by Lynn Kurland, Madeline Hunter, Karen Marie Moning, and Sherrilyn Kenyon; historical/fantasy (2002)
Jove, $7.99, ISBN 0-515-13362-0

This anthology is loosed connected by the fact that a tapestry or tapestry-making is involved in each novella. The tapestry, however, only plays a really important role in Karen Marie Moning's novella and to a much lesser extent in Sherrilyn Kenyon's. Incidentally, both of these novellas are fantasy novellas, while Lynn Kurland and Madeline Hunter offer straightforward historicals.

Let's start with the reason Jove feels justified to sic a $7.99 cover price on this book: Lynn Kurland. Her novella To Kiss In The Shadows is the latest in her de Piaget saga. I've long stopped trying to figure out who is who, so I'll just say this is the story of one Jason de Piaget saving badly-scarred damsel-in-distress Linet of Byford. When she is poisoned in some catfight involving her and Jason's brother (please don't ask), Jason nurses her and sweeps her from her dreary existance into a much better one.

I can go on about Jason's reputation as a warlock, et cetera, but who cares? This is a pure rescue fantasy, no ifs or buts, with our heroine doing very little actually to earn her happy ending. That guy and his stupid, martyr-friendly wife from This Is All I Ask make pointless appearances.

All in all, neither here nor there.

Madeline Hunter's An Interrupted Tapestry is the most excruciating of all four, believe it or not. A medieval romance, this one sees a most familiar scenario taking place.

Giselle von Birdbrain charges into her brother's friend Andreas von Brennan's house. Yes, her brother has lost a lot of money and more to Andreas, and she is determined to pay him back. Even if she has nothing to pay him back with. When she learns that her brother has lost everything - everything! - she offers her tapestry heirloom for payment. She learns that that too has been made a collateral in a recent loan. Oops. Bitterly, she laments that she has only her virtue left, but surely that doesn't worth much! (Remember that she thinks herself plain or something like all braindead beautiful heroines do.) Then she is insulted when he seems to consider that virtue thing seriously and snaps around like a harridan.

Later, she will be just as insulted when she learns that her brother has offered her to Andreas before, and Andreas turned the offer down. Because, damn it, now that proves that he doesn't want her!

(I'd imagine that that proves how much Andreas, who has been wanting her all along, respects her, but hey, I'm just a reader, not a heroine who insists she's butt-ugly and whose brother never gets me into hot water debts that require me to strip for mercy sex, so what the heck do I know anyway? Carry on, Birdbrain.)

This novella trundles down the excruciatingly bumpy path. He rescues her from her creditors, using, naturally, his powerful position. This is lost on Birdbrain, who whines that life is unfair, and worse, Andreas is so unfair. Why is he unfair, I have no idea. Birdbrain doesn't seem to get it that it is her position in life and the unfairness of the whole social hierarchy are the only things saving her from servicing the sailors at the docks, hence her whining that she is so wrongly shafted. She then blames Andreas for everything.

Naturally, brother is missing, Andreas saves the day, and our heroine gets her happy ending despite acting like an emotionally incompetent shrew. Stick to longer length novels, please, Ms Hunter.

Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dragonswan is an introduction to her new fantasy romance setting. It's a lovely piece that the Society of Furry Love and Beastie Love Anthomorphoeroticism (ie guys and gals into half-man/half-beast sex fantasies, think your Animorph kids growing up and having orgies everywhere) will love.

Our hero Sebastian is an Arcadian. The Arcadians are a bunch of were-beast like race who are at odds with the Katagarians. To cut the fascinating backstory short, Arcadians are the good guys while the Katagarians are the baddies. While lurking around modern day Earth, he has a one-night stand with "Oh, I'm so plain, so don't touch my lush, full-bodied figure (to use Ms Kenyon's own description of her heroine) - NO! - don't caress my long shiny tresses - NO! - don't even think of - oooh! Ooooh!" Dr Channon McRae. She is a historian studying a tapestry when he appears to oh-oh-oh her lush, full but oh-so plain body (does the brainiac woman here ever look at herself in the mirror after showering, or does she bathe with a raincoat on?).

Then it turns out that she is his mate (thanks to some cheap electrostatic marker pen skin tattoo thing), and as our hero ponders about this lovely interspecies relationship, they go on a time-travel/paranormal road trip. I really like that road trip, because it is some of the better fantasy romance scenarios I've come across. I don't really care about Sebastian, your stock superendowed hero, or Channon, the drop dead gorgeous beauty with low self-esteem "What the heck?" issues who is also happens to a stereotypical no-brain brainiac type.

If this author plays her cards right, she'll render Dara Joy irrelevant. Besides, Sherrilyn Kenyon has a much cooler website than Dara Joy.

Finally, Karen Marie Moning's Into The Dreaming. This story has a nice, almost inhuman hero redeemed back to love, one of my favorite themes in romance.

The King of the Unseelie Court of Darkness always take a human to train as his personal assassin. This assassin is called the Vengeance and he will be the one to do the King's dirty works in the mortal realm. First century dude Aeden MacKinnon becomes the King's latest prisoner in exchange for his clan's safety, and the King, in the centuries to come, he slowly tortures and twists Aeden until almost no trace of humanity remains in that poor loser.

The Queen of the Seelie Court of Light decides to save Aeden. To do this, she will exploit the contract made between Aeden and the King. If Aeden can find someone to love him in that one month the King will grant him reprieve from his Vengeance duties, Aeden will be free.

Where can she find such a pathetic heroine?

Well, meet Jane Sillee, our modern day Cafeteria Barbette and aspiring romance author. The Queen has sneakily given her a tapestry with our hero's handsome face in it. Before she receives this tapestry, Jane has already been having hot dreams about that guy. So she touches the cloth and woosh! Lookee here, who's the guy beside her now but Aeden himself! And she's back in time in fifteenth century Scotland too.

This novella, unfortunately, can't be more Mary Sue than if it comes with ponytails and pink frilly ribbons. Jane Sillee is so obviously the author living out her fantasy. Seriously, she even prods at the critics who calls her books purple, she talks about her love-hate relationship with the postman (who must be a clumsy dolt because he keeps losing the good letters and only brings her rejection slips, that sort of thing), and of course, she is the prettiest, purest, the most understanding heroine who can see into the goodness of our hero's heart like no one else could. The trouble is, when the author is happily living out her fantasy, it's her fantasy. I cannot see the goodness in Aeden's heart - I know it's there, for this is a romance novel, but I don't see it - but Jane knows it's there from the start. She believes in him when everyone is convinced that he's psychobrute on the loose. She trusts him, because she is his soulmate! And he, touched by her Pure Love, regains his humanity.

I really doubt that if Ms Moning actually finds herself living out this story, she'll be that fast to put her heroine in a happy ending where a milk cow and sex on rush-covered castle floors are preferable compared to modern plumbing.

This one, however, has some really nice humor - if Jane Sillee is Ms Moning's Mary Sue, she isn't above using her Mary Sue to poke gentle fun at her own occupation or even prose - which easily makes it my favorite of the four. It makes me laugh, for one.

I find the fantasy novellas much more interesting than the straighforward historicals. Ms Kenyon's romance is pretty mundane, but her fantasy setting and the whole I-slept-with-a-beastie fun makes me want to read more. Ms Moning's silly romance is a hoot, even if the heroine is a walking, gullible target for serial killers everywhere. Ms Kurland's story isn't bad, but it's a rescue fantasy of a martyr-happy woman. Ms Hunter's novella... bleh.

Anyway, Tapestry is not a bad read on the whole. The price tag of this book, however, is another story. Proceed with caution, people. Remember: it's not a crime to trick your friend into buying this book and then lending it to you.

Rating: 68

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