First off, I'm not a big fan of anthologies. They usually mean I end up spending money on a book I will only read 150 pages of because I only care about one of the authors or because that story fits into a series somewhere and I'm a consummate completest. This one was even more annoying because it came out in hardcover. I sucked it up and bought it any way because Kresley Cole is one of my favorite authors, and the Immortals After Dark series is addictive. So I'm reviewing specifically her story, Untouchable. I may eventually go back and read Gena Showalters (I am a fan of some of her work) but for now I just focused on Daniela and Murdoch.
Second point: I realize full well that this was intended as a winter holiday/Christmas book, but I read it in July. Oops. Actually, while the theme is ice and Christmas is briefly mentioned, it's not very Christmasy. I found the cold theme oddly refreshing.
Now, to the story: Basically, Daniella is a valkyrie but she was born to and Icere mother. The Icere are people of the cold, their bodies are cold, and warmth of any kind is deadly to them. For Danii that means contact with and non-Icere beings burns painfully, and getting overheated is a constant concern. When it's discovered that she is Murdoch's Bride (his fated mate), their inability to touch physically presents a huge problem.
The characters were surprisingly well rounded, considering that their developement had to take place in only 250 pages. Without the usual action/adventure sequences typical of the series, Cole focuses almost entirely on their core problem as a couple. I liked that. Danii's desperation to be loved and feel physical affection is heartbreaking. Murdoch, meanwhile, was somewhat of a rake when human--commiting to one woman, let alone one he cannot touch, is frustrating and life altering for him. I liked them as a couple. They certainly aren't my favorite of the series, but I wouldn't expect them to be.
I would like to say that Kresley Cole is one of the most endlessly creative authors I've encountered. The settings--like the cabin in Siberia that's magically iced over--take you to another world. The sex scenes are inventive. The characters are unique and interesting. Even the secondary characters are well rounded and likeable (Nix being my standing favorite).
Now the negatives: The overlapping timelines drive me crazy. If you've read the series up to this point, you know what I'm talking about. I usually don't file them under "negative" because while they are confusing, they're also a lot of fun. But in this case, in such a short novel, trying to shove in those context clues so that we as readers will know what part of the story arch we're in...I think it was a miss calculation on Cole's part. It felt like she had to work to make the story fit, and so I had to work to make it ok in my own head. Just a bit of a stretch.
I also kind of thought that the final solution to Danii and Murdoch's problem was SO OBVIOUS. No, I won't spoil it because maybe it isn't that immediately obvious to all readers. I just thought it was a bit lazy, and when it came to that point I said "Umm, duh?" and was left feeling a bit disapointed.
Overall, it's a good story. Worth the purchase of a full priced hardcover? Not really. But worth a read if you can get it otherwise.
I enjoyed the story by Kresley Cole. It meshed will with the other Immortals after Dark stories. As a shorter story, it was a little less compelling--I think there just aren't enough pages for as much character development and story line twists. It also provided some fun glimpses of past characters & what is going on in their lives.
I did not care for the story by Gena Showalter. I thought it was very superficial and the "tie it all up at the end" ending did nothing for me. A little more character development and a little less time spent on their intimate relationship would have been welcome. This story would get two stars.
I originally gave this book a lower rating because I felt really overwhelmed with Cole's story (At that time, I haven't read Cole before). Now that I've read a few of the books of the series I found it quite enjoyable. It's a little slower than the other books because they aren't exactly any baddies to defeat. Definitely do not read this without reading at least a few of the books before hand or you will be utterly lost. That or the story will fell choppy and disconnected to you. It was a fun story and I like that Murdoch the manwhore was such a raving idiot when it comes to Danii.
As for Showalter's story, it was a little rushed but I've been waiting to read about these characters. I think the series novels are much better than this short story, so don't let this story keep you from trying the other ones. I did like the story though but I thought I would have liked more.
I just want to comment about the risque cover though. How did they get away with the clever (eh...) lighting?
Good combination of stories. I liked both authors before reading this book and wasn't disappointed with the content. Neither story had the depth to stand up as full novels so I feel that the short story anthology was a good choice for the publisher. If you are new to either series, it might be best to read previous full novels before these stories just to simply understand some of the elements better.