Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
Four separate stories form the unusual tales in this book where the stories are fantasy romance based and every one has a jewel in the title; Topaz, Turquoise, Amber and Amethyst. They are all written by different authors and all well known around the fantasy circuit.
Topaz and the Lucky Seven by Carrie S. Masek
It is Alma’s Betrothal Season and her best friend, Zaida must make sure that she picks the one man who deserves her love. They have a strange relationship being born on the same day, and liking one another so much, their friendship could never be broken by anyone. Zaida must be careful though, as she is a low born girl, and one who wouldn’t normally be allowed to see Alma, let alone talk to her, or as she knows, go to any balls the princesses may have. She is teased by the others for this, but she is a headstrong girl and doesn’t mind telling them off for being so cruel. She knows she isn’t like the others but has intelligence enough to notice when other men who aren’t any good for her take an interest in marriage.
Alma can't see the problems other eligible men can cause her, but Zaida knows what men are like, and won't let her down. I liked the timing of this story, and as it was short I did want to read more - it captivated me and I didn't really want it to end.
The Turquoise Gown by Jane Toombs
This story takes us to paranormal historical territory with Theodora’s stepmother telling her a tale of a gown that will find the wearer the perfect mate. There are sceptics who would think this a useless tale, but when it actually happens, one can only wonder who the handsome male will be, and what he will be like. Theodora is a girl with a fuller figure than most, so she finds it unusual that she could even get a gown like that on.
Theo had no idea her mother believed in magic and in a much newer age of 1890 too. Her mother had died when she was very young, so it is understandable that she would want to know more about her and what she was like. I found this a fun read even though it was set in such a past time. The humour comes from hearing about how Theo is being made to have smaller meals and take walks instead of gorging on sweets – it is either an attempt to make her slim for good, or it could be a way of her stepmother helping her to get into that gown of hers.
The Amber Tower by Janet Lane Walters
Fantasy romance is the theme of the next story where the rakish Prince Rafel likes his girls, but thinks nothing of commitment with any of them, let alone marriage. He finds he has no depth for love, or affection that could amount to anything that would lead to any commitment, so he goes deep into the woods to find a witch who might change all that for the better. The witch has other plans, though and manages to ensnare him enough to have him imprisoned in an amber tower where he has one of two choices – he can choose from one of two women – but he has to be careful as one is good and the other is bad, or to put it bluntly, one is really the witch herself, and the other is a pure princess. The question is, will he fall for the princess who has nothing or the witch who, it seems has…everything?
It has been a hundred years since the first prince had been taken by the witch, and even though he is told about her, he doesn't believe in witches, thinking it is low born gossip. Once he does make the journey to the witch though, he finds that she has put a curse on his family for years, and he is only one in a long line of princes and heirs to the Rafel throne to be ensnared by her - yet he might also be the one to break this curse. Rafel will strike readers as a tragic character who rather than being full of himself is, in reality, a man who cannot lie to women. He really can't love or have affection when his parents want him to marry for prestige and heirs. This story can serve as a cautionary tale, but also as a realisation one for the prince and what he thinks of women.
Moonlight Becomes You by Karen Wiesner
As a story, this forms a part of her long-running Woodcutters Grim series of novels appearing in a compilation of stories. Since the evil had laid its grip on Woodcutters Grim the Defenders have had to make sure their children can grow up in a safer place that it would have been, or the horrors that lurked around there could have picked them off one by one. This story, like her other novels is loosely based on the fairy tale of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse. Heather Rowe is at a loss as to what is happening to her child, and when she can’t get any answers from the doctors who look at the child, she has to return to Woodcutters Grim, where her man, Lance lives to find out what is going on.
From the first three pages Karen has the reader find out more about the characters than if she had waited. She wants the reader to know of the characters first before she sets the action off in this story. Heather wants to know what is going on with the child, and only he has the answers, but she has only heard a little about Woodcutters Grim and the rumours of the curse, and nothing more. Heather can’t understand why he knows so much about her and her him, but when he answers all her questions, she finally comes to terms with what she has to do to save herself and her child.