It's been a long time since I've read romance novels in any form. I'd forgotten the flow and ebb of story versus sex that happens within their covers. To someone who's familiar with paranormal fiction yet unfamiliar with the romance genre, the two novellas by Zoe Archer and Bianca D'Arc in "Half Past Dead" would come across poorly. Someone who reads romantic fiction but is unfamiliar with the paranormal side would have an easier time of it.
I'll freely admit that I don't understand zombie stories. Reading through these, I came to the realization that while the zombies are an integral part of both stories, they're peripheral to the stories. The main focus is on the romance between the two pairs of main characters, something that I (and everyone who reads them) should have had firmly in mind before starting the book.
When I read these stories, I could see how they would film, were they to be made into movies. In Zoe Archer's "The Undying Heart", set in Victorian England, I envisioned a slightly steampunk view of that period. It was an intriguing look at something that was thrown into the period and has a lot of potential for missteps and yet doesn't have many. There were a few times that I winced a little, but as Archer's first presented foray into her Victorian England, it left me wanting to see more. Luckily, in August 2010, that option opens up and I'll be able to see where she takes her readers.
When it came to "Simon Says" by Bianca D'Arc, it was a very different feel. A good story, I had a few unanswered questions by the end of it, but I was also still somewhat in the mindset of paranormal fiction. There was more sex than I usually prefer in a story of 140 pages, but they weren't cliched. The scenes were well done and they didn't come off like they were in the middle of a bodice-ripper.
There's a lot of potential in these stories. Expansion would only help. I'm pretty sure that's the aim; I'm anxious to see the follow-through on that.
~review by Jeremy Bredeson
Authors: Zoe Archer and Biana D’Arc
Brava Books, 2009
pp. 320, $14