From my own expectations, I am guessing that Never After is not at all what most readers are expecting from an anthology headlined by Laurell K Hamilton. In fact, though the mention of a couple topics here and there keeps these from being kiddy bedtime fairy tales, the four stories are pretty much G rated - a kiss is as racy as things get.
1) "Can he Bake a Cherry Pie" -Laurell K Hamilton - Our heroine would rather die than marry her intended, so she sets off on a `suicidal mission' to rescue a legendary prince - I haven't read much by Hamilton, but I suspect fans will think she's been kidnapped by aliens. Neither of Hamilton's normal heroines (Anita or Merry) are anywhere in sight and Hamilton's offering feels like the type of a classic fairy tale that you'd read to your daughters, because `I'm gonna rescue myself' is a much better lesson than `someday my prince will come'. (3.5 stars - 36 pages)
2) "Shadow of the Mist" - Yasmine Galenorn - The selkie heroine in Galenorn's tale gets a little help from the D'Artigo sisters (and Smokey) when a horrid prince from her past threatens the happily ever after which is at long last within her grasp - Readers who follow Galenorn's Sisters of the Moon series will likely enjoy this one but I just am not a fan - though I've tried - and I lost interest about mid-way through and ended up skimming the rest (2 stars - 105 pages)
3) "Tangleroot Palace" - Marjorie M Liu - A princess seeks an alternative to marriage with a barbarian warlord by journeying to a dangerous enchanted forest and hooks up with an intriguing troupe of traveling entertainers - This one was probably my favorite of the four, I liked the down to earth princess and the 'fearsome' warlord. (4 stars - 89 pages)
4) "The Wrong Bridegroom" - Sharon Shinn- A tie in a contest for a princess' hand results in two vastly different potential bridegrooms. Both have it all strength, bravery and brains, but who is really Mr. Right and who is Mr. Wrong? - I have never read anything from Shinn before, but I ended up liking the hero and the ending of the story a great deal and this story was really long enough to develop the supporting characters and to allow the princess to grow past her shallow beginnings. (4 stars - 150 pages)
If you've always wanted to see how well your favorite authors' writing holds up when there is no steamy stuff to pump up the volume, here's your chance. For me, expectations are pretty hard to overcome, so I didn't love Never After, but it was a pleasant enough read for a change of pace.