Playing Easy to Get is an anthology containing three stories by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jaid Black and Kresley Cole.
Turn Up the Heat by Sherrilyn Kenyon is the first in the anthology. I’ve never read anything by her before and this short story certainly whetted my appetite for more of her works.
Considering it is a short story there is actually quite a lot packed into it. We are first introduced to our hero, Vince. His life is in peril due to severing ties with a New York crime family. Rescued by his extremely rich brother-in-law, Z, he is sent to hide at an idyllic island.
Meanwhile, the heroine of the piece, Allison, is working a minimum wage job in Georgia and wishes her life were more like the erotic adventure that she is reading. However, her life changes when Margaret Dale, her old school friend walks in to the store and after they spend time catching up, Maggie convinces Sharon to enter a competition that Maggie happens to fix so that Sharon wins. A competition with the prize of heading off to an idyllic island and living the life of a heroine.
The same island where Vince is attempting to keep a low profile.
Because it is such a short story, it’s quite literally love and lust at first sight between the two, feelings reinforced when their lives are put in danger when the mob catches up with Vince.
I’d have liked to have seen more of the other characters such as Z and Maggie May but there was simply no room in this novella. However, this short certainly did its job in that it told its story in an enjoyably way and left me wanting more whilst introducing me to the works of an author I’d not encountered previously.
I’m in two minds over Hunter’s Oath by Jaid Black. On the surface it concerns Sofia who is on her way back to the airport after attending her younger brother’s funeral. Without him, she has no more family and wonders where to go next with her life. However, the decision is taken out of her hands as she is kidnapped by her taxi driver and taken to a remote cabin. It soon transpires that she is to be sold on the auction block as a bride to a Viking.
In the underground city of New Sweden, Johen has no intention of bidding in the auction for a bride and is only at the auction to maintain order. His best intentions go out the window when he sees the outsider standing there, naked on the auction stand and lets his heart rule.
Despite her best intentions and with the help of being unwittingly dosed with an aphrodisiac, it’s all Sofie can do to wait until Johen gets her back to his home before she gives in to her passions.
Being treated as the most valuable thing any man can ever have, amazing hot sex and the realisation that she has nothing and no one to go back to in her old life all conspire to work against her desire to escape. And there we have a short, but intense and hot story of a woman who ends up exactly where she needs to be.
However, underneath the surface (not an intentional pun given the story’s setting, believe me) it’s is the story of a woman who grieving for the last of her family, promptly kidnapped and date raped. Can you say Stockholm syndrome? Or given the setting of this story, I suppose that would be New Stockholm syndrome. Sofia even acknowledges to herself that this is what she’s feeling as her desire to escape wanes.
It was said somewhere (can’t remember where) that if you love someone, you need to let them go. An offer to return Sofie to her world and at least give her the voluntary choice of accepting her new life instead would have made this story much more comfortable reading.
The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole first introduces us to the valkyrie. These are the daughters of women who faced certain death with enough courage to impress the Norse gods Freya and Woden. The valkyrie are immortal warriors who take energy from the earth for sustenance and give it back in the form of lightning when their emotions are high. Oh, and they are easily distracted by shinies. Not your traditional valkyrie escorted fallen warriors, then.
Myst is such a valkyrie and being the daughter of a Pictish woman has been one for a very long time now. Physiologically (and psychologically given her Xbox addiction), she is 25 years old but that doesn’t stop her from being a killing machine when it comes to vampires. And her favourite method of killing them is to blood them and then dispatch them.
This method has worked multiple times until Myst meets Nikolai Wroth, a former human who died and was turned on the battlefield. To blood a vampire basically means to get them to feel once again. For their heart to beat and to breathe. The bad news is that a vampire can only be bloodied by their bride and until sated the vampire gains an overriding impulse to find and mate with their bride. Unfortunately for Nikolai, instead of being killed and ending his torment, Myst leaves with her sisters and leaves him in such a state for five years.
As you can imagine, when Nikolai finally catches up with Myst, he’s a mite vexed with her and promptly abducts. During the past five years, however, strangely for Myst, she has also been yearning for the vampire that she bloodied and left in limbo.
The blooding isn’t really explained whether it’s an unconscious reaction on the part of the vampire or whether it’s something a vampire’s bride can invoke. From what I can gather, it seems to work on a ‘love at first sight’ principle although that’s not really true either because it didn’t happen for Nikolai until he’d spent time with Myst.
So whilst it is a kidnap and hold captive story it’s pretty clear that it’s a willing one. Myst is absolutely hilarious as a warrior with millennia experience under her belt but neither she nor her equally hilarious sisters act like it. Nikolai on the other hand seems to be typical of a man and warrior straight from the sixteenth century. This is apparent when he threatens to make Myst a more compliant bride in quite a heinous way and only an interruption prevents him. Other than that, this is a sterling introduction to a new (to me) series and is would be worth the cost of this anthology alone.
As a side note, Emmaline, a half valkyrie and half vampire is mentioned and her story is told in the first full novel of the series; A Hunger Like No Other. Which I shall certainly be reading!