three Fates, decide to bestow the needle to romance heroinekind, blah blah blah. Hey, romance heroines, knowing how smart they tend to be, need all the help they can get after all. Personally I'd give a Dummies handbook instead of a needle but that's probably not romantic enough for people.

Kathy Greyle then kicks off things with Between Heaven And Hell. In 450, two knights die at the hands of the Picts and Lady Galiene uses the needle to sew them back to life - don't worry, readers, the heroes are still hot and they aren't definitely Frankenstein monsters in this instance - and teach them about peace and love. One of them and Galiene fall in love so yes, people, falling in love will make God forgive you for everything and anything, especially if you have premarital sex in the process. Maybe it's time for me to rob a bank and then seek absolution by hitting the one-night-stand circuit. I'm sure I'll fall in love with one of those guys. Just ask those Harlequin Blaze heroines.

It's now 1160. Our selfless heroine Grace finds a near-dead warrior and under the guidance of an old witch, stitches him back to life with That Damned Needle. Candice Kohl's The Eye Of The Beholder has me wondering: why is it that all those medieval stories always involve healing in the sickbed? Grace calls herself ugly and plain and unworthy of love and oh, give me that needle and let me just poke my eyes out.

1694. Still in England. Judie Hershner's The Christening Gown sees servant Faith Barnhill taking care of her employer and her employer's kid after the death of the missus of the house. Motherhood and waifishness work their familiar ways in this story. That Damned Needle is of course involved in the whole sleeping with the boss up the social ladder thing.

In 1853 the Damned Needle has had enough of silly caregiving English heroines and flees to America where alas, the women are still plagued by the whole Mothering Her Way To His Heart thing. Bonnie Hamre's All That Glitters features a truly childish heroine whining that she hates being on a wagon trail to Oregon with her husband while she uses that Damned Needle to stitch her wedding quilt. In the end, she learns a valuable lesson: the man is always right and a woman should never complain about wanting a comfortable life because loving a man in the bushes is a much better way of living.

The Golden Hours is next. It's now 1943. California's screaming now that Lucy Grijalva has Marlene MacDonald losing her husband-to-be in Pearl Harbor. Luckily, her husband's best friend Jack Doretta is there to keep her from falling to pieces. The plot device authors use when they really have no ideas left - the Rapist - strikes but Jack saves Marlene in time. Marlene uses you-know-what to stitch back his jacket that was ripped off his muscular body by the overexcited jerk rapist-wannabe and of course, it's love. Awwww. I try to be sympathetic to Marlene, especially considering the setting and her world around her is falling to pieces, but her helplessness and constant emotional neediness get really irritating after a while.

Anita Lynn's Ebony And Ivory is set in 1953 and it's an interracial romance story, if the title isn't obvious enough. Mark and Ruby Dollar decide that they will never have a child because raising a child of mixed race will not be easy especially on the kid. Not to mention, having Dollar as a last name is bad enough. A surprise pregnancy, that Damned Needle, and a neat resolution make this story pleasant to read if only because it's different from the others. It's still too short to be memorable though.

Fast forward to 2040. In North Carolina now, that Damned Needle ends up in Gates Longstreet's dream therapy treatment to cure her imsomnia. No, the cure isn't Gates poking her eyes out. Marilynn Byerly's Sleepless Beauty is to be commended for trying to be different but it tries to do too much in such a short length and the result isn't as coherent as it should be.

Alice Gaines Chambers closes the anthology with The Homecoming. It's now 2500. Apparently everyone uses grey in their artwork now. Alana finds an old tapestry filled with colors and she is inspired to use that Damned Needle to make pretty colors of her own. Her husband Garth then drops a bombshell: he's moving to another planet where it's like Earth today instead of the controlled environment of 2500. Alana doesn't want to move but the Needle will let her know that love means never having to consider her self in the scheme of things and if she wants love, she'd do everything her husband tells her to do.

Stupid needle.

Rating: 64


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