Varios: Dates From Hell

Dates From Hell
Short Story compilation, various authors
(paranormal romance)

Dates From Hell is a collection of four short stories set in varying contemporary worlds where the paranormal exists along with the mundane.

In “Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil”, Harrison takes you back to the world of the Hollows and gives you a glimpse into Ivy’s life before she meets up with Rachel Morgan, the main character in Dead Witch Walking. Ivy must come to terms with what it means to be a living vampire in a world where vampirism is hereditary and the undead vamps try to gain a hold on those still living.

In “The Claire Switch Project”, Sands takes a scientific twist on shapeshifting. Her protagonist is “accidentally” zapped with a molecular destabalizer, and suddenly finds that she can change her body to mimic other people. Without knowing what she’s gotten into, Claire must decide whether she’ll accompany her long-time crush to their high school reunion, or whether she’ll help his twin… by posing as a movie star as her date at the reunion.

In “Chaotic”, Armstrong introduces Hope, a half-demon journalist with a taste for trouble, and brings back Karl Marsten, a sophisticated werewolf jewel thief. Hope’s visions lead her to Karl again and again—but they also lead her to the corpse of a guard who has been killed by something with teeth. Is this Karl’s work, or a set-up? Because no matter how much Hope loves her job, not everything is as it seems.

And in “Dead Man Dating”, Handeland writes a tale of love and demons in a post-9/11 New York. When Kit discovers that her Internet date is really a demon, will she choose to team up with the demon hunter to track him down? Or would she rather stay in the demon’s arms, where she’ll experience pleasure like she’s never imagined? There’s only one problem: if she gives in to that pleasure, it’s sure to kill her…

The stories work with varying degrees of success. Harrison develops Kisten into a character I would like to know better, while leaving me without much more insight into Ivy. She provides good self-conflict in Ivy as the main theme of the story, and then doesn’t quite resolve it at the end. “Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil” works well as backstory for the other Hollows books, but isn’t a satisfactory stand-alone. It perhaps belongs in a book of exclusively Hollows shorts, with a little insight into each of the major characters in her novels.

“The Claire Switch Project” and “Dead Man Dating” are both cute, sweet tales of love that have to fight against cheesy titles. Both are enjoyable, with Sands keeping a lighter tone to her story than Handeland. These two are both complete as short stories, and both fit in the romance genre almost better than the paranormal. “Claire Switch” keeps a light tone even with the romance, but “Dead Man Dating” gets a little more explicit. Neither is overly graphic, however.

Armstrong’s “Chaotic” is the best in the bunch, managing to blend the supernatural with romance and a touch of light humor into a story that works well as a stand-alone short or as a part of her growing “Otherworld” series. Fans of the charming Marsten will enjoy seeing him grow as a character. Hope is a well-thought-out heroine, who neither cowers at the sight of danger, nor rushes into the midst of things the way a confident fighter would.

I would rate this collection for adults and older teens, mainly for the sexual content. The stories aren’t disturbingly explicit, but they do all contain at least implications, if not actual sex. Violence is present as well, but as with the sex it’s not graphic.

For more information on any of these authors, visit their websites:

Kim Harrison
Lynsay Sands
Kelley Armstrong
Lori Handeland


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