Anthologies don’t get much respect. I’ve read some fantastic shorts, (Edith Layton and gingerbread, oh my god. I don’t remember the story but the gingerbread and his aversion to it was so evocative that it’s never left me.) some not so fantastic shorts and some dogs. I’m still attracted to them. I want this to be awesome, because the premise is awesome, but it’s not. It Happened One Season is made of average. It’s not bad, none of the stories caused me to storm off in a huff. It’s not great, there’s no gingerbread moment here.
I think the story that might stay with me belongs to Candice Hern, but for the wrong reasons. She’s done one of my favorite things – the Regency Heroine With A Disability – but she’s done it with some tedium. Phillippa has a pronounced limp and Nat has PTSD from the war. The problem is that Phillippa is perfect. Patient, understanding, gracious, pretty, it goes on and on. She’s also disabled and that is her only interesting personality point. Her disability is mentioned, dwelled on, discussed, reiterated, it’s a giant neon sign in the reader’s face that obscures all else about this couple. I give Hern huge points for it, but by the time they dance awkwardly to the cheers of society I was ready to break Phillippa’s other hip.
Stephanie Laurens is turning out some great shorts. (I’m not into her full length books of late so it confuses me.) Here she has hit another triple, if not a full home run. Jacquie D’Alessandro gets a little complicated. Her hero feels responsible for the death of her heroine’s brother while the heroine, Penelope, has lost her position as a governess due to an affinity for classical sculpture. While the tale of a women trying to survive on the fringe is welcome, Penny gives it up in about half a second when Alec sweeps in to rescue her. From there it’s Alec’s weird guilt, let him allude to it and Penny’s independence, let her abdicate it. I thought it was going to be epic but D’Alessandro blinks. Alec isn’t going to be relating a friendly fire incident in these few pages. (It’s good but not great.) Mary Balogh brings her usual style with a damaged widow and the impatient soldier who fell for her on a battlefield far away. Theirs was the most satisfying on the romance front, but it’s a familiar path for Balogh and it felt a bit familiar. Overall, I wouldn’t go Agency pricing for this one. Anthologies trade for pennies after a few months, It Happened One Season is unlikely to be an exception.