This is a book featuring five stories, all of which were...pretty weird. I had a hard time getting into and following most of them, especially when I was switching from one to another. I pretty much had to go back and start rereading all but the first one to try to follow them again. Good lord, was this ever a mixed bag.
Disclaimer: I'm actually pretty much going to spoil a lot of the stories in this series, because it's hard to write about whether or not these worked without doing so, and they're short stories so that's even harder to avoid.
- "Chaos in Death" by J.D Robb: This was pretty much why I got the book in the first place. I've commented off and on that the series doesn't really use its futuristic setting very well, but hoo boy, does this story. It turned out to be a medical Jekyll-and-Hyde-ish sort of thing, which was completely freaking bizarre (and possibly implausible scientifically). But it was certainly different, so props for that.
- "Her Greatest Treasure" by Mary Blayney: Widow Lydia Chernov is being attacked by some dude for "her greatest treasure." Lydia assumes it's the purple dye recipe in her husband's family, but it turns out to be a coin her husband gave her that grants her one wish, which she ends up using before she finds that out. But she meets a nice nobleman in hiding, so I guess that worked out anyway. I gather the author writes a series of stories with this coin, and adds an interesting afternote to it. I found the story hard to focus on at first (anything starting out with a weird dream will do that to me), but it wasn't too bad in the end. I at least bought the romance in this one, which is more than I can say for some others in here.
- "Dear One" by Patricia Gaffney: This one had potential, but felt fumbled. Molly is a chick who's in school trying to become a professional counselor, and one of her part-time jobs is having a phone psychic business as "Madame Romanescue. Molly doesn't consider herself psychic even though her Aunt Kit tells her it runs in the family, but she starts having some vision-y things going on here and there while talking to her favorite elderly client, Charlie. When Charlie's grandson Oliver sees the phone bill, he objects mightily and calls "Romy" to chew her out and tell her not to take his calls. Molly discontinues Charlie as a paying client, but they do get together as friends despite Oliver's no-no. When Oliver comes over while Molly's visiting, they both claim that she's named Krystal and is Charlie's physical therapist. Oliver and Molly get the cosmic hots for each other at first sight in a beautiful paragraph: "It was like watching the gradual revelation of a gift she'd wanted all her life, inside the most beautifully wrapped box. Oh, it's you, a voice--her own voice--said from a deep place inside. Well, finally." Too bad after that things just never quite lived up to it because Oliver is....generally pretty unpleasant or just plain WEIRD acting or lying to Molly/Krystal/Romy in various incarnations. Your guess is as good as mine as to why he starts calling "Romy's" psychic hotline and pretending to be "Shorty" the cowboy. Picturing her talking in a fake Romanian accent while he talks as a fake cowboy just was incredibly ludicrous. In the end, I had a soft spot for Charlie and Molly, but Oliver just wasn't working for me.
- "The Unforgiven" by Ruth Ryan Langan: You know what? Romance stories involving a ghost as one of the partners just don't freaking work. Why? Because ghosts are already dead and thus cannot settle down with you happily ever after. There is a guaranteed buzzkill because there cannot be one short of total implausibility. Also, I fucking hate stories where the ghost is sometimes embodied--you know, just enough to have sex but not to have to feed him--for no good reason. So I thought this was pretty weaksauce. Brianna moves into the lone asset she's inherited from her dead cheating husband, his family estate, which she plans on turning into an inn. The family ghost objects to this and is generally rude as shit to her and unpleasant. And yet they fall in love so he can disappear and be replaced by a similar descendant of his? Just plain weird.
- "His Brother's Keeper" by Mary Kay McComas: This was also a ghost story, but thankfully less implausible. Ivy Bonner is a children's book writer who's hanging out with this guy who lives next to the house she's staying at, who starts having funky dreams (oh god, more dreams) about a dead guy named Oliver. Oliver turns out to be the ghost of Craig's brother. They have some angst going on--Oliver wants Craig to "free him" (whatever that means) and Craig feels bad he wasn't around for Oliver more while their parents were going through shit. Even though I thought Craig just freaking SNAPPED OUTTA NOWHERE at one point and went from zero to 180 sudden asshole...he gets over it. I wasn't super interested in this story, but it was ok.
Overall, I'm giving it three stars. I'm not super enthusiastic about this collection overall, but it's not actively bad either. Some parts are all right, with a fair amount of "meh" or the occasional "what the heck" going on.