I 1-click a lot of .99 romance anthologies…but I don’t ever seem to read them. When I saw my pre-order for Mixtape pop up I decided to sit down and read the anthology cover to cover. In this anthology each short story is based around a song; there were a lot of bops but also a few flops.
Say It First by Nikki Sloane (m/f)
Friendship sparks when Hollywood actress Anna Douglas connects with her former classmate, NASCAR driver Jamie Campbell, over Facebook. After a year of texts and phone calls, the reunited classmates go on a Hawaiian vacation together; but neither is sure how to move from friendship to something deeper. This story was like a breath of fresh air. Sloane takes themes from the titular Sam Smith song to create a sweet slow burn romance that is equal parts swoony and sexy. I thought it was a fun touch that the movie the heroine is in is a film version of Sloane’s Blindfold Club series. – ★★★★
Broken Hallelujah by Sierra Simone (f/f)
In this angsty, emotionally intense, scorching BDSM story an ex-Marine is forced to confront the woman who shattered her heart so badly she faked her own death. Told in the past and present this story was totally unique and unlike anything I’ve read before. I didn’t listen to the song as I was reading it but re-listening to it I can totally see where Simone was going. Also…it takes place partially in the city I currently live in. – ★★★★
Say Yes by Elle Kennedy (m/f)
When the maid of honor swipes right for a one night stand the day before the wedding it doesn’t go as planned. I liked how instead of writing a story based on her song, Always on My Mind by Willie Nelson, Kennedy uses the song in the story as something to connect the hero and heroine. This was a zippy rom-com with fun twists and turns. – ★★★★
Toothpaste Kisses Xio Axelrod (m/m)
I’ve been meaning to read Axelrod forever and this is a lovely story about a lawyer starting over in a new city, who unexpectedly falls for the young Belgian artist who makes the art for his office. This story brims with hope and whimsy. We only see the characters together for the last half and I would straight up read a full book about these characters. – ★★★★
Lush by Marni Mann (m/f)
When sex club owner Pepper spots Bale, the mysterious man who rocked her world for months and then left with no trace, they have one last erotic night together. What she doesn’t know is their meeting was part of his job, he wants to tell her the truth but that would mean blowing up his entire life. This story was so well done and highly intriguing, Mann doesn’t spoon feed and gives you just enough information to put a plot together with only a few scenes. – ★★★★
Wild Pitch by Rebecca Shea (m/f)
In this second chance romance, a college student gets unexpectedly snowed in with her high school crush who ghosted her when they graduated. I don’t think Shea quite nailed the short story format. This didn’t feel so much like a cohesive story, but like a scene from something half-finished. I also thought the hero was kind of a jerk for walking away from the heroine with no explanation “for her own good”. Blerg. -★★★
Think I’m in Love by Leslie McAdam (m/m)
Kim, Shane and Randy have been best friends forever but right before Kim goes off to study abroad Shane asks Kim to marry him. This leaves Randy feeling bitter because he knows deep inside Shane isn’t in love with Kim but with him. Again, this story was okay, if not a little cloying. It also felt a little No Bisexuals. Now, this story ends with Shane and Randy together and having to tell Kim the engagement is over…Kim is the heroine of McAdam’s main series. I think this was a nice way to write an original story and still tie into an already published book. – ★★★
Moment of Truth by Veronica Larsen (m/f)
I don’t really have much to say about this story about a man who has to attend the wedding of his childhood crush. I thought the song inspiration, Say You Won’t Let Go by James Author, fit the theme but the actual plot required some suspension of belief. – ★★★
Kiss Me by Lynda Aicher (m/f)
This is the last story in the collection and it felt more like a fizzle than a bang. A recently fired woman goes home with the man who just fired her. I get the feeling this story would maybe mean something more if I read the other books in the series. – ★★★
Guys My Age by Saffron Kent (m/f)
This story opened the anthology and honestly, it bothered me so much I almost DNF’d the entire anthology because of it. In this road trip romance Dean, a 32-year-old prosecutor is traveling across the country with Fallon, the 18-year-old college student he’s loved since he was a teenager and she was A CHILD. I think there are authors who could make this age gap work but this book was a mess and this 32-year-old man says things like this:
“….Love is watching you go to prom with your douchebag of a boyfriend and going so crazy, so fucking insane with jealousy, I cornered that sixteen-year-old boy and threatened him to stay away from you. That’s what love is, Fallon.”
And enjoys some good old fashioned patriarchy while comparing himself to pedophiles:
….Uncaring of the fact that somehow, I’m betraying Simon, Fallon’s dad. Uncaring that maybe I’m similar to those men who I put away for preying on the innocent. Uncaring that if a man like me, much older, jaded and more cynical, tried something like this with my sister, I’d kill him with my bare hands.
Your Everything by K.L Kreig (m/f)
This story made me really mad for two reasons:
1. It’s another older man who fell for an underage girl and now that she’s of age he feels like he somehow now deserves to have her. The hero and heroine are both working for the heroine’s evil father’s company and basically, we’re supposed to be rooting for this woman ,who was emotionally manipulated by her father, to be emotionally manipulated by the hero.
2. This story does not have an HEA. The end is a cliffhanger that leads into Kreig’s book The Black Swan Affair. The story ends with the hero running away from the heroine and this formula is not in line with the other stories in this anthology. To me it doesn’t meet the romance requirements and I don’t think Laurelin Paige, the editor of the collection, should have included it.
All I Want by Mara White (m/f)
This story literally broke my brain. At first, I hated it but now it just absolutely boggles me. Mara White’s bio says she writes forbidden love stories but dis tew much.
In this story we meet Marilyn, a married woman who secretly goes to shady bars to have unprotected one night stands so she can get pregnant since her much older husband is infertile. Because you know that is the only way to get pregnant if your partner is infertile and besides, the only thing you can get by having unprotected sex from total strangers is pregnant. *sarcasm*
Anyway, one night Marilyn picks up a random hitchhiker, they have sex in an order that is not sanitary and the next morning she wakes up and knows she’s pregnant so she walks out. Then there are some time skips, the kid grows up and is a perfect child that likes to eat salad and watch his mother paint for 6 hours because…of course he does. Then at the very end when the kid goes to college and Marilyn’s husband dies she reunites with the hitchhiker and he seems totally fine with having a son no one told him about and they…end up together? There was a lot of WTFery in this story but I actually made a note that said WTF at this line about the son:
“He knew by heart the story of how his mother had seduced a stranded and unsuspecting hitchhiker to conceive him. He found it troublesome, and at the same time, extraordinary. It was an epic origin story he sometimes shared with close friends
Why would you tell this story to your child? Marilyn essentially cheats on the person the son would have known as his Dad. And why would the son tell other people??