RogerBW's Blog

Mirror Mirror, J. D. Robb and others 02 February 2014

I picked up this collection of novellas for the Robb story, as I was clearly intended to. All the stories here are loosely based on, or more properly inspired by, fairy stories (something of a coincidence given the Elemental Masters series I've also been reading).

The cover photo is composed from elements on Shutterstock, so I imagine this book was produced on the cheap. However, I suspect some (uncredited) editorial influence, in that the horrible grammatical and punctuation errors of most unedited work don't show up here.

Taken in Death -- J. D. Robb

This is the star of the show, but doesn't have a great deal of punch. Loosely based on Hansel and Gretel, it spends for my taste too much time with the villain, though granted not as much as Thankless in Death did. It takes the detective-story writer's cop-out of making the villain a madwoman, so there doesn't need to be any actual goal behind her plans -- though since we know who she is anyway, it's less of a problem.

Indeed, much as in Thankless, the effort here is to find out not whodunnit but where they are now. A nanny is murdered and two children are kidnapped, for obscure purposes.

As a contemporary story it might not be too bad. As a futuristic story in a world where psychiatrists have previously been shown actually to be competent, there are just a few too many loopholes for it to hold together. But this is fridge logic, at least for me; the narrative keeps up the pace, and is satisfying in itself though I don't suppose I'm likely to come back to it.

The rest of the stories here aren't as great; none of them rises to the point where I want to seek out any of the authors involved, so this anthology hasn't done its job. They're all in the conventional romance form (starting with two people not in a relationship, ending with them in it) which doesn't mesh entirely well with Robb (who did that in the first few In Death books, but could hardly sustain it for such a long series and has had to be more inventive).

If Wishes Were Horses -- Mary Blayney

Servant heroine with a penchant for testing beds, brandy, and so on (yes, it's Goldilocks and the Three Bears) meets hero returned from Napoleonic wars. Strange magic with a wish-granting coin that works for everyone except its owner, and indeed healing talents. Heroine's behaviour seems mostly to be an excuse for the fairy-tale connection; and she keeps flipping between vaguely realistic behaviour for the period and what a modern young woman would do. Too much television set below-stairs?

Beauty, Sleeping -- Elaine Fox

Sleeping Beauty of course. Hero is a pseudo-ghost cursed by a fairy; heroine is the girl who's had a crush on him since she was little, who's moved into his old house. There's an awful lot of rewriting of the universe to make it all work, but evidently the reader is supposed to ignore that in favour of the story. Unusual for a romance in that it spends more time in the hero's head than in the heroine's. Neither of them really has any special reason to fall for the other, though.

The Christmas Comet -- Mary Kay McComas

The Little Match Girl and The Star Money, with a happy ending. Heroine puts all her time and resources into helping the homeless and everyone else who seems to need it, to the point where she's about to get thrown out of her home; hero is a cop whose main characteristic is that he loves her. A somewhat twisted setup involving Federal law brings a bizarre reward for this super-altruistic behaviour; I'd like to show this to a Randian objectivist just to watch his head explode. But this heroine was too saintly for my taste.

Stroke of Midnight -- R. C. Ryan

This one's Cinderella, but without quite such a wicked stepmother: she's set up that way, but after the prologue our heroine is living on her own and thus not blighted in the same way. She finds some money and goes to visit her father's birthplace in Ireland, and Romance Ensues. Ending's a bit rushed, but in all not bad.

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See also:
Thankless in Death, J. D. Robb

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