Best New Romantic Fantasy 2: Volume 2 by Paula Guran

7/10 Fans of fantasy stories that aren't in the usual contemporary vein will enjoy this anthology.

An annual anthology of stories of love and wonder. Enchanting and enchanted lovers, magical romance, dark desires, otherworldly sensations, ethereal encounters, paranormal thrills, sensual spells, supernatural suspense, sizzling speculations... Highly imaginative short fiction and novellas from fantasy romance writers.

As is mentioned in the introduction, this second book was originally titled Best New Paranormal Romance in 2006. Paula Guran explains the real reason for the title change was due to a problem many readers had of not wanting to be seen with a romance novel. There are those who love nothing more than to wander around purely with copies of novels by Bold Strokes or Avalon Books, and there are those who do not fancy picking one up in a packed bookshop akin to Borders (yes, we all lament).

It is due to personal embarrassment that many readers are opposed to looking at one in public as romance writing can be viewed by many as soppy or cliché at best.

Paula found that changing the title gave her writers a much freer hand at creating tales for the series this time round.

There are plenty of stories to go around too, fantasy in an urban setting, sword and sorcery, a Japanese fantasy world, and a story of intoxicating fantasy romance near the turn of the century in France.

There are fifteen in all and the first is as intense as the rest. Most will have their personal favourites, ones that they found they could engage in more so than others. For some it will feel as though they are actually there in the story and interacting with the character's thoughts and feelings. And while some use modern day as a basis for their fantasy tale, others are set in a fantasy world from hundreds of years ago. The medieval setting provides an original one; Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge where a young man is roused from his bed to be offered work by a lady with her escort. The story is well-written and full of history about Japanese custom and etiquette. It is a romantic tale but
has humour in it to balance it out.

Jane: A Story of Manners, Magic and Romance has Jane, a magic user who prefers not to marry the prospective partners her uncle seems to throw at her. This is in the realm of the fantasy comedy which many writers have enjoyed successful publications; Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett being two of the most famous who write with full good humoured wit. Sarah Prineas develops her own comic talent in this story about the men she constantly refuses and another man who she does like who proves to be unassuming.

Fans of fantasy stories that aren’t in the usual contemporary vein will enjoy this series immensely as almost all are easy to read in break time or dinner hour and only take up a short amount of time, but are extremely enjoyable to get plenty out of.

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