'Bound in Skin' edited by Sonya M. Shannon

Bound in Skin, edited by Sonya M. Shannon

CatScratch Books 2007

Paperback, 296 pages

ISBN: 0979088925 / 9780979088926

$14.99

Bound in Skin is a collection of seven short gothic romance stories that mostly stick to formulaic plots. There are, however, two stand-out stories in this collection–the title piece ‘Bound in Skin’ by Janine Ashbless and Carole Lanham’s ‘Cleopatra’s Needle’.

According to the blurb, the collection is “inspired by the classic Gothic Romances of the 1960s”. This is true, but unfortunately the authors have done very little to add a new twist to that. They have simply copied tried and tested formulas. There’s nothing wrong with this as such–there is a market for it, and it’s definitely great for some escapism–but had all seven stories had the little sparks of originality, and rich language, that ‘Bound in Skin’ and ‘Cleopatra’s Needle’ offer, this would have been a more satisfying read. The rest of the stories feel like little more than padding around these two, and I found them to be extremely similar. All are told from the woman’s point of view, and the heroines varied very little . The men they lust after felt like the same guy over and over again. Some of the descriptions also got repetitive (surely there must have been something other for the characters to eat than ‘hearty soup’?). The authors appear to be trying to stick to a type, but would have done well to implement wider variety in their vocabulary.

Despite this, the settings in the stories are overall very well written, sumptuous and intoxicating. If these tales fall down in plot, they certainly make up for it in style. Definitely a redeeming feature, although the most memorable parts were the beautiful houses. I got the feeling that there were really only two voices in the collection and if that isn’t the case, then the authors need to put some work into individuality. The sex scenes were rather modest for the most part–enough of a hint to raise a smile to my lips but perhaps not steamy enough to raise my pulse (or raise anything else if any lads try the book). Not enough for a good fantasy, unless you’ve got a superb imagination, but playful and amusing nonetheless.

‘Cleopatra’s Needle’ is the most distinctive of the collection. It tells the story of Ryder and Delia, childhood best friends in Wales who are separated when Ryder’s father decides to start a new life in Ohio. Delia waits patiently for Ryder to make his fortune and send for her, but when he finally invites her to visit, she arrives to find he has had a brutal ordeal with three witches. This is a genuinely creepy and original story, as well as being the most sexually charged of the collection.

The cover art is appealing and plenty of readers will no doubt find this a highly enjoyable and fun read, light-hearted but written well enough to hold some interest. You know what’s going to happen and at least you won’t be heartbroken at the end. If you’re looking for half an hour of silly indulgence to take your mind off the troubles of the modern world, then you’d do okay picking any one of the stories, but don’t come to it expecting to find anything new or surprising.

[[REVIEW BY JESSIE NASH FOR GUD MAGAZINE]]

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