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heaven400Title: Something Happened on the Way to Heaven
Editors: Samantha Derr
Authors: Isabella Carter, Sylvia Winters, Elizah J Davis, Kayla Bain-Vrba, Evie Kiels, Megan Derr, Debora Day, May Ridge & Sasha L Miller
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 208k words
Genre: m/m & f/f Contemporary Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance
Keywords/Tags: Anthology, Short Stories, Angels, Demons
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

Archangels. Guardians Angels. Cherubim. Angels of death, wrath, vengeance, love, peace, and hope. Fallen Angels. Nephilim. The lore of angels is wide and varied, from battles lost and won, to duties fulfilled and failed, from men raised up to their ranks, and angels banished forever from the heavens. They can be fierce warriors and gentle guides, heralds of joy and tragedy. They are beings of fearsome power, and the highest of servants.

But what else can angels be? What happens when they soar too high or dive too low? Are they flawless in their servitude, or cursed and blessed with free will? Come read these tales of angels in some of their many incarnations…

REVIEW

I meant to post this review this morning, but I forgot. Sorry about that! So, here it is now. I usually have a very specific format for reviewing an anthology, and it can be very taxing to review. Essentially, I review each story separately, and it’s like doing however many reviews all in one, which takes a lot of time. Since I’m not actually contracted for a review for this one, I just wanted to share my thoughts with you, I’ve cut them a lot shorter, but I still put all the details down for each story so that you get that individual information and ratings for each one. With 10 stories, that was just too much to write as much as I normally do!

In all, I really enjoyed this anthology. I wasn’t quite sure I would at first. I read the first story as a serial (this anthology has been being published chapter by chapter for a LONG time now) and sadly, the first story wasn’t my favorite of the lot, though it’s not a bad story. Angel stories tend not to be my favorite, but I was really surprised and delighted by the sheer diversity of stories, themes, plots and uses of angels in this story.

The anthology is $9.99, which is a pretty steep price, but for some readers I think the price is well worth it. For fans of these authors, fans of Less Than Three Press, or fans of angel stories, I think that you’ll like this. It’s over 200,000 words, well over 600 pages in PDF format, and has ten stories, some novellas by some really wonderful authors. Some of these stories were really wonderful, one in particular, “On Wings Not My Own” by Evie Kiels, which I just really loved. I read it twice. A few others were really wonderful. Sasha Miller’s addition, capping off the anthology, is a similar type story we get from her and the type that I love. The angels are very non-traditional in this historical, magical mercenary story. Megan Derr brings us back into the Dance series (which I love and I know many of you do as well). And Kayla Bain-Vrba gives us a very dark tale of fallen angels in a post-apocalyptic, post-Rapture world of broken civilization and the worst of human nature.

Now, here’s the individual information for each story, with just a bit of summary for each.

**Note: The third story in the anthology, “One for Sorrow” by Sylvia A Winters, is f/f, which I didn’t read. So it isn’t included in the review.


Sunburnt Country by LJ LaBarthe (So So)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Angels, Demons, Australia, Good vs. Evil

This wasn’t my favorite of the anthology, but it’s a good story to start off with and we get to see a type of angel in this story which is traditional in a way, yet larger than life and really powerful. The setting here, the far west of Australia, was perfect.

James has finally gotten over the death of just about everyone in his life, including his lover, after moving to the far west of Australia. He’s become part of the family of the small town and works various jobs for them all. He’s accustomed to having a life of migraines, but the one that starts at the beginning of this story is the worst he’s ever had, and he doesn’t understand why until a beautiful man with wings shows up and explains to him that he has an ability to hear the speech of demons, several of whom are inhabiting the area after stealing a very dangerous book.


A Better Ending by Isabella Carter (Really Liked It)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Fallen Angels, Demons, Nephilim, Good vs. Evil, Mystery

Isabella Carter is an author who I’ve really grown to like. Her serialized novel, A Shadow of a Dream also just finished at Less Than Three Press and was released today, and I really liked it. This story was another in this anthology that stood out, and gives us a very interesting take on the process of angels falling and the sometimes inexplicable unfairness of Heaven.

Ainsley is mortified when he catches a story on the nightly news while cooking himself dinner. An unidentified woman has been found murdered in an alley and police are looking for anyone who can identify her. He can’t believe that the woman could be his friend Eleanor, but it is. Now, he has to explain what he knows about her to the police. One of the detectives assigned to the case is intense, and Ainsley seems to have some sort of connection to him. As they get to know each other, Ainsley starts to learn more about the detective, who is much more than he seems and is harboring a personal history and connection to the killer.


One for Sorrow by Sylvia Winters
Keywords/Tags: f/f


The Lost Angel by Elizah J Davis (Really Liked It)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Angels, Nasty Exes

Alex has been able to see and talk to angels since he was five years old. But the world has changed and angels aren’t needed as much anymore. Through is life, Alex seemed to reveal a talent for finding people that needed angelic intervention, so he bought a bar, named it The Lost Angel, and every night a whole host of angels show up to make bids for those that walk through the door. The bar seems to have a knack for attracting people who need help, and they’re never seen again — that’s the mark of a job well done. When Finley shows up, newly dumped by an asshole boyfriend who stole all his money, Alex seems someone that he wants to help, despite his angels’ feelings.

This was a very cute story and I really liked these characters. Seeing Alex and Finley get to know each other slowly and fall in love while working at the bar together was really nice and this came out as one of the stories I remembered best.


Watch as My World Ends by Kayla Bain-Vrba (Really Liked It)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Angels, Post Apocalyptic, Religion, Mythology, Dictators, Rent Boys, Slaves, Dub-Con

I mentioned this story earlier in the main part of my review, and it’s definitely the darkest story of the lot. It also has some of the very best worldbuilding. Growing up in a southern Baptist church, a lot of emphasis was given to the Rapture and the Apocalyptic Literature of the Bible. I always found the thought of the world and people left behind rather interesting, and I was delighted to see a story that really explored that thought, but not from a human perspective (though there is a small part from a human POV), but from two angels. This was another really great story in the collection.

Nathan (“Ephraim”) was created in the third generation of angel creations by God, but fell when he questioned his orders to slaughter and kill humans, including children. As such, they tore out his wings and he was left at the mercy of the civilizations created after the Rapture. Falling up on the mercy of the leader of such a city, while waiting for the seven years of plagues to end before all were sentenced to death, Nathan becomes the town’s whore, not allowed to do any other job and adamant that he pay his own way, even if that way is the most degrading way possible. Another angel is the leader’s assassin, but he has hope for redemption, and as such sets his eyes on helping Nathan. But Nathan won’t accept handouts, and a stalemate is created when the other angel, now called Dakota refuses to sleep with Nathan in order for Nathan to accept his help. But, Dakota won’t give up his mission — but is it because he is falling in love with Nathan, or because he’s obsessed with being redeemed?


On Wings Not My Own by Evie Kiels (Loved It)
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Angels, Alternate World, Religion, Second Chances, Amnesia

This story was my favorite in the whole collection. I’m not sure why, honestly, because I normally really don’t like amnesia stories and it had a few problems near the end (I thought). The world, however, really swept me up and I loved the idea that the two men, even though one can’t remember the other, are still completely in love and will do anything to escape the religious madmen who have taken them away from one another.

Aive can’t remember the last year of his life, but has the feeling that he’s missed something big. It drives him crazy that he doesn’t know what me missed but also why he can’t remember. And with the encouragement of his sister, he journeys from his home, walking hundreds and hundreds of miles to the ocean, following the prophetic dreams that come to him every night from the perspective of a beautiful, winged man that Aive feels he must know. When he gets to the city on the ocean, he finds people that seem to know him and wonder where he disappeared to. And when he follows the dreams to their very end, he finds an angel in a cell deep in a cave, left to starve and almost dead.

When he takes the angel to the Angel Embassy, he finds that not only is Sobal the one that sent him the dreams, but that they fell in love, were married, and were soon to travel to Sobal’s home, a city high in the mountains where the angels come from. But they waited, because Aive wanted to see a little more of the world knowing that once they journeyed there they could never leave. And in that time, a zealot devoted to God took his faith too far, possibly separating the two forever. Will his memories of falling in love never return? And will Sobal ever wake from his ordeal?


Made For You by Megan Derr (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Dance With the Devil series, Angels, Magic, Demons, Captive/Kidnapped

It was wonderful to return to this series. I love the Dance with the Devil books, I even re-read Dance with the Devil recently, as well as The Glass Coffin and I’m currently reading the newest book, Dance Only for Me as a serial. I seem to slightly remember this couple that was mentioned in one of the books, I think the first one, so seeing their story was interesting.

Charlie was brought to life and made into form by his master Jed, a descendant of Solomon, holder of the Solomon Ring, and a world-renowned sorcerer. Charlie is an angel, the best of his kind brought to life from the ether with only the power of Jed. He’s in love with his master, and set to protect him. He’s waited for Jed to realize that they belong together in love as well as in life and work, but Jed won’t accept it. They’ve been on the run for months from the men trying to kill of the last remaining descendant of Solomon and to take the ring, and they almost succeeded. Six months prior, they overpowered Charlie and kidnapped Jed. Now Charlie is searching everywhere he can, on the trail of the kidnappers, and he stops into Brennus territory to talk to the demon.


Angel Eyes by Debora Day (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Fallen Angels, Angels, Demons, Warriors/Bodyguards

This wasn’t one of my favorites of the anthology, but it is a well written story. I just, for some reason, couldn’t really feel the romance.

Uriel wakes up naked in the snow with no wings. He’s always been faithful and never failed his Creator’s orders, so why does he find himself fallen and unable to remember how he got there, how he could have made the worst mistake available? He’s rescued by Stephen, a man who lives in a cabin nearby. They get to know one another, Stephen disbelieving of Uriel’s story and thinking he’s just some crazy guy, while Uriel is nursed back to health. For the first time, Uriel feels human emotion, and starts to understand what makes angels fall, or want to fall — the addiction to feeling. But there is actually a reason that Uriel is here, with Stephen, and surprisingly it isn’t because of a mistake he made. He, the protector of the Garden of Eden, is set to protect Stephen against the hosts of hell who would kill him before he can enact a change in someone in the future, which will change the world.


Angel Fever by May Ridge (Really Liked It)
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Angels, Priests, Guardians/Bodyguards, Magic, Healers, Adoption, Family Issues

“Angel Eyes” is another story that I liked because of the world building. That, also, was the reason that it didn’t get even higher marks. I would have liked to have just a bit more information, or maybe history of how the angles and the church came to be working in a leading partnership of sorts. While I liked the story and romance within the world, and I got just enough for it to make sense, I didn’t get a sense of why, or a larger picture of the world, and because I was intrigued by it, I really wanted to know those things and to understand.

Malachi (Mal) grew up in the angel orphanage, like most angels do. He’s just turned 18 and can finally access his records. He found out that his father is a very prominent angel, on the Council, but he still doesn’t know who his mother is. He is a healer, and because he is male and has a different nature of magic, he is one of the best healers in a long, long time. When he returns to the orphanage, he meets with the priest in charge, a new one from when he was there and a very young priest by the name of Tobias. It seems, however, that Tobias cannot access Mal’s records either, which is very curious indeed. They begin to form a relationship out of their partnership to find out the details of why Mal’s files have been hidden away and what secrets they hold, learning about one another and each one’s secrets along the way. Why is Mal’s mother such a secret? And why do the priests regard Tobias with contempt?


The Book of Judgement by Sasha L Miller (Really Liked It)
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: HFN, Magic, Warriors, Assassins/Mercs

And last, one of the stories I was most eager to get to. I had to make myself not skip again and read out of order. I’m a big fan of Sasha’s work and this story definitely lived up to my expectations. I admit that I was getting a bit tired of angels by this point (I did say that I wasn’t really an angel story fan!), so this story was a nice diversion from the typical angel mythology and a story along a similar vein to the stories that I’ve liked in the past by this author. Unfortunately, the rushed ending and even somewhat shaky HFN, IMO, made it unable for me to give this story top honors.

Reza is one of the most powerful magic users at the university, and also a professor. While clearing out a crate filled with books left to the college from an estate, Reza discovers a very powerful and dangerous book of magic called The Book of Judgement. It is the true book, not a recreation, and the possibility of it getting to the wrong hands is very real and very terrible to imagine. So, at the behest of the Chairman of the college, Reza travels with Edmé on a month long journey to the place where the book can be hidden in a tomb, protected and never to be lost into the hands of the greedy or malevolent. But someone else already knows about the book. Reza is getting death threads and dangerous spells snuck into his mail even before he has left on the journey. And as the two travel, they’ll learn to trust one another even while almost sentient book tries to tear them apart and tempt Reza with the knowledge of what is inside.