All the Queen's Men

A Bouquet of Babies

Dying to Please

A Game of Chance

Mr Perfect

Now You See Her

Open Season

Under the Boardwalk

Strangers of the Night by Linda Howard
(Pocket, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-7464-4426-4
This anthology contains three previously published Linda Howard novelettes. Each has an unexpected meeting with a stranger that in a short time erupts into a steamy sexual encounter, notwithstanding the fact that there are many reasons not to trust the stranger. Two of the three are heavily into the paranormal.

In “Lake of Dreams” Thea Marlow, a house painter by trade, is having recurring nightmares containing sexual experiences with a man who keeps changing names and centuries. The nightmares eventually end in her death by drowning by this same man. The lake had played a major role in her family’s summer lives since Thea and her siblings spent each summer at their cottage there. Her sanity is gradually being eroded by fear and sleeplessness and she decides to confront her newly acquired fear of water by taking a two-week vacation at the lake.

Almost immediately she meets the neighbor renting the next-door cottage and, of course, he has the face and physique of the man in her dreams. Enter the paranormal plot.

A “Blue Moon” is the infrequently occurring second full moon in a month. It’s a great time for witches and participants in the mystical arts, and an Alabama small town is not exempt. Sheriff Jackson Brody, a fairly new emigrant from Texas is unaware that Delilah Jones is a practicing healer and when he responds to a dispatch to protect her, walks into the situation blindly. Accessible only by boat, Jackson arrives to witness Delilah and her old nemesis Thaniel exchanging fire. During this face-off with Delilah, among other things, she announces that Thaniel is a dead man anyway.

Thaniel leaves, taking both Delilah’s boat and the one the Sheriff borrowed to get there, so Jackson is marooned. Delilah also reads auras and knows that Jackson will be the lover of her life so she has no problem with starting early. When Thaniel is found dead a couple days later, she becomes a primary suspect. Exit paranormal plot.

”White Out” occurs during a blizzard in the northwest and maroons widowed Hope Bradshaw at her summer resort. Her father was out of town when the snow hit, and she is well prepared to comfortably wait out the expected loss of power alone. An unexpected guest arrives at her door half frozen, and she starts first aid to ward off death by hypothermia. She uses the old nude body to nude boy method of sharing body heat and pretty soon more sharing goes on.

Hope’s battery-powered radio announces the escape of convicts and the killing of deputies, and the inconsistencies in her new companion Deputy Price Tanner’s stories and appearances keep mounting up. Finally someone new arrives, and now they both insist that they are Deputy Tanner.

All three stories are vintage Howard, characterized with excellent character development, believable dialogue, steamy romance and interesting plots.

Constrained by the length of the story she nonetheless also manages to create a real sense of place in her settings and her scene shifts are effortless. She did trick me with the third story as I kept waiting for the touch of the fey to show up.

--Thea Davis

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