Beyond Magic
by Susan Kearney, Elaine Cunningham, and Kassandra Sims; paranormal (2008)
Tor Romance, $6.99, ISBN 978-0765355272

Beyond Magic is a mixed bag of an anthology. There isn't any singular unifying theme among the three stories here apart from the fact that they are paranormal romantic stories.

Susan Kearney's The Shimmering tells the story of how our determined journalist heroine Sandra Lowell volunteers to undergo an astral projection session in the name of research, only to realize that the whole process actually works. Cool... until she ends up switching bodies with a princess in a faraway galaxy and married to a purportedly villainous cute guy. This one is a very enjoyable read because of how well the characters click together. Ms Kearney has her characters communicating well and behaving most reasonably. Sandra, especially, is a fabulous heroine. Smart, unapologetic about wanting to be the best in her career, and resourceful, she is a good example of how an author can create a smart and ambitious heroine and still make a romance work. This story is also well-paced wih a good build-up towards the climax. It is easily the best story in this anthology as well as one of the better stories I have read in a while.

Elaine Cunningham presents a paranormal romantic suspense in Beyond Dreams, where our psychic heroine Mary Catherine "Cassie" O'Malley finds herself reunited with her ex-fiancé when that fellow, Nick Ramano, decides to turn himself in for a series of murders that have been taking place. Nick doesn't believe in psychic woo-woo stuff, and given that he has been experiencing dreams where he "witnesses" the murders of those women, there is no explanation other than he's behind them... right? This one is interesting, but yikes. Ms Cunningham has packed so many details in her short story that characters are explaining things to each other all the way until close to the end of the story. This is definitely a story that the author should have saved for that full-length novel because as a short story, this one is way too busy and too detail-packed for its own good.

Kassandra Sims' Hill And Sky is about this witch, Annika Madsen, who wants to distance herself from her abilities but alas, fate has other plans for her. At least, that's what I think this story is about. I've tried reading this story three times and every time I do, my eyes cross by the halfway point. The author has a rambling style that makes it very hard to pay attention to her story. For example, she'd take an entire page to describe what a secondary character is wearing, only to have that character vanish from the story by the next page. Or she'd describe in detail the interior of a building, only to have the heroine exit the building soon after. What Ms Sims needed to elaborate on, she didn't. As a result, I probably know more about what the characters are wearing than I'd like to, but I am left in the dark about how magic works in this story, for example. Also, the characters talk in a stilted manner and the hero in this story talks like a hammy bartender in a honky-tonk bar. File this one under "What on earth is this?"

Beyond Magic starts out good but hits the downhill slide shortly after. Still, Susan Kearney's short story is worth a peek so you may want to at the very least flick through the pages the next time you come across this book in your favorite bookstore.

Rating: 67

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