This anthology contains three novellas and one shorter story at the end. All feature strong women protagonists who have some sort of supernatural or paranormal characteristic - a werewolf, a psychic, a shapechanger. I picked it up because I enjoy books by Patricia Briggs and Karen Chance, and while I unfortunately read it out of order (read this before Briggs' new book, Cry Wolf, to get the most from it) as far as the Alpha and Omega series goes, I still enjoyed it very much.
Briggs' story, "Alpha and Omega," opens the anthology with a bang, setting in motion the chain of events that brings Anna, an abused werewolf, together with Charles - a relationship that neither one expected, and that is sure to define Briggs' new series. While I admittedly prefer Mercy Thompson as a lead character - I love her feisty spirit - I found I soon became involved in Anna's story. She appears at first to be a rather weak and ineffectual character, but eventually reveals hidden strengths that make her relationship with Charles all the more intriguing.
Eileen Wilks' story, "Inhuman," is a paranormal mystery with a touch of romance. The heroine is Kai, a telepath who keeps very quiet about a certain aspect of her abilities. She has become friends with a cop named Nathan, who has some secrets of his own. A killer is on the loose, and it seems that Kai is its target, but there's something odd going on that is likely to push the friends' secrets - and their feelings for each other - out into the open. I've never read anything by Wilks, but I found this story intriguing, with appealing characters and an unusual premise. I do not know if these are characters she's written about before, but I'd like to read more of her work.
"Buying Trouble" by Karen Chance is set in the same world as her Cassandra Palmer series, although it focuses on a different character, a psychic null named Claire who is using her abilities to nullify magic in her thankless job at an auction house. Her presence makes theft and foul play (at least using magical aids) less likely to happen, but the appearance of a magnetically handsome man and a peculiar artifact throw Claire into a different world where startling revelations await. This story and Briggs' story were my two favorites in the book, and I hope that Chance will write more about Claire and her unique situation. This one was a definite thrill ride, full of action, romance and humor.
I didn't much care for the final story in the anthology, "Mona Lisa Betwining" by Sunny. The other stories took care to be complete stories with characters who were introduced to the reader, even if the settings came from other, previous works. This one had me baffled from start to finish - it felt as though I'd opened a book in the middle of a story and started reading from there. The premise, as I understood it, was a woman who has grown up in the human world finds herself ruling a society of werewolves, or "children of the moon," and her unique human outlook gives her a perspective that will make her position challenging. Oh, and there's a man she's attracted to who chases her through the woods, and they have a romantic interlude that was fairly meaningless to me, as I had no idea who he was or why her relationship with him was important to the story.
That last one did not make me particularly interested in further exploring other books by Sunny, but the other three stories more than made up for one disappointment. For readers who enjoy novels by these authors, the stories are a fun way to experience another corner of these fictional worlds. For those who are thinking about giving one of the series a try, the anthology provides a great introduction to the authors' characters and writing styles. I enjoyed that the stories were long enough to give a satisfying read, rather than just a tantalizing taste of a story.
On the Prowl by Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance, and Sunny (Berkley Books, 2007)