A Whole New World -ARCs Galore & Review for Villains, Inc.

I’m new to the world of ARCs, but instead of cautiously dipping a toe in, I’ve jumped in head-first! I’m very excited about the e-books I’ve received for review and the genres they span, from sci-fi/fantasy to LGBT+ and horror! 😀

My gratitude to the publishers who approved me for the following:

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Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn – I’ve been dying to read this ever since I heard about it a couple months ago, and I’m psyched to have an ARC! (undying gratitude to Berkley Publishing Group)

The House at the End of the Street by Stephanie E Kusiak – a lesbian ghost love story? *makes grabby hands* There’s always stories about ghosts wreaking havoc and vengeance, and it’s nice to have one where the ghost falls in love for a change. #notallghosts (gracias, Sapphire Books Publishing)

Gun To My Head by Dira Lewis – a gay vampire romance? Yes, please! Look at that, a vampire that WANTS to win the love interest over instead of brooding and alienating them, how refreshing! (thank you, Less Than Three Press)

The Binding by Nicholas Wolff – in my recent post with my Horror Books Round-Up, I discussed Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt about a town under a curse. The synopsis for The Binding has a similar premise about a town afflicted by dark forces, which is my personal catnip – I enjoy when not one person, not one family, but the ENTIRE TOWN is at stake! (grazie, Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books)

And now let me talk about Villains, Inc, very kindly sent to me by Less Than Three Press.

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Expected Date of Publication: June 15th, 2016
Word Count: 90,000 words (e-book)
Genre: LGBT+ Anthology
Synopsis
: (taken from NetGalley)

For too long, heroes have gotten all the attention. But the glory doesn’t always go the presumed good guys. From super villains and anti-heroes to thieves and monsters, these stories focus on the baddies long overdue for a chance in the spotlight.

Villains, Inc. is an anthology of LGBTQIA romance featuring villains finding love. This anthology is 90,000 words in length, contains explicit content, and features six stories by authors Helena Maeve, Stephanie Rabig, Cassandra Pierce, Michelle Chow, Sumi, and A.D. Truax. 

I don’t normally read anthologies, but I love the concept behind this one. Villains are pretty much always my favorite characters and given that they’re opposing the hero, they usually don’t get the happy ending I’d want for them, so as soon as I heard about a collection of stories featuring villains finding love, I was ecstatic. 😀

That said, I had mixed reactions to the stories featured in Villains, Inc. which I’ll address individually.


*When Shadows Touch Mountains by Helena Maeve – I had some difficulty here as I’m used to reading a blurb to get an idea of the main characters and the principal relationship that will develop. Since there wasn’t one for this story, I was left floundering because I didn’t know whether the romance in question was going to be between Kirth and Mordred or Kirth and Tusandro.

In the end, it didn’t really matter because while the relationship was consummated physically, I didn’t feel there was any real development of an emotional connection between the characters. The plot itself was interesting and I liked this take on the Arthur/Camelot myth, but as a romance, it didn’t succeed for me.


*Strait of Monsters by Stephanie Rabig – after the first story, all the others were much easier to follow in that I could clearly identify the romantic pairing that was destined for the Happily-Ever-After treatment. Medusa is a mythological character I’ve always thought was hard done by and unfairly treated, so I enjoyed getting to read about her finding love, especially as this story featured a trans character. That made the stakes a lot higher and the relationship more precarious as there was no guarantee whether Chryssa would be petrified by her gaze or not. I liked that it followed a more traditional romantic arc (unlike the previous story) with the characters spending time together and growing fond of one another which allowed me to become invested in their relationship.


*Famished by Cassandra Pierce – this was an entertaining enough take on the usual gothic romance with the dewy-eyed ingenue coming to the dark ominous manor ruled over by the brooding lord, only with a gay relationship. While it was easy reading, I thought the characters fell for each other far too quickly to be realistic – Elwyn in particular is far more reprehensible than the previous ‘villains’, as we see him cold-heartedly plotting the death of a couple characters, and yet he is won over by the earnestly virtuous Clive in less than a day and reconsidering his devotion to maintaining the dark family legacy as a result. The turn-around in his character wasn’t believable and the resolution to the central obstacle was so ridiculously simple that it makes no sense why he didn’t do it years ago.


*Vinc by Michelle Chow – this story featured a very original approach to the were-creature myth, I’ve never come across a were-salamander before! It was quite a relief to read about something other than the usual werewolf characters which have saturated the market. Tyler was a very sympathetic protagonist, struggling to reconcile the craving for fire that is innate to his were-salamander nature with the potential for causing death and destruction.

I very much enjoyed reading his story and his interactions with other characters, but I felt short-changed on the romance. Honestly, it was 99% friendship right til the third-last paragraph. I understand that there are limitations to the amount of character development and relationship progression that can be portrayed in a short story, but there was a complete lack of romantic tension between Tyler and his partner, which made the ending a bit abrupt. I wish this had been fleshed out just a little bit more because it left me hanging – there wasn’t even so much as a kiss!


*Good Things Come by Sumi – this story has completely the opposite issue from the above – the couple featured here have a lot of sex, and there’s very little development of a connection between them. I don’t understand when or why or how Erigus came to care so much for Jeff that he was willing to risk the wrath of hell for his sake and even less why Jeff was willing to take on hell to be with Erigus.

The whole relationship seemed a bit dubious to begin with considering Erigus being an incubus and having sex with Jeff even if it was in dreams, and we don’t get to see Jeff dealing with that and how he moves past it to decide to give Erigus another chance. This isn’t really a love story at all, considering how tepid and apathetic Jeff is about his feelings for Erigus in the end.


*Mandelbrot by A. D. Truax – the best was saved for last. I absolutely adored this story! It was witty, humorous, had fantastic character development, wonderful chemistry between the leads and had me rooting for their happy ending. I would’ve happily read a full-length novel version, but in its short form, it really shows off how well the style can be executed. There was good world-building along with a proper plot arc and resolution, and I didn’t feel short-changed at all, it was completely satisfying. I loved the characters and really enjoyed reading about their interactions and slowly progressing relationship from kidnapper/hostage to romantic partners!


Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 kitties approve this anthology.

3cats

Disclaimer: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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