Well, my dear readers…
It’s finally RELEASE DAY for the epic anthology ‘Cowboy Desire’, by Black Velvet Seductions! Fourteen mesmerizing tales, penned by fourteen diverse authors who hail from every corner of the globe. It doesn’t get any better than this, friends!
I am truly honored to be one of the illustrious fourteen. Being given a place at the table was a blessing, one that would never have been bestowed upon me but by the grace of God and my publisher, Ric Savage.
So here, my dear readers, is my story-by-story review of the entire anthology. (And no, I didn’t review my own story. I mean, seriously… just how conceited do you think I am?! I may have a big head, but it ain’t THAT big!!! My story was reviewed by the acclaimed novelist Callie Carmen, who also appears in the anthology.)
So without any further ado: ‘COWBOY DESIRE’!!!
Wild Thunder by Zia Westfield
Zia’s shorts ‘Bewitching the Wolf’ and ‘Flight to the Stars’ are two of my absolute favorites. ‘Wild Thunder’ is a worthy successor.
I can’t tell you much about this one, honestly. Spoilers, you know? Let’s just say that the lovely Emmaline waking up in a hotel room with a complete stranger leaves you thinking ‘what the…?!’
The rest of the story unravels the mystery behind that cliffhanger beginning, and it’s one heluva ride!
I wish I could say more. All I can do is tell you to read it!
Ava by Callie Carmen
I had high hopes for ‘Ava’, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Ava’s character appears in Callie Carmen’s novel ‘Joshua’, and author Annabel Allan described her as ‘the perfect shade of bitchy’. She was, too, and I can’t think of a better way to put it.
But I always wanted to see more of her. Ava was snarky, rude, and petulant with good reason: She was madly in love with someone who didn’t love her back. Anyone who’s ever experienced that knows how utterly demoralizing it is, how badly it damages one’s sense of self-worth. I turned the last page of ‘Joshua’ hoping that someday I’d get another peek into Ava’s head, during a better period in which she was free of Joshua’s unwitting spell.
It is a challenging thing to flesh out characters and a relationship within a context so confining as a short story. Callie Carmen nails it, as she always does; ‘Ava’ immediately pulls the reader into Ava and Colton’s heads. I’ve always loved Callie’s rotating first-person narration; it creates a story that gets intimate with surprising quickness. Much like her contemporaries Suzanne Smith and Patricia Elliott, Callie Carmen writes men very, very well; one would almost think that she hired a male ghost writer to pen Colton’s sequences. (Those of us who love her stories know better, of course.)
Ava’s love-interest Colton is a handsome, rough and tumble, and surprisingly artistic man. He’s a worthy match for Callie’s wonderfully complicated heroine. This is Ava the way she was always meant to be seen, as a beautiful, confident, and witty woman. She was the dangling thread in ‘Joshua’, and it’s a lovely ride to see her story come full circle.
Orion by Virginia Wallace (review by Callie Carmen)
Whether you have seen the movie Jerry Maguire, you most likely know the line “You had me at hello.” That was how I felt when I read the opening paragraph from Virginia Wallace’s story, Orion, which is part of the wonderful Cowboy Desire anthology.
It goes like this:
Perhaps, thought Daisy, she should have thrown on something to wear besides what she was already wearing, and her riding boots. Her thigh-length nightgown wasn’t exactly the ideal outfit for a night ride…
After reading that opening to Orion, I had to know what was so important that she couldn’t take the time to get dressed. Why was she going out in the dark for a ride on her horse? Where the heck were they going in such a hurry?
From there I got lost in the vivid scenes of Daisy riding her horse, Buster. And wanting to know how things would progress with the mysterious man that seemed to come out of nowhere.
Romance, fantasy, and science fiction readers will love this story.
The Long Paddock by Jan Selbourne
Jan’ story ‘A Convict’s Prayer’ was my absolute favorite in the ‘Desire Me Again’ anthology. ‘The Long Paddock’ continues that tradition of excellence in writing.
Mack and Shelley are two of the most engaging characters I’ve ever read. What I love most about Jan’s writing is how clean it is; you could give this story to a teenager to read. While there is certainly room for racier writing (my own occasionally included), we romance authors should remember that everyone loves a good love story, even youngsters.
This story has my absolute FAVORITE ending! I can’t tell you what it is ‘cuz I’d ruin it, but when you read it you’ll see why I love it so. It’s so sweet that you just wanna go ‘awww….’
Well done, Jan!
Space Cowboy Blues by Alice Renaud
Alice has long been one of my favorite BVS authors; her novella ‘Mermaids Marry in Green’ is one of my absolute favorite fantasy stories.
So she had a lot of expectations to live up to. And she didn’t disappoint, either; she never does.
Alice’s strength as a writer is her ability to transport the reader into another world, to make the utterly bizarre feel strangely normal. To read Alice’s work is to be pulled into another dimension, to leave this reality entirely for a blissful few hours.
Like Eileen Troemel and yours truly, Alice—as I suspected she would—shot for science fiction on this collection, and ‘Space Cowboy Blues’ is a worthy addition to her body of work.
Loving Jack by Estelle Pettersen
I may as well tell you up front, this story was a bit racier than I’m used to reading.
But fans of erotic fiction will almost certainly love it. Estelle’s tale is set in Australia, and I was stricken by how much of a difference there is between an Aussie tale written by an Aussie writer, and one by an American who just did some research. There’s an authenticity there that’s hard to replicate.
What I’ve always loved about Estelle’s writing is how deftly she uses the first-person narrative tense. It feels natural, real, like you’re actually inside the character’s head.
Fans of Estelle’s ‘Lessons on Seduction’ will NOT be disappointed by this story!
Mail Order Mate by Eileen Troemel
This story SERIOUSLY has some elements of the bizarre in it! It’s set on a faraway planet, for starters.
But I’m nevertheless reminded of an old saying: ‘Wherever you go, there you are’. While this story is ostensibly science fiction, I’m recalling tales set in America during the Great Depression and World War II. The poverty, the hard times, the crushing loss of human life…
Sic-fi fans will love this one, but—strangely enough—I’m betting fans of historical fiction will too.
Well done, Eileen. Well done!
The Wyoming Way by Nancy Golinski
I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I’ve read a couple of Nancy’s stories under her pseudonym Gibby Campbell, so I went into this one expecting off-kilter erotica. (Not that I’m knocking that, mind you. While it ain’t exactly my thing, I gotta tell ya that Gibby’s REALLY good at it!)
My expectations couldn’t have been more wrong.
‘The Wyoming Way’ has a very natural, down-to-earth kind of feel to it. It’s about ordinary people with real-life problems, and there’s a certain homespun beauty to it that’s very charming. This story showed me a whole new side to Nancy’s writing, one that I enjoyed very, very much.
‘Course, she did use the word ‘dickwad’ in the story…
That’s Nancy for ya!
The Cowboy’s Heritage by Patricia Elliott
Patricia Elliott NEVER disappoints! Her shorts in ‘Mystic Desire’ and ‘Desire Me Again’ were aces, as was her full-length novel ‘Her Lover’s Face’. Her writing reminds me eerily of my literary heroine Daphne du Maurier, and that’s saying something. (And if you don’t like Daphne, get off my page. Seriously. Go stand in the corner, and think about what you’ve done wrong.)
‘Cowboys Heritage’ is a tale of amnesia, the story of a lovely young woman who’s forgotten who she is and where she came from. Nerina is a sweet, vulnerable character; the reader just wants to hug and protect her… as does Reid, the man who has made it his task to care for her.
The hardest thing about reviewing Patricia’s work is that I always have to keep my reviews very, very short. Her stories have so many layers of mysterious intrigue that I’m at constant risk of dropping a spoiler.
So I can’t tell you anything else. Sorry.
Just read it!
Bird That Sings by Dee S. Knight
Dee’s short ‘Life Saving’ was my favorite in the ‘Mystic Desire’ anthology. Her writing style is absolutely off the rails!
‘Bird That Sings’ is fairly ordinary tale. No aliens, no space cowboys. Her heroine Debra is a fairly normal woman. What makes the story is the lush, evocative prose. Dee’s writing reminds me of Ray Bradbury, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and Elizabeth George Speare. There’s just an eerie, compelling side to her word use that transports the reader out of this reality, and keeps them in another until the tale is finished.
Dee could write the phone book, and it’d still be well worth the reading. ‘Bird That Sings’ is no exception.
Craving Her Cowboys by RM Olivia
As always, RM Olivia’s lush prose really shines. One feels the angst, the uncertainty of her leading lady Riva as she tries to escape her old life and begin a new one, far removed from her abusive past.
I loved Olivia’s use of description. The rural setting feels very real; one can almost close one’s eyes and see tumbleweeds rolling by.
I must say that the sexuality of the tale is a bit odd, but fans of erotica will almost certainly love it. Whether you love that side of the story or it makes you squirm, it’s nevertheless very well told.
‘Craving Her Cowboys’ is an emotionally engaging tale, and well worth the read!
E-mail-Ordered Groom by Starla Kaye
This is the first story I’ve read by Starla Kaye…
This story was very… normal. There is nothing bizarre about it, and nothing supernatural or insanely kinky. Just two ordinary people name Drake and Gwendolyn, trying to figure one another out.
And that’s okay. What REALLY shines about this tale is Starla’s incredible writing style. I’d always heard that she was good, but this is the first time I’ve gotten the chance to read her. Every word is absolutely perfect, with the right adjective in exactly the right place every single time. Her characters come to life almost immediately, pulling one into their heads and hearts and dragging the reader along for the ride.
‘Email-Ordered-Groom’ is absolutely breath-taking. There are no sci-fi or fantasy bells and whistles, for this story needs none.
It shines all… by… itself.
Ben, Pearl, and REO by Alan Souter
One would think from the title that this is some kind of kinky sex story…
Spoiler alert: It’s not.
It’s a wonderfully sweet tale of an aging couple. What I love about Alan’s writing is this: I swear the man is Mark Twain re-incarnated. Wry sense of humor, down-to-earth descriptive prose… you just can’t beat his narrative style.
Alan’s full-length masterpiece ‘A Thread of Sand’ is one my all-time favorite books. ‘Ben, Pearl, and REO’ proudly carries on that legacy of rock-solid writing.
Bullets and Bustles by Suzanne Smith
This one easily won the award for being my favorite! NOT because Suzanne is any better (or worse) than the rest of BVS’ wonderful cast of literary misfits, but… well, birds of a feather flock together, you know? Suzanne writes a lot like I do, which of course means that I adore her work.
This story is unflinchingly violent, brutally so. Which makes it feel very, very real. The lead characters are, simply put, un-repentant murderers. And yet you empathize with them as you get into their heads, as you slowly come to understand what makes them tick.
This story reminds me of one of my favorite films, Oliver Stone’s disturbing opus ‘Natural Born Killers’. The lead characters are a couple of psychos… but somehow, you find yourself rooting for ‘em anyway!
So there you have it, friends. ‘Cowboy Desire’, like its predecessors ‘Mystic Desire’ and ‘Desire Me Again’ is an epic read.
I will end with this comment…
The insane quality of Black Velvet Seductions’ library is proof positive of one simple fact: If you’re a publisher, it’s best to keep your guidelines as loose as reasonably possible. Writers shine best when they’re not shackled with stifling guidelines. BVS lives by this maxim, and Harlequin would do well to borrow a page from our playbook. We got it goin’ ON!!!
So yeah, ‘Cowboy Desire’. Order it today!
TO ORDER COWBOY DESIRE: https://amzn.to/2LmdUhD