Charmed and DangerousCharmed and Dangerous Anthology, edited by Jordan C Price; featuring stories by: Rhys Ford – Dim Sum Asylum; Ginn Hale – Swift and the Black Dog; KJ Charles – A Queer Trade; Nicole Kimberling – Magically Delicious; Jordan Castillo Price – Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns; Jordan L. Hawk – The Thirteenth Hex; Charlie Cochet – The Soldati Prince; Lou Harper – One Hex Too Many; Andrea Speed – Josh of the Damned vs. the Bathroom of Doom; Astrid Amara – The Trouble With Hexes

Published by: JCP Books LLC

Genre: Queer Fantasy Anthology

Reviewed by: Judith, Santino, and Anna

It’s a week of some BIG firsts here on Binge on Books. First we had Santino Hassell chatting up Jordan C Price in a frank author-to-author Q&A to celebrate the release of the highly lauded magical anthology, Charmed and Dangerous. And now, we have our first ever group review: it’s me, Santino Hassell (who just can’t seem to leave Jordan C Price alone), and a new guest contributor, Anna Hullum.

We’re going to do this review as a set of question and answer prompts to really see what three different reviewers thought of such a unique and diverse anthology. So let’s have at it!

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Plot: Magic takes many forms. From malignant hexes to love charms gone amok, you’ll find a vast array of spells and curses, creatures and conjurings in this massive collection—not to mention a steamy dose of man-on-man action. Charmed and Dangerous features all-new stories of gay paranormal romance, supernatural fiction and urban fantasy by ten top m/m paranormal authors.

Review:

The good vs the bad:

Judith: Guys, I’ve got to be honest – anthologies are usually a bit of a mixed bag for me. Either the stories don’t fit well together, the themes are strange and not relevant to me as a reader, or the writing just isn’t any good. Charmed and Dangerous manages to blow all those past anthologies I read out of the water. With a boom! Here, each of the stories is tightly written and even though they all represent very unique types of magic, they are all very deeply rooted in the central theme of magic co-existing peacefully, almost normally, within our mundane lives. What did you guys think? What are the pros and cons of an anthology of this scope?

Anna: Yes! The best part of this anthology for me was the fact that it encourages authors (and readers!) to embrace queer fantasy. However, the flip side of that is the difficulty in establishing an alternative magical world within the space of a few thousand words. I think that some authors’ styles lend themselves to concision more readily, and perhaps those authors have an advantage in short-form fiction, which is notoriously difficult.

Santino Hassell aka lover of all that is JCP: For me, the best thing was the fact that most of the stories had the magical world existing in the same plane as the human world so there was a co-existence of both. In some they co-existed peacefully but in several, there was this obvious animosity between different types of magical people or distrust between magical person/human. I like this as a theme in fantasy in general because it is an awesome parallel to our world.

Judith: Well, one of the most interesting elements for me was that the editor, JCP, gave a very open ended prompt, requesting only that the author write a paranormal, spec fic or urban fantasy story. And yet most writers pretty much true to the worlds they had already created – KJ Charles and Jordan C Price were notable for this.

Santino: I think that hits on one of my “cons”. Not that it’s a REAL con, but I noticed it  while reading. There was a notable crossover between the paranormal and law enforcement in the anthology. I love this type of story (big fan of Psycop by JCP and the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko), but it got me thinking about the fact that if there were more people writing queer paranormal there would be more diversity in terms of subgenres. Which, yea, that isn’t a con but more of a plea for people to write more queer paranormal!

Anna: I was really interested to learn that the prompt was so broad and yet the majority of the stories fell into a fairly narrow grouping of hexes requiring investigation- although I enjoy both hexes AND investigation, so this was not even a minor problem for me. 😉

Judith: Do either of you think the law enforcement is a natural extension of most of these writers’ normal characters/subgenres?

Santino: I didn’t know that because I haven’t read a lot of the authors in this anthology until I READ the anthology. So I looked at it from this lens of: well it’s natural to want to examine how law and order would interact with the paranormal. I mean… law and order in the real world interacts so vastly different with different groups of people (to say the least), it’s interesting to speculate about how that would be once you introduce a species with powers or levels of strength, etc.

Anna: Also it runs parallel to existing strata of society in the way that spec fic commonly does, and shines a spotlight on how we deal with those strata as a culture.

Santino: Yes! People react extremely to change. Or they CAN.

Which of the stories resonated with you the most and why?

Judith: Anybody who knows me personally and knows this blog understands without any doubt that shifters are a very difficult plot point for me to enjoy. Usually if I see shifters, I bolt dropping that book like it was covered in boils and plague. I find most shifter stories to focus mainly on sex and not on the alienation one must feel being a creature in the human world. So it was extremely surprising that Charlie Cochet’s story, The Soldati Prince, managed not only to capture my interest but struck a chord with me on a deeper level. It was a deeply satisfying story that offered only the best parts of fantasy – brain vs brawn; a quest; a human-shifter pairing; and a battle of good vs evil – with a side of jaw dropping HOT to round it out nicely. The alienation came in the form of the human element not the shifter and this surprising role reversal really caught and held my attention.

Santino: Ginn Hale’s story, Swift and the Black Dog, really resonated with me, to be honest.  I liked the idea of the fallen hero or the hero who has been mythologized by society to the extent that he kind of hates his own story. It reminded me of Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind in how it examined how the rest of the world can take these actions and turn them into a STORY that turns a “regular guy” (although I don’t think any of us would consider these guys regular) into this larger than life amazing hero who is almost godlike. So Jack Swift was viewed this way and immortalized in all of these movies, but in reality he is cynical and bitter and kind of ashamed of his past.

Anna: I think my favorite was probably Lou Harper’s One Hex Too Many. I know mysteries kind of give you hives, Judith, but I love them, and this one started with a classic “body in the bathtub” whodunit trope that is immediately recognizable to mystery readers. Harper’s follow-through is what made this story great, though. The familiar crime framework lets the author focus on character and play with archetypes within this magical AU, and I think it really worked. I liked ALL of these characters (especially Leslie, I’m hoping they get their own story one of these days!), and I’m so glad to have been clued in to an author I hadn’t come across before.

Would you recommend this anthology and why?

Anna: I would enthusiastically recommend this anthology because while it’s always great to get a little bite of deliciousness from your favorites (Jordan C Price, Jordan L Hawk, KJ Charles, Charlie Cochet, & Rhys Ford!) it gave me a really welcome opportunity to explore a few more writers of SFF that I hadn’t had a chance to read yet. I hadn’t read any Kimberling, Harper, or Amara, and although I loved Andrea Speed’s Infected series, I am now motivated to read her Josh of the Damned series in addition to seeking out these other writers. HOW MUCH FUN IS THAT? It’s like a candy sampler but good for you! Yum.

Santino: I would recommend CHARMED AND DANGEROUS to anyone. Whether they read primarily contemporary romance or historicals, I think this anthology is a good primer for what they could find in queer paranormal. There’s not only a variety of themes and sub-categories, but the voices are all strong and will hook readers into wanting to explore a bit. The brilliance of CHARMED AND DANGEROUS is that JCP included authors who have a solid backlist of paranormal to satisfy readers who’ve just whet their palates and are seeking more of these kinds of stories.

Judith: At its most basic, this anthology is a fantastic introduction to fantasy as a whole and queer literature, specifically romance, as a subgenre of that. One of the coolest aspects of this book was how magic and reality blended seamlessly. None of the characters seemed overly concerned about magic running rampant through their daily lives and it just existed as a natural extension of everyday surroundings. I love that mixture of real and unreal; it permeated everything with a sense of dreamy possibility and made for some heady reading. The fact that there are ten fully realized and fully fleshed out stories in this also means it’s more easily accessible than your typical fantasy novel. You can devour a short in an hour or two and keep going or stop as the mood strikes. It’s full of lovely, decadent imagery and some big names in queer literature. My advice? Like all that JCP has a hand in, YOU NEED THIS BOOK.

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Stories and Writers:

Rhys Ford – Dim Sum Asylum

For Detective Roku MacCormick, working Arcane Crimes is his passion. Now cleared of any wrongdoing for shooting his last partner, MacCormick is given back his badge… as well as a new case and partner. Trent Leonard isn’t exactly what he’d expected, but then nothing in San Francisco’s Chinatown ever is.

Ginn Hale – Swift and the Black Dog

When Jack Swift killed a tyrant and won the revolution he became a national hero. But someone in the new government prefers dead heroes to living, swearing, cynical wizards. Caught between bullets, revenge and desire, Jack had better be swift indeed.

KJ Charles – A Queer Trade

Apprentice magician Crispin Tredarloe returns to London to find his master dead, and his papers sold. Papers with secrets that could spell death. Waste paper seller Ned Hall can’t resist Crispin’s pleading—and appealing—looks. But can the wasteman and the magician prevent a disaster and save Crispin’s skin?

Nicole Kimberling – Magically Delicious

Occult attacks against NIAD agents aren’t remotely Keith Curry’s department. But when his lover, Gunther, is assaulted, Keith refuses to just sit back and fill out paperwork. He’s on the case—even if that means enraging powerful mages, crossing leprechaun picket lines, or braving dinner with Gunther’s goblin parents.

Jordan Castillo Price – Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns

Psychic medium Victor Bayne can spot a ghost any day of the year, but Halloween holds some special surprises. His psych-groupie boyfriend Jacob coaxes him to the location of an old spirit sighting, but they can’t ghosthunt without enduring a cheesy “haunted house” that’s even more disturbing than they realize.

Jordan L. Hawk – The Thirteenth Hex

Hexman Dominic Kopecky doesn’t understand why dashing crow familiar Rook wants his help investigating murder by patent hex. For one thing, Dominic isn’t a witch. For another, the case is already closed—and someone is willing to kill to keep it that way.

Charlie Cochet – The Soldati Prince

Riley Murrough goes from serving lattes to being chased by demons. If that wasn’t bad enough, he bears the mark of a shapeshifter king from a magical realm. Riley’s determined to get answers, but if the demons out for his blood don’t kill him, the urge to strangle the arrogant king might.

Lou Harper – One Hex Too Many

Veteran detective Mike Mulligan is an expert on violent crimes—of the occult variety. He might even be cursed. Detective Hugh Fox is eager to partner up and prove himself, but Mulligan is accustomed to flying solo. Can they trust each other enough to track a killer who’ll stop at nothing, not even summoning a demon?

Andrea Speed – Josh of the Damned vs. the Bathroom of Doom

It’s a boring night at the Quik-Mart for Josh and his friend Doug. Until a vampire with a grudge—and the most adorable backup ever—crashes the store. Can Josh survive the Bathroom of Doom?

Astrid Amara – The Trouble With Hexes

P.I. Tim Keller has a problem. And the only person who can solve it is his ex-boyfriend, Vincent, whose job as a hexbreaker was the reason they broke up. It’s hard admitting he was wrong, especially when coughing up organs. But there’s a missing person to find, a hexmaker to hunt down, and a romance to repair before Tim breathes his last.

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