Secrets Volume 14
by Angela Knight, Alexa Aames, Leigh Wyndfield, and Jennifer Barlowe; romantic erotica (2005)
Red Sage Publishing, $12.99, 0-9754516-4-2

Oh boy, I think the cover of Secrets Volume 14 qualifies as the ugliest of all the covers of the anthologies so far. It looks like a scene from a cheap Madonna music video, only this time someone has forgotten to apply make-up first on the two of them. The stories in this anthology are pretty good and that's a good thing considering how this franchise has been missing the mark of late. The plots aren't some familiar rehash of the same old and the characters are pretty interesting. It's like the franchise has been struck by lightning and has become positively inspired as a result!

Alexa Aames' Temptation In Time has our heroine Ariana earning herself the enmity and obsessive attention of the sorcerer Marcus de Grey when she kisses him as a magical way to escape the fourteenth century. Living in the twenty-first century now, Ariana certainly enjoys the independence granted to a woman in this modern era compared to the fourteenth century, but Marcus has never forgotten her. It is perhaps inevitable that one day he manages to find her and bring her back to his time. Marcus is an excellent seductive hero and Ariana is... well, she doesn't grate on my nerves despite her wanting to be some goody-goody two-shoes lady so for the most part she's a pretty decent heroine. I like this story and I wish it is longer.

Jennifer Barlowe's Ailis And The Beast starts out on an engaging pace but it soon falters quickly but the main couple have a very romantic thing going between them. Set in a primitive fantasy setting, our Ailis is going to be sacrificed to a mysterious bestial creature in an annual religious ritual. However, trust our heroine to realize that the beastman is actually pretty likeable and she and he will soon be making whoopee like it's the end of the world. Which it may very well be, heh. After the initial gripping set-up to the point where Ariana starts to realize that her beastman is more than meets the eye, the story unfortunately peters off to a slow pace due to the noticeable lack of conflict as our twosome's happy "When Ayla meets Jondalar" show takes over. I find it hard to imagine that love can happen in such a short time in this story but Ms Barlowe must be commended for setting up an interesting canon for her story and attempting to go beyond the call of duty in actualizing her setting. And the whole Ayla-meets-Jondalar happy-happy-joy second half of the story aside, this is an interesting story and I wish it is longer so that Ms Barlowe has a chance to develop her story and characters further.

Leigh Wyndfield really should write a full-length novel. Her Night Heat, like her story in the previous anthology, would have been so much better if it's longer. Set on an abandoned planet where a bunch of people are fighting for their lives against vicious velociraptor-like monsters called the Velopeds. Our heroine, Jemma, may be a healer but she can hold her own pretty well while our hero Rip Bowhite is a peaceful guy who isn't above kicking monster butt when the situation demands that he do so. This is a violent story where passion is sometimes a way to deal with the fact that you can die anytime soon. Ms Wyndfield has the pacing, the urgency, and the sense of danger set down very well. The downside is that I don't know much about the characters or their situation when the story ends, which is understandable considering that this is a short story. Won't someone put me and Ms Wyndfield out of our collective misery and give her a chance to come up with a full-length book? I really, really wish this story is longer.

Angela Knight's Soul Kisses boasts her trademark steamy sensuality and alpha heroes, and expectedly, this is a vampire story. In fact, this story is related to Ms Knight's full-length novel for Red Sage Publishing, The Forever Kiss. Here, our heroine Beth Chase is one of those Kith humans that can be turned into vampires and our bad vampire Joaquin Ramirez decides that she will make a good slave because she can help him increase his vampiric powers. Our heroes Morgan and Garret Axton have an ax to grind with Joaquin and this is how Beth come between the two men and Joaquin. Both men, also vampires, decide to save Beth after they have rescued her from Joaquin by completing the process of turning her into a vampiress. Okay, we have two heroes and one heroine. No matter how we look at things, we have one spare hero to go, right? Right? Heh heh heh, I'll let readers of this short story find out for themselves how Ms Knight handles the issue of a spare. Oh, and at this point it's a given that I wish that this story is longer.

When I wish all four stories are longer because they all intrigued me in one way or the other as well as they are fun and sexy reads in their own right, what can I say? I am not expecting much when I start on this anthology but I end up thinking that Secrets Volume 14 may just be the best one out of all the Secrets anthologies Red Sage Publishing has so far put out!

Rating: 85

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