by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Amanda Ashley, L. A. Banks, Lori Handeland

October 2004
ISBN: 0-312-99876-7
Reviewer Graphic Button St. Martin`s Press
Mass Market Paperback

Stroke of Midnight opens with Sherrilyn Kenyon's latest story, Winter Born. Pandora is at Dragon*Con, seeking Acheron's help to free herself from a rather bleak future at the hands of the Katagaria were-panthers who took her away from her home and family. One of her sisters told her that Acheron would be attending the convention and that maybe he would be able to help her return back home. However, Pandora now faces another danger: she is in heat and there are four male Katagaria were-panthers in the vicinity. Although she had no intention of getting anywhere close to any of them, Dante Pontis ends up at her hotel room's door and she simply can not deny him. This story is one intense and hot ride, with a very likeable cast of characters and a good deal of humor thrown in for good measure. If you follow Ms. Kenyon's work, you probably will remember Dante from previous books.

Amanda Ashley's Born of the Night is the second novella in this anthology. In this shapeshifter story in a fantasy setting, the heroine, Lady Shanara Montiori, is captured and held hostage by her father's enemy, Lord Reyes. Reyes' father had been betrayed and murdered by Shanara's father and he seeks vengeance. When it becomes obvious that bodily harming her is out of the question, he realizes that his best vengeance will be to marry Shanara. This sweet story almost read like a fairy tale. It has a dark and brooding hero, a kind-hearted heroine, and a nicely paced story that had me eagerly turning every page.

The third story in the anthology is L. A. Banks' Make it Last Forever. Tara is on her way to Las Vegas, in an attempt to reach her grandmother's tribe before it is too late for her. Tara has made a serious mistake that has changed her young life forever. While on her way, she meets her very own knight in shining armor, biker Jack Rider. Soon Jack finds himself involved in the world of the supernatural, as it turns out that he is to play a very important part in a war between good and evil - a part that had already been written in legend, as Tara teaches him. Make it Last Forever is a quick-paced novella with two very appealing and out of the ordinary main characters, young Tara, who is of African American and Native American descent, and Jack Rider, an ex-convict turned biker but who has a heart of gold. I found this story to be quite touching.

Last but not least is Lori Handeland's Red Moon Rising. Maya Alexander moved to Arizona in the hopes that isolation would help her get her inspiration back. She had written several books that had done relatively well, but she didn't seem to be able to concentrate enough on the one that was due in a month. Shortly after she moves, she realizes that someone ... or rather "something" ... is stalking her. Next thing she knows she is being attacked by what appears to be a wolf; but she is rescued by an intriguing man who seems to appear out of nowhere… and she finds herself running for her life. Red Moon Rising is narrated in first person, from the heroine's perspective, and it is extremely fast-paced and full of explosive action, with matching main characters.

Overall, I found this paranormal anthology to be excellent. The stories are well written, something that shouldn't be surprising given the four authors involved. The characters are all engaging and nicely drawn, which is something that I truly appreciate. If the characters don't engage my attention from the beginning, I seldom find myself enjoying a book. In this case, all of the stories had characters that appealed to me. I did find, however, that one of the stories didn't quite "fit" in with the other three novellas. Its level of sensuality, the tone, and its setting sort of clashed with the other three stories. It didn't quite feel right in this anthology, which has a more contemporary "feel" to it, while the novella I am talking about takes place in a fantasy/medieval setting and could be rated as "sweet", as opposed to "sensual" or "spicy" like the others. Mind you, it is a beautiful story and appealing, but in my opinion, it didn't quite fit properly among the other three. Three of the four stories belong to ongoing series, but they can be read as stand-alones without problems. Stroke of Midnight is a paranormal anthology worth reading, and I definitely consider it a "keeper".

Reviewed in October 2004 by Mireya.