Four and a half stars! Heart's Desire, by Julie Reece
Like everything else of this author's that I've had the pleasure to read, the writing is vivid and poetic, painting the underwater world like a dream for me to walk through as I read the story. Passages like this always have me re-reading just so I can savor the flow of words through my thoughts:In her bliss, she twirled, forcing yards of fabric to shoot away from her body. She spun from the mirror, halting against a form both firm and yielding. One strong hand enveloped hers, while the other slipped around her middle, pulling her close. On cue, soft music from an unseen orchestra filled the hall. Strings first, low and haunting, followed by wind instruments. Eerie and intoxicating, the sounds worked like a potion to further muddle her already altered state.
The emotion in this one is quite raw and touching in places, and the connection between Tess and Cam is magnetic. I was shouting inside my head as I followed Tess through the obstacles preventing her from being with Cam, saying, Come on, just throw caution to the wind and get with that man! The ending gave me pause for a moment, that Cam should have known to offer the other option than the one he presented, but it was a small thing and did little to detract from my overall enjoyment.The Sweetest Song by Claire Gillian
I love the ebb and flow of this one, and the emotion when Circe's quandary surfaces: to save herself and destroy Otis, or save him and suffer the consequences. The imagery is beautiful and the interactions between the two are light with an air of humor. Check out this taste:Circe spied the tall, dark-haired man clutching his trench coat fronts together, his head ducked down. Frigid rain fell in cascading sheets, and few souls ventured out that morning. The scents of dead fish and seawater infused even the raindrops. Bruised skies gave no indication they planned to take pity on the inhabitants of Homer or allow any respite for the sun.
Bruised skies - I love that! Claire Gillian never ceases to make me stop and think why didn't I think of that awesome line! The love that bloomed came on rather quickly, but given that this is a short story, it kind of has to be that way to fit in all the plot elements within the word allowance. Goodness knows, I struggled with the same issue in my story.Pearl of Pau’maa by Kelly Said
This is the sweetest of the stories and very well written. Although the pace is a bit slower than my usual hundred-mile-an-hour personal preference, I appreciated the depth of character-building that took place and the subtle world-building through the characters' thoughts. Here's a nice tease:Miki’s lean body slowly undulated, bubbles streaming down from her nose. Her empty hands pointed up, stretching for the refracted beams of sunlight just beyond her reach. Her graceful swaying switched to frantic kicking and arms flailing as she fought to break free of the water and pull in a desperate breath of air.
I can totally see this scene in my head. So well done. The story of the pearl was interesting, letting me suspend my disbelief at the insta-love between Miki and Harmon. It ended a little too neat and tidy for me, but again, that's no reflection on the author or the story itself, just my personal preference, that I like to see characters suffer lots before the happily ever after comes. I know, I'm a big meanie! :)
Still, I really enjoyed the read and look forward to more of Kelly Said's tales.