Any book with the word "Best" in the title has the potential for disappointment, especially in the crowded genre of paranormal romance. However, this book is not disappointing in the least and is instead a great collection of short stories within this tricky-to-define genre, each very different in its own way. Editor Paula Guran pens an introduction to the genre (or, rather, on how difficult it is to define the genre), and there follow twelve different short stories by authors within this field.
Most of these stories are set in the modern world, although with paranormal elements: ('Follow Me Light' by Elizabeth Bear; 'A Maze Of Trees' by Claudia O'Keefe; 'Walpurgis Afternoon' by Delia Sherman; 'Calypso in Berlin' by Elizabeth Hand, 'Single White House' by Heather Shaw; 'Magic In A Certain Slant Of Life' by Deborah Coates; 'Fir Na Tine' by Sandra McDonald; 'A Treatise On Fewmets' by Sarah Prineas and 'The Hard Stuff' by John Grant), two are more traditional space-oriented science fiction ('The Shadowed Heart' by Catherine Asaro and 'Hero's Welcome' by Rebecca York), and one has historical elements ('A Knot of Toads' by Jane Yolen). Unlike most full-length romance novels, there isn't always a Happy Ever After in these stories.
They often instead explore some of the difficulties and sadness of life on this planet or another.
What really stands out about these stories is the impressive array of writing styles. Many romance novels have little literary merit, but the contributions to this anthology are written with great attention to detail and some
delightful turns of phrase. I particularly highlight "Calypso in Berlin" here, which has some wonderful descriptions of Berlin after the Wall came down
(although in this story, the romance plays a very minor part).
The last story in the anthology, 'The Hard Stuff,' is very different in that
it has a male author. It focuses on a man severely injured in Iraq and is a
strongly anti-war piece with a brilliant depiction of the difficulties of a man
who has had both hands amputated coming to terms with his new disability and the
different ways in which his disability is viewed in America and in Scotland. The
paranormal aspect of this story came in quite a way through, by which point I was fascinated with the hero's story.
In some ways, I would have enjoyed reading this without the paranormal aspect, as the topic of the man and his injuries was so well-written
- although then it could not have been included in this collection!
This is an excellent book for those who wish to find talented authors in the overcrowded
paranormal romance genre. Each story has a writing style markedly better than much of the
other available writing in the genre, and it's an excellent introduction to these authors for those looking for new things to read.