Dead After Dark is sure to attract a lot of fans with its inclusion of stories by paranomal romance heavyweights J. R. Ward and Sherrilyn Kenyon. Rounding out the author quartet is Dianna Love, Kenyon's writing partner for her B.A.D. series, and Susan Squires who authors a long running vampire series.
My favorite story out of the four stories was "Story of Son" by J. R. Ward, though I have enjoyed her Black Dagger Brotherhood I am not a fangirl (well, not an extreme fangirl), so it wasn't a problem that the story was not connected to that series. Here Ward tells the story of a workaholic lawyer Claire who finds herself kidnapped and trapped with the inhumanly beautiful vampire son of a client. The son has been imprisoned alone in the basement for decades except for three days a year when mom provides a woman to feed upon, this time Claire's dinner. --- I loved Ward's hero, whom Claire names Michael. Michael is beautiful, tragic, shy and vulnerable, and alternately, powerful and dominating as Claire's acceptance stirs his passion in addition to his hunger. The story was both sweet and steamy, and I liked it so well that I went back for a second read. (5 stars)
Also enjoyable was Dianna Love's "Midnight Kiss Goodbye". Trey returns home to find Sasha, the woman he spurned but still loves, in danger from one of his magical enemies. Drew made the difficult decision to leave in order to spare Sasha the burden of his secret magical heritage, but Sasha has her own magical secrets and the attraction between them still burns bright. Now Drew must again choose and this time the fate of the world hangs in the balance, but how can he possibly give Sasha up again? --- Though I do admit that this story was stuffed to the gills with world building, but (mixing my metaphors I know) author Love sows the promising seeds for what I hope is the start of a new series with magical warriors, gods/goddesses and witches. I liked Trey a lot but I definitely want more of Lucien. -- (4 stars)
Susan Squires' "Beyond the Night" - Andrew was framed for a crime as punishment for loving a women above his station, and left to rot on a prison ship, but fate stepped in and Andrew made his fortune as a pirate. Now as the gentleman `Drew' he returns to pursue vengeance. Acquiring a manor for his base of operations, Drew finds his new home haunted, but he is overcome not by fear, but by lust for the bloodsucking ghostly beauty who hides from her past. --- I am not a fan of Squires' `Companion' vampire romances in general, but this one was pretty good, even though the Drew's transition from his lifelong purpose of vengeance to acceptance of eternal love was a bit rushed. (3.5 stars)
"Shadow of the Moon" is Kenyon's story of were hunter wolf Fury - one of Vane's long suffering brothers - who had a significant supporting role in Night Play. When an attack leaves a lion shifter mysteriously trapped in his animal form, Fury sniffs out that the attackers were members of his old clan - including the best friend, Angelia, whose betrayal nearly cost him his life. Having learned his lesson the hard way , Fury has used his sarcastic attitude as protection to keep everyone at a distance, but now the acceptance by his brothers has put a chink in his armor, and memories of the woman he once trusted and loved again put his heart and life in danger. --- I have loved Fury since Night Play - poor Fury, fate really played a cruel joke on him - and it was fun to see old favorites Fang, Bride and Vane,( and Zarek) one more time. Fury himself held up his end of the story here just fine. In fact, the parts with Fury and his sniping verbal games with the Bears at Sanctuary and the bits with Bride and Fury's pack at dinner made the story worth reading for Fury fans. But as far as the story in general and the romance between Fury and Angelia in specific, "Shadow of the Moon" was screaming to be a full length novel. There is a great deal of back-story - for Katagaria (animals that shift to human) and Acadians (humans that shift to animal) and for Fury's family in particular - that even fans may have forgotten. And while Kenyon did do a great job of working Fury up to the peak of disgust for Angelia's ignorance and cruelty, the middle was missing from Fury's reconcilement with Angelia. I never got to the point where I liked Angelia and felt she was worthy of a second chance with Fury and that, along with her abrupt change in attitude and Fury's too easy forgiveness, meant that the story wasn't really satisfying from a romance standpoint. -- For maximum enjoyment read/reread Night Play before reading this one - after reading this the first time I reread Night Play and I enjoyed the story so much more on the second read. (3.5 stars the 1st read, 4 stars the second)
Out of the four stories here, only Ward's was truly satisfying as a short story and romance, the rest of the three had very detailed build-ups but the resolutions felt rushed - Love's and Kenyon's had so much going on in the background that they really needed to be full length novels. Additionally, Squire's (along with Kenyon's) relied on the reader having knowledge of a long running series to understand all that was going on in the story. Overall I enjoyed Dead After Dark, but if you are not a fan of short stories, even if you are a Ward/Kenyon fan, this may not be the anthology to win you over.