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Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy (2015) edited by Jordan Castillo Price

“Dim Sum Asylum” (2015) by Rhys Ford
“Swift and the Black Dog” (2015) by Ginn Hale
“A Queer Trade” (2015) by KJ Charles
“Magically Delicious” (2015) by Nicole Kimberling
“Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns” (2015) by Jordan Castillo Price
“The Thirteenth Hex” (2015) by Jordan L Hawk
“The Soldati Prince” (2015) by Charlie Cochet
“One Hex Too Many” (2015) by Lou Harper
“Josh of the Damned vs. The Bathroom of Doom” (2015) by Andrea Speed
“The Trouble With Hexes” (2015) by Astrid Amara

This is, like all anthologies, a variety of stories, some of which I enjoyed, one of which I utterly despised, and some of which were MEH. In other words, a good selection and variety.

“Dim Sum Asylum” (2015) by Rhys Ford

This is a parallel Earth story, where fae and magic exist in what is otherwise our modern world.

The main character is a cop who is half fae, and takes chances he shouldn’t, because he is still grieving the murder of his husband and their daughters in rioting.

No matter how small something was, if it had teeth and it was angry, it was something to be reckoned with.

I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Chinatown–especially the actual dragons guarding the area.

We’d tapped for backup on our phones as soon as we hit the roof, but dispatch hadn’t promised anything other best wishes and maybe a cup of hot coffee when we got back.

My only negative is that in most law enforcement agencies, there are reasons partners aren’t supposed to be involved, but perhaps magical police have different standards.

I’d read another story set in this world or with these characters.

“Swift and the Black Dog” (2015) by Ginn Hale

I’d categorize this more as straight-up fantasy with a generous helping of dystopia, and I really dislike dystopias, so this story wasn’t really for me.

That said, it was interesting. It tells of what happens to the heroes after the revolution.

“Wizard’s Ways aren’t like what they show in the films,” Jack replied. “It’s not like we sit down and decide. I didn’t think to myself, I’m gonna work magic by smoking and being kicked through a six-story window. My Way just came out of that.”

“A Queer Trade” (2015) by KJ Charles

I’ve read this before, and enjoyed it the second time through.

“Is that your stuff making that bloody noise?”

Tredarloe’s mouth dropped open. “You can hear it?”

“I can’t hear it. That’s the problem.” 

“Yes!” Tredarloe said. “That’s exactly what it’s meant to sound like!”

“It sounds like something you can’t hear?” Tredarloe just gave him a look, and Ned shrugged. “All right, yes. It sounds like something I can’t hear, and I’ve been not hearing it for three days.”

KJ Charles writes diverse British historicals–in this story one of the characters is Black, and buys and collects waste paper to sell. Racism exists in this world, as does homophobia, but they’re not the central parts of the story.

My point being the true past isn’t white-washed or treated as nicer than it was, but her characters have lives and adventures that are outside of their being Black or gay.

he’d learned his letters off a book of fairy tales, and if you could trust that, which you might as well after everything today, throwing magic stuff in rivers never worked for long.

I still really love that bit.

“Magically Delicious” (2015) by Nicole Kimberling

This is another parallel Earth story, where it’s our modern world but with magic and fae creatures.

The main character, Keith, is in a relationship with Gunther, a transmorgified snow-goblin who also works as a special agent, but they are NOT work partners.

Snow goblins—that is goblins who had not undergone transmogrification—looked like creatures of nightmare. They seemed to be made entirely of spiky, white bone. Blood red pits smoldered where their eyes should have been and they had more teeth than a barracuda, even when just born. Keith had now gazed upon many small, toothy creatures being held by proud parents or grandparents. 

He mentally crossed his fingers, hoping for a pink or blue hat that would help him figure out the gender, at least.

Because Gunther is a transmorgified snow-goblin, he’s unnaturally attractive, and so Keith sometimes feels insecure about their relationship, but it doesn’t actually cause Big Misunderstandings, which I very much appreciated.

Also, Gunther’s parents are adorable.

On the day that Gunther had moved in with Keith, she had taken Keith aside and pressed a small spiral notebook into his hand. Written on the pages were her precious, famous and well-guarded recipes for goblin favorites such as Cracked Hot-Pepper Marrow Bones, Sheep Skull Surprise (the surprise turned out to be extra eyeballs sewn into the sheep’s mouth), and Goblin-style Pig Trotters, which were traditionally served raw in a bowl of vinegar, and garnished with whole bulbs of garlic cut crosswise and seared on the edge of a heated scimitar. On the first page of the notebook she’d made a special note that Gunther, like all goblins, was sensitive to salt and could only abide the smallest amount on special occasions. Then she’d drawn a little, anatomically-correct heart.

That’s so cute.

I also like that Kieth doesn’t have magical powers–he is a food inspector, which is extremely unglamourous, but he knows that his job is important, and he enjoys it–but when Gunther is attacked, that doesn’t mean he won’t do everything he can to find out who hurt his boyfriend.

I’d definitely read another story about these two.

“Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns” (2015) by Jordan Castillo Price

This is a Halloween story with a couple who are both telepaths, but have different strengths and abilities.

They go to a theater where Vic experienced his first ghost–to see if the ghost is still there.

The ghost bit I liked. The rest of the story was kinda all over the place for me.

“The Thirteenth Hex” (2015) by Jordan L Hawk

I’ve read Jordan Hawk’s stories set in this world before and although they are interesting, they just aren’t really my thing.

They’re Gaslamp historicals, where it’s mostly our past, just with magic and witches and their familiars.

I think what I don’t like about these stories / this world is the sense of unavoidable fate where witches and their familiars are concerned.

I won’t avoid another of the stories set in their world if I come across one, but I also won’t seek them out.

“The Soldati Prince” (2015) by Charlie Cochet

This story I actually hated.

As noted in the previous story, I really dislike “fated mates” stories, and that’s what this is.

“Hey, if you want to be friends, that’s cool, but friends don’t kidnap each other or chain each other up. Okay, maybe some do, but why don’t we start small? Maybe grab a cup of coffee instead?”

UGH UGH UGH.

I really cannot stand stories where the characters seemingly have no free will in their lives and especially their relationships. And the manipulation of the goddess makes it clear that these two really didn’t have any choice in the matter, regardless of the words said.

I really did NOT see why either character “fell in love” with the other. The king is a jerk to Riley–and kinda also to everyone around him. Perhaps it’s just because he doesn’t like what the fates have decreed, which is fine, but he didn’t seen to change his behavior enough for me to see why Riley fell for him–and vice versa.

And all the conflict in the story seems like it was randomly manufactured by the gods or whomever for plot reasons and … GRRRR. The whole thing just made me angry.

“One Hex Too Many” (2015) by Lou Harper

The main character believes he’s cursed to lose all his partners, and so doesn’t want the new partner he’s assigned, because he doesn’t want anything to happen to the guy.

There were some things I really liked about this story–specifically many of the policing bits.

TV shows like ECD, New Skye and its many spin-offs made people think the workday of an extramundane investigator was full of car chases and deadly exchanges of magic. Oh, and spiffy gadgets that could tell you the perp’s magical specialization from a whiff of residuum. As if.

In reality, you rarely cast a serious spell on the job. The paperwork that followed was punitive. But I figured the realistic portrayal of a cop’s job would’ve made for boring television.

I did, however, have two problems with this story. First is the one I had with previous stories–there are reasons law enforcement officers aren’t supposed to be in romantic relationships with their partners. I don’t like that being thrown away by people who are supposed to be good law-enforcement officers.

Secondly, there’s this:

Out in the hallway he sighed with obvious relief. “Thanks, man. Leslie has a very strong charm. And I’m not even gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with it,” he added in a rush.

If, perhaps, this was a novella or a full length book instead of a short story, I could have gotten past this. But no, Fox says (and believes) he’s straight. I just don’t see him jumping into bed with Mike after just a few days working with him. ESPECIALLY since they’re partners.

Which is too bad, because I quite liked the mystery part of the story.

“Josh of the Damned vs. The Bathroom of Doom” (2015) by Andrea Speed

This story is 100% batshit crazy.

It was a zombie feeding frenzy, but because they were hamsters it was adorable. 

That doesn’t mean it’s not amusing, because it is, but holy shit–this is NUTS.

You couldn’t get crazier, even if you fed meth and bath salts to an entire mental ward and set them loose at Burning Man. 

Mind you, I actually made Michael read this story because it’s so bonkers it was kinda hilarious.

“The Trouble With Hexes” (2015) by Astrid Amara

Tim shows up at his ex’s place of work, because he really doesn’t know where else to turn. Tim and Vincent broke up because Tim didn’t quite believe in the hexbreaking Vincent was supposed to be doing, and really didn’t like the damage Vincent was deliberately doing to himself for it.

Both had reasons to be unhappy with each other, but there was also a strong element of misunderstanding with that–Tim can’t see why Vincent is taking drugs that might well kill him just because he thinks it’s helping his aunt, and Vincent was hurt that Tim didn’t believe that what he was doing was important.

If there were hexes, then there could be ghosts. Vampires. Hell, a weight loss pill that worked. Anything was possible.

I actually guessed pretty quickly who the baddie was in this story, but that’s ok because I could also see why it was so difficult for Tim and Vincent to see that themselves. I also liked that both of them worked in their own ways to help people; Tim as a private investigator and Vincent as hex-breaker.

I’d definitely read more stories with these characters.

Publisher: JCP Books LLC
Rating: 8.5/10

Categories: 8/10, Anthology, Fantasy, LGBT, Romance, Sexual Content, Supernatural     Comments (0)    



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