Reviewette: Hot Spell Anthology "Falling for Anthony" by Meljean Brook
Venture into a world beyond the ordinary, where the dark passions and voracious appetites of vampires, werewolves, demons, and a few undaunted mortals combine to unleash a potent spell...
Here are lovers to tempt the imagination: Eyes that glitter with keenness born of ancient knowledge. Hands that move with a tenderness belying superhuman strength. Inviting smiles that reveal exquisitely lethal fangs. Rippling, leonine muscles. There's danger in the air...and heat.
Steam rises up off the pages of these four scorching novellas, sensuously crafted by four acclaimed authors who beckon you to slip into the shadows and experience the otherworldly pleasures of the night...
The Guardian Series Book One
While all of Meljean Brook's Guardian novels are set in contemporary times, the novella, "Falling for Anthony", is the one exception. Yet with this exception comes the introduction of a multitude of characters that will ultimately be revisited in the novels to come.
Although "Falling for Anthony" is Brook's only historical, the novella is written so well that one would think this was her subgenre of choice to write. I've found through my reading experiences with Brook that she can seamlessly move back and forth through time and realms. With nary a pause you're flying from the medieval times to the present, from Hell to Earth to Chaos. It's neither jerky nor sudden but rather a water-like flow that at times can be smooth or rapid, but either way it's always consistent.
Emily Ames-Beaumont is disillusioned by love. Her heart has just been broken by the one man that should have wanted - if not been obligated - to protect it: Her father. Angry, hurt and looking to strike back at all her youthful beliefs, Emily hides away in the library to protect any unsuspecting persons from her wrath. But when her lifelong friend, Anthony Ramsdale, walks in, Emily takes the first plunge into the deep end of ruination and obliterates all her former innocence in a fleeting moment of restrained passion.
Anthony is spending his last night with his best friend Colin, Emily's twin, before heading to Spain to repay his debt to their father, the Earl of Norbridge. As a member of the impoverished gentry, Anthony was encouraged by the Earl to pursue a life of trade work as a physician. Although it's frowned upon by both the peerage and the gentry, Anthony was compelled to better his financial status by his own disillusioned dreams of one day making Emily his wife. He's loved her forever despite their rather large age gap, but Emily's fanciful notions of princes and dukes soon found himself seeking more in the hopes that one day she'd look upon him the way he covertly looked upon her. Grateful to the Earl and his much needed help, Anthony knew that one day he'd have to return the favor but he never thought the Earl would request that he go to Spain where death and blood of war awaits.
Although he's shocked by Emily's cunning sexual advances, Anthony does little to stop her from her goal. In his mind, the thought of compromising her for his own gain is tempting but he soon dispels the thought for the Earl would surely crush him into oblivion if he even dared. But Anthony has yearned for Emily for so long that his resistance crumbles under her onslaught even as his confusion escalates over her strange words and bitter emotions. In the end he acknowledges that it was the single most unsatisfying sexual escapade of his life but he promises Emily that when he returns from the continent, he'll make right this horrible wrong. Anthony, still desperate to have her, pushes into the back of his mind her non-committal reply.
It's mere months before Anthony greets death but it's not from anything logical like a bullet but rather by a horrific creature that feeds off fear and blood. A nosferatu.
During the First Battle, the three new orders of beings were determined: the angels, who fought for those Above; the demons, who sided with Morningstar; and the nosferatu, who abstained from the battle until the victor became clear. The demons were thrown down from Heaven, and they made their corrupt mirror in Hell. The nosferatu were not welcomed Above or Below; they are forever denied rest, hunted by angels and demons alike - and now, Guardians.
-The Doyen Scrolls
Falling for Anthony © Meljean Brook
A Guardian, that's what Anthony willingly becomes upon his death. The role is offered by Michael due to the fact that Anthony successfully sacrificed himself to save another against the nosferatu.
Guardians came into existence after the Second Battle. The angels and their appearances on earth were causing humans to worship them as gods. The demons of Below were jealous and launched another attack with the help of a dragon that they brought from Chaos. One being was able to defeat the dragon: The then human Michael. The angels, feeling that it would be better if they remained absent from earth, granted Michael the ability to change courageous humans into Guardians to aid him in protecting mankind from the evils of Hell.
In the ten months since Anthony left and died on the continent, Emily's life has radically changed. She, her twin Colin and their young nephew are all that's left after a terrible fire claimed the lives of the rest their family. No sooner does this happen when she and Colin are attacked by a creature that even Emily can't fully believe is real. Now she sits beside her ailing brother as he battles an unknown disease that is slowly stealing his life. Crushed beneath despair, Emily lets the fight in her go when Colin, in his bizarre craving for blood, attacks her.
Although Guardians typically stay in Caelum - a realm accessed by Gates throughout the world - for a hundred years, Anthony is being sent to Earth to help destroy the nosfertau that has attacked Emily and her family. The reason for Michael's decision is extremely perplexing given that young Guardians can become enthralled on earth, but his reasons matter little to Anthony. All that he can think about is Emily and the danger she's in.
Emily is more than surprised to see Anthony back from the dead, with wings no less, but the fact that he saved her from near death at the hands of her brother and is there to help gives her a shining beacon of hope. Finally she can explain the truth of that night when the creature attacked and turned Colin into a blood thirsty monster. Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that a nosferatu isn't the only danger that lurks. A demon is also in residence and Anthony, along with his mentor and fellow Guardian - Hugh, must find it and discover its reasons for being.
Meanwhile, Emily and Anthony find time to reconcile that bitter night so long ago. Emily reveals the sordid truth of the days after Anthony left for Spain and he's soon filled with anger and jealousy but there is also relief that her dalliances were never discovered. Anthony soon realizes that the woman before him isn't the same girl of ten months ago. Although the length of time is short, so much has happened to them both which has ultimately caused them each to re-evaluate their life. With these confessions, passion inevitably follows rekindling a bright and fiery blaze of love. But when the nosferatu is killed, Colin is saved, and the demon discovered, it's time for Anthony to depart. By the time his hundred years in Caelum is up and he can return to the human world, Emily will be long dead unless Anthony can discover a way to stay with his beloved.
"Falling for Anthony" was a great introduction to Meljean Brook's very complex Guardian Series. Heaven and Hell, imaginable differently in everyone's mind, and to break them down into words, much less their inhabitants, is amazing. Brook brings about very recognizable terms and places such as Free Will, Hell and angels but she also introduces new myths and rules that play integral roles in the series. To present these complexities in a hundred and fifty pages is no short of astonishing. The reader isn't ever overburdened and Brook delivers enough tantalizing details to have you picking up the next series installment.
As far as the romance is concerned, "Falling for Anthony" isn't my favorite in the series. And before your thoughts venture into this realm - no, I did not think that the worldbuiling interfered with the romance. Quite the contrary. So, why did the romance fall flat for me? It was Emily. I didn't like her or her behavior towards Anthony. While I do understand that her early motivations were that of a distraught and vengeful child, I couldn't forgive her. I think as romance readers, we're all inclined to be harsher on the heroine than the hero.
Anthony, on the other hand, was wonderful to read. His innocence was tangible and I thought it made learning about Brook's world that much easier. Anthony is a self-sacrificing person and it showed admirably with the choices he made. He's a man of loyalty and honor and Emily was more than lucky to have garnered his utter devotion and love.
Go Behind the Story!
Lost? Unable to Read the Series in Order? Check out The Guardian Series Primer!
QUESTION FOR MELJEAN: The Guardian world is admirably complex. How do you keep your timelines, facts, and the rules of your world organized and accessible?
It's all in my head. Now and then I will have to look something up (for example, the exact year that Hugh found Lilith in Wallachia), but otherwise, the world and the Rules live in my gray matter. I think this is necessary for worldbuilding -- everything has to work together and make sense down to the core, so if I have to look up something like, "Can vampires have children?" in my notes, then I'm in big, big trouble as a writer. I have to know my world inside and out. And that also isn't to say that I don't figure out some aspects of the world as I go along (for example, I always knew HOW the first vampire was created, and roughly when it happened -- but I didn't decide WHO had done it until I was working on my third book). But everything that pops up has to be consistent with what has gone before.
For the first several books, I didn't write it down at all, either. But, since my readers can't live in my head, I did create the Guardian primer, which offers a ton of information about the history of the Guardian world, the timeline, and the beings who populate the world.