Suite 606

J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan and Mary Kay McComas
2008, Varies
Berkley, $7.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425224449

Grade: B
Sensuality: Subtle

In this new anthology, Berkley brings together stories in a variety of genres linked only by the mention of a Suite 606. While at first glance the book appears to be a hodgepodge of odds and ends, the stories are all fairly strong. While some of the contributors could have made more use of the unifying theme, readers looking for a variety of short reads will likely enjoy this book.

Romantic Suspense
Sensuality: Subtle

J.D. Robb gets things off to a very strong start with Ritual in Death, another in her Eve and Roarke series. One piece of good news about this story is that readers do not have to be current on the characters' history to enjoy it and, since I am many books behind in the series, this was a good thing. Suite 606 in this story is a luxury suite in a hotel owned by Roarke that has become the scene of a gruesome satanic ritual resulting in the death of a young woman. Eve and Roarke learn of the killings when a bloody man enters a gathering they're attending at the hotel, and his trail leads back to the murder scene.

By the time this story takes place, Eve and Roarke are already married and their interactions show that they are very comfortable with one another - though there is still a spark of passion there. While the bulk of the story is devoted to the mystery (and it's a thrilling one), the relationship between these two is also well-drawn. The rush of a couple falling in love is exciting to read, but seeing an established couple working well together and deepening their relationship feels pretty romantic, too. This one is very enjoyable.

Grade: B+

Regency Romance (Regency England)
Sensuality: Subtle

In Love Endures, Mary Blayney spices up a traditional Regency with a touch of the supernatural. As a girl of eighteen, Summer Cassidy fell in love with her betrothed's close friend, Lord Stephen Bradley. However, after learning of Stephen's betrayal, Summer went through with the marriage her family had arranged with Reggie Cassidy. Unfortunately for Summer, her husband proved a ruinous gambler and when he dies after being set upon by thieves, she finds herself left with a mountain of debt. Finding her modest home haunted by Reggie's ghost really does not help matters.

Though Summer does not particularly relish the sight of Reggie, she does find her emotions confused as she spends more time around Stephen. Somehow, as Summer begins to learn that the facts of her life are not entirely as she had thought them to be, Stephen starts finding his way back into her life. While the misunderstanding between these two is one that I would normally find to be an eyeroller, I thought the author's handling of the situation rather touching. The supernatural intervention via the legend of Suite 606 is effectively done as well - it's a little twee, but not too far out there. Though somewhat predictable, this one is still a heartwarming story.

Grade: B

Paranormal Romance
Sensuality: Subtle

Cold Case is easily the most haunting of the stories in this anthology. While it would spoil things to tell how the Suite 606 device is used here - or even to tell much about the plot - I can promise readers that they will find a spooky and intriguing tale. After wrecking his car on a country road, Sam Hunter stumbles upon an old farmhouse occupied by an unhospitable older man and his two stepdaughters. The older stepdaughter, Mary Catherine, catches Sam's eye right away, and the two flirt shyly with one another as it becomes clear that the coming storm will require Sam to stay the night.

As Sam settles in for the night, he gets inklings that all is not as it seems on this little farm. There is a mysterious quality about the place and its people that tugs at him. He also finds himself feeling very protective of Mary Catherine, and this has its effect on his actions as well. While many readers will likely guess at least a few of this tale's secrets before they are revealed fully at the end, the story still had me turning pages quickly. Langan's writing takes on a haunting quality that matches the content of the story well and while the relationship felt a little rushed at times, the story still held my interest in a very firm grasp.

Grade: B

Paranormal Romance
Sensuality: Subtle

While not bad by any means, Wayward Wizard is a weak link in this anthology. The story is solid enough and at least a little bit better than the average, but it lacks the flow of the others and I had much more trouble getting into it. Marie Barnett, a divorced mother, has taken her son Hugh to a museum exhibit while she has him on visitation. Though Marie's son obviously has issues with her, she tries valiantly to engage and reconnect with him. Her efforts seem somewhat in vain until her son starts to play with part of an exhibit that causes him to travel into another realm. Marie follows, and there they meet the wizard Nester Baraka.

The story focuses on Nester, Marie, and Hugh's quest to find a stone that Nester needs to find. In the meantime, they find themselves travelling through time in an effort to return to the modern-day museum where Marie and Hugh belong. While the story has some cute touches to it, including one point where the characters find themselves passing through another author's world, the budding relationship between Marie and Nester never feels quite real. The relationship between Marie and her son flows a little more realistically, though it does get a little rushed. As a result, I never fully sank into this story in the way that I did the others.

Grade: C+

Overall, the Suite 606 anthology features some very strong stories. The unifying theme holding them all together is somewhat tenuous, but the stories themselves are good enough that most readers likely will not mind. If you're looking for something quick and enjoyable to read, the authors here have assembled some wonderful tales so readers can take a break from the holiday rush.

-- Lynn Spencer

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