Authors: SE Jakes , Amy Lane , Z.A. Maxfield , Anne Tenino , L.A. Witt
Narrators: Nick J. Russo, Dorian Bane
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Run Time: 6 hours and 22 minutes
Category: Anthology, Contemporary, Show Business, Romance
At a Glance: A lovely little anthology that revisits some favorite characters from the Bluewater Bay series, and introduces a couple more into the series canon.
Reviewed By: Cassie
Blurb: Cupid is visiting Bluewater Bay, and he’s leaving chaos in his wake.
Nothing’s been the same in this sleepy little logging town since Hollywood came to shoot the hit TV show Wolf’s Landing – especially Valentine’s Day.
In L.A. Witt’s “Just Another Day”, beloved actors Levi Pritchard and Carter Samuels have an announcement for their fans, while in Z.A. Maxfield’s “I’ll Be There”, actor Spencer Kepler and his boyfriend Nash Holly brave a blizzard and a fan convention to spend their first February the 14th together.
Of course, it’s not just TV stars celebrating the day. In Anne Tenino’s “Helping Hand”, an aspiring artist eager to escape Bluewater Bay decides he just might have a reason to stay: lust-inspiring logger Gabriel Savage. In SE Jakes’s “No Easy Way”, a local teacher reconnects with an old lover working security on the film set. And in Amy Lane’s “Nascha”, a Bluewater Bay elder recalls how his own unconventional family used to celebrate the holiday.
Real life may be nothing like TV, but when Cupid comes to town, there’s plenty of romance and drama to go around.
Review: I loved this anthology. These shorts run you through the emotional spectrum—humorous, poignant, sweet with a little heat. And the audio is a lovely way to spend a few commutes, or, like me, an entire Saturday, because I am an audiobook marathoner (but not literally, people! I don’t—like—run *shudder*).
The premise of the Bluewater Bay series is that all the novels are standalones, loosely grouped around a TV Show being filmed in Bluewater Bay. Each novel covers a different couple, and is written by a different author. The fun is that you can jump in anywhere in the series order, and occasionally you catch cameos of beloved characters that you’ve spent time with before. Which, for character-loving me, is deliciously torturous. The sad part is that you don’t get to spend any significant time with those beloved characters after their book is done.
Until now! (*squeeeeeeee*)
In four of the five stories in this anthology, the authors brought back the couples from their novels, just to feed my fixation on more, More, MORE character details. L.A Witt and Z.A. Maxfield give you peeks into the continuing lives of the characters they coupled in their novels. Anne Tenino gives you insight into the first chance events that her characters experience before getting their second chance in her novel. And Amy Lane pulls back the curtain on the past and the motivations of one of her novel’s secondary characters in about the same timeline as her novel. At least, I think it’s the same timeline. I hadn’t read hers yet, but I picked it up to read right after listening to this anthology, and I’m not quite done yet. But that’s how good her short was!
Which leads me to the warning part of the review:
If you haven’t read these books and you listen to this anthology, YOU WILL WANT TO GO READ THE BOOKS. So go make room for that in this month’s entertainment budget right now. You don’t have to have read all the associated novels to enjoy the anthology; I certainly hadn’t. But these shorts are so good you’re going to want to go get them afterwards.
The fifth story is a standalone short by SE Jakes. There isn’t a related novel that I could find, but the standalone has a full story arc with a satisfactory resolution (and chapter breaks!), so it’s fine (really!) that there’s no novel. I may have WANTED to see more of these characters, but that’s because I’m greedy (and fixated).
Narrator Nick J. Russo is the narrator for all the books in the series that are available in audio, and I like him. He does a good job with the emotions, he handles character differentiation fairly well, and he’s pleasant to listen to. I’m always willing to give a book he’s narrating a try. So, with all that in mind, it was a bit jarring to toss in second narrator Dorian Bane. He only narrates SE Jakes’ short; the rest is all Nick J. Russo. I’m not sure if it was a choice made because SE Jakes has no related novel in the series, and a new narrator was intended to make that stand out, or what, but it felt a bit odd. This is literally the only audio connected to the entire series not narrated by Nick J. Russo. So yeah, weird. Vocally, Dorian Bane has a bit of a movie trailer sound and intonation. It definitely took some getting used to, and even after I adjusted, I wished they’d had Nick J. Russo do this story, too. Dorian Bane did okay emoting, and executed a little differentiation between some of the character voices, but every once in a while, I had trouble distinguishing when he was reading narration and when he was reading dialogue—with a couple of the characters he gave his normal speaking voice. Overall, I still enjoyed the story, though, so it’s not something that should keep you from buying the audio. I’d give Nick J. Russo a 4 star on the narration, and I’d give Dorian Bane a 3.5, so, still fairly high marks.
There you have it! This anthology is lovely, and it’s even lovelier on audio. Strong individual stories with characters you already know (or will want to know more!) make it a wonderful addition to the Bluewater Bay series. And the holiday theme just means you’ll have another excuse to listen to it again come February.
You can buy Lights, Camera, Cupid! here: