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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: Red Velvet and Absinthe

Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic RomanceTitle: Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance
Editor: Mitzi Szereto
Page Count: 256 pages
Publisher: Cleis Press
Genre: paranormal romance, gothic romance
Copy for review provided by the editor in anticipation of an honest review

Red Velvet and Absinthe explores love and lust with otherworldly partners who, by their sheer fantastical nature, evoke passion and desire far beyond that which any normal human being can inspire. Although the greats such as Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, and Daphne du Maurier are long dead, these contemporary authors keep the Gothic spirit alive and well by interpreting it in new and exciting ways.

Red Velvet and Absinthe offers readers a collection of unique and original stories that conjure up the atmospheric and romantic spirit of the Gothic masters (and mistresses) but take things a bit further by adding to the brew a generous dosage of eroticism. Lie back and listen to the wind howling outside your window as you read these stories in the flickering light of a candle, the absinthe you’re sipping warming your body like the caressing touch of a lover’s fingers . . .

This review is best accompanied by visual aids.

This is red velvet:

And this is absinthe:
That sense of richness and decadence is prevalent throughout this anthology.  As with most anthologies, not every story will suit every taste, but this is definitely a book that should be on the radar of people who like their stories darker and their romance a little naughtier.

This collection features fifteen different stories all based on the broad theme of gothic romance. Kelley Armstrong wrote the foreword for this collection and highlighted how gothic elements- innocence combined with mystery, curses, brooding evil, secrets, and elements of the unkown- have gone in and out of style over the years but appear to be back with a vengeance in the blossoming arena of paranormal romance.  Lots of different paranormal elements are present in the various stories here, but there is a strong thread of passion through each story that's entirely unique.

Favorites of mine among this anthology were surprises to me.  I loved "A Rose in the Willow Garden" by Elizabeth Daniels, which is the story of a serial killer who finally meets his dream woman and finds out her surprise and is based on murder ballads.  Likewise, "The Blood Moon Kiss" Mitzi Szereto was unique- a soap opera star (and vampire) finally meets his dream woman...again.  Probably the biggest standout for me was "La Belle Mort" by Zander Vyne, where a noblewoman sentenced to hang for theft meets a mysterious stranger who teaches her to have faith in the most unorthodox of ways and then ends on the biggest cliffhanger.  It's like Choose Your Own Adventure taken to the extreme.

Like I said, not every story in an anthology will suit every reader, but this collection was one of the more cohesive ones I've come across in awhile and was a pleasure to read.

Overall Grade: B+

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