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Praise for Sight Unseen: A Collection of Five Anonymous Novellas:
"A fascinating guessing game that invites us to explore the range and creativity of which some of our most beloved authors are capable." --Laura Florand, author of La Vie en Roses, Paris Nights, and The Chocolate Series
"Your favorite authors like you've never read them before! These novellas are varied and vivid, with dashes of magic or danger and an irresistible touch of romance." --Theresa Romain, author of Fortune Favors the Wicked
"Trying to puzzle out who wrote which novella was so much fun. It was such a treat to see some of my favorite authors work their magic on a story that's outside their usual writing." --Cat Sebastian, author of The Soldier's Scoundrel and The Lawrence Browne Affair
Praise for the experimental concept behind Sight Unseen: A Collection of Five Anonymous Novellas:
"A groundbreaking approach to publishing. Frees the reader from expectation, frees the writer from fear. This can only lead to refreshing risk-taking, bold new stories, and beautifully honest writing. It strips away so many distractions that surround publishing, and gets to the heart of literature: experiencing a story. I can't wait for the collection."--Adi Alsaid, author of Let's Get Lost and Never Always Sometimes
"I love the concept of this book. It's a reader's version of a masked ball. The thrill of the anonymous encounter, the sense that they are both familiar and mysterious, and the rush of a secret kept or revealed. Can't wait to join the party."--Roan Parrish, author of In the Middle of Somewhere series
The first story is genuinely enjoyable and set my expectations high for the rest. The last was well done and two of the middle stories were readable, one unfortunately was not. However the anonymous format did keep me reading in a vain hope that it would turn around. Generally when I read an anthology with unfamiliar writers, if the writing fails early on, I skip the story assuming that the writer just isn't for me. Decide whether the price point is worth undergoing that sort of a reading experience
Typically I do not buy novellas. I usually do not appreciate the stories because I prefer a full novel that has time to develop the story and add depth to the characters. These 5 novellas were just silly...I'm not a fan of fantasy stories and most of these stories were about magic & fantasy. As much as I like Duran and Thomas I would not have purchased any of these stories as full novels whether they had their names as authors or not. Nope. Nada.
Sight Unseen is an ambitious project by five authors to write something from the heart but to remain anonymous. There are five novellas on a variety of themes, but the authors of the stories won’t be revealed until three months after the publication date. Personally, I’ve read 3 of the 5 authors before, but this was no help in determining who wrote what. The stories are fiction with romantic elements. I’d hesitate to label them all romances, but they do involve couples and have happy for now endings. Even if not all the stories are ones a reader would pick up on their own, there is definitely enough great material here to leave a lasting impression.
Lost That Feeling
This fantasy story is about Alma, a young woman who erased her memory with a spell so that the last 7 years is a mystery to her. Rescued from prison by a man who claims to be her partner in a rebellion against the King, the story involves Alma figuring out the details of the years she’s missing and the reasons why she cast the spell on herself. As the first story in the anthology, I was fascinated by how it unfolded, Alma’s magical abilities, and the world building involved in setting the tale. Alma and her partner in crime Driss did not have a romantic relationship before, but since the advent of the spell and her lack of memory, she finds herself attracted to him in the present. Their friendship is complicated by these feelings, and by the fact that the rebellion is still in full swing waiting for Alma to lead them once again. I would definitely be interested in reading more stories set in this world!
A Clear View of You
This paranormal romance centers on Kate, a woman whose mother is a firm believer in magic to the extent that she’s formed a commune of like-minded individuals. Kate’s unconventional upbringing means she’s convincing as a psychic and fortune teller, even though she doesn’t believe in what she prophesies. It’s a job, nothing more. Approached by a man to help her find an object, with the promise of money to pay off her student loans Kate isn’t going to say no – though the man himself isn’t quite what he seems. I really enjoyed this story too, with Kate having to come to terms with a new reality. There’s a sexual attraction between Kate and her client that turns into more as they work hand in hand to recover his missing object. There are some interesting magical elements and strong world building here too.
Set firmly in the here and now, this contemporary romance story details a friendship between Brad, an accountant for a motorcycle club and Wren the daughter of the club’s president. Brad suspects illegal dealings and tells Wren. Together they investigate and discover it’s true, making Wren face a definite dilemma. Should she protect her father whom she loves dearly, or turn him in? Brad’s motives for telling Wren involve unrequited feelings and his desire to keep her safe, even if the end result could mean no possible future relationship between them. I liked the intensity of this story and the realistic discussion of Wren’s choices and their consequences. There are some sexy scenes in this one as Brad and Wren pose as a couple to work undercover, unleashing a passion that surprises Wren for its intensity. Being in a small town and the expectations of the people around them definitely impacts their choices. It’s got a believable happy for now ending and I was fully invested in this couple’s relationship.
Chariot of Desire
Set in the ’80s, this is a rock band romance and delves into the quandaries of lead singer Donny Times who has become a follower of a cult. The music the band created in the ’70s was free with sex and drugs but now Donny insists on making clean music that doesn’t reflect badly on the religious he’s chosen. CJ, the drummer of the band could have been sexually involved with Donny during the band’s heyday but kept their relationship platonic for fear of wrecking their creativity. Donny’s conversion means any chance of building something together is gone since sex is a thing of the past for him. CJ struggles with her choices of staying with the man she’s always cared about or making her own way to live her musical dream. The themes aren't my personal favorite but It’s well written and brings up interesting links between rock music and sex. Donny and CJ both struggle with their choices and the ending shows they still have some work to do but are on the right track to finding happiness together.
The Heart is a Universe
This richly detailed story is a science fiction romance about love and sacrifice. Vitalis is ‘The Chosen One’, a young woman selected as the one who will sacrifice her life for the good of her planet, Pax Cara. She’s got 16 days until her life is forfeit when she meets Prince Eleian of Terra Illustrata, who proposes marriage to her for the short time she has left. She agrees and in the time they spend together she finds out his secrets as he finds out hers. Yet neither can stop fate. This story is definitely one of my favorites for its thorough world building and the ethical dilemma faced by Vitalis who has been trying to figure out a way to save her own life while not destroying her planet in the bargain. It’s clearly a romance too, with Vitalis and Eleian sharing some intimate scenes and heart to heart talks. I loved how the story progresses and the ending is surprising but very satisfying.
Sight Unseen is a compilation of five romance novellas; each written by a well-known author. The catch is none of them signed their name to their story. Each author was given the chance to write out of their comfort zone, freeing themselves and the readers from any preconceived notions or expectations. Each story is approximately 8 chapters long and deals with a variety of topics. As a fan of each author, I found myself paying far more attention than normal to see if I could detect who wrote what.
Lost That Feeling Grade: B- Alma is an amnesiac witch who spelled her memory loss after she was captured and sent to prison during a failed rebellion against the King. Months later, she is being rescued by her supposed partners in the rebellion. Now she has to figure out who they are, who she is, and why she sought to erase her memories in the first place.
Lost That Feeling is a well-plotted fantasy with an interesting use of amnesia in both the development of the heroine and the romance. Engaging narrative and a smooth pace keeps the reader hooked though the story ends abruptly and the romance is more an element and doesn’t even make itself known until the very end.
A Clear View of You Grade C+ Kate Marsh is trying to earn money towards her Ph.D. working as a psychic even though she is a firm disbeliever of anything magical or the supernatural. A man seeking her services offers her $50,000 to help him locate an item that has passed into her mother’s hands; a well-known mystical being. Unfortunately, Kate is on the outs with her mother and believes her to be nothing more than a charlatan and a cult leader. As Kate helps North reclaim his item and begins to work through her animosity towards magic and her mother, she learns a thing or two about the world and her place in it.
A Clean View of You is an interesting urban fantasy story that follows a young woman through a sort of coming age that deals with her personal growth and discovery. Strong and amusing character driven dialogue goes far in setting up the story and romance though I personally felt the story was too cluttered for such a short time span. The reluctant romance builds slow and ends more on a promise than an actual done deal.
Free Grade: B Wren Masters loves her hometown and her father but when it becomes clear her father’s motorcycle club is engaging in illegal activities, she has to decide if she will turn the other cheek or turn them in. Luckily, the club’s accountant, Brad, steps in to help her with her decision and its consequences.
Free was my favorite of this collection. A modern romance contemporary that focuses on a tough young woman who feels her entire whole world is limited to the small town she lives and the choices she has to make when her life implodes. An impressive full bodied story with a well-plotted backstory and yummy tension fuel romance. I like that the author chose to take us all the way to the end and leave us secure in Wren and Bead’s future.
Chariot of Desire Grade: C- The 70s were a time of sex, drugs, and rock and roll but one popular band hits a roadblock when their lead singer decides to clean up his act by joining a religious cult that forbids sex, drugs, and singing about them. Can the band survive the change or is it time to go their separate ways?
Chariot of Desire was the weakest of the anthology for me. Set in the 80’s, this contemporary shows us a selfish rock star whose wake up call and subsequent reply places unfair demands on the other two members of his band. The head hopping and time jumping was abrupt and the story drifts along seemingly unsure the exact direction the author was trying to go. The romance was non-existent and the story ends on an ambiguous note.
The Heart is a Universe Grade: B Vitalis, the Chosen One, has known her whole life she was destined to sacrifice herself to save her planet but as she gets closer to the date of her death, the more she questions the whole ritual and the reasons behind it. A marriage proposal from the planet’s most eligible ruler, Eleian, interrupts her escape plan and creates even more questions. Most importantly…why would a man who could have anyone, marry a woman who only has 16 days to live?
The Heart is a Universe is pure sci-fi fantasy that draws freely from mythology to create a layered and complex world. The limited time frame doesn’t distract or shackle the author; the evolution of Vitalis and Eleian’s romance is sexy and bittersweet in its development and blends perfectly with the external conflict. A few unexpected twists amp up the tension as we count down towards D-day with this couple. The ending was not what I expected and left me with a question or two but overall an interesting conclusion.
Though I have my suspicions, I was unable to determine without a doubt who wrote what which really got me thinking. How much more comfortable and accepting are we of some stories because we know who wrote them and how does that translate into our reviews?
Engaging and imaginative, this collection delivers on its objective though there was a sense of disconnect to a couple of the stories. Some leaned more towards their sub-genre then to romance, ending far too soon for the romance to be considered more than just an element to enhance the story. Regardless, this fast, quick, and easy read certainly entertains.