Once Upon a Rainbow, Volume Two by Jennifer Cosgrove
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
With 8 short stories in Once Upon a Rainbow, Volume 2, all by different authors, there was a huge opportunity to see some diversity. Ironically this didn't happen. All of the stories are a take on a fairy tale (of sorts) with LGBTQ+ romances. One would think that in a collection of stories meant to help bring down barriers the writers could at least all agree not to use the same stories over and over again. Honestly I'd had enough of Cinderella by story 3 never mind by story 8. Almost all of the stories relied heavily on Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty fairy tales in some way, shape or form.
The first three stories are meh at best. The second story, Snow Fox, was cute but so short there was no time to really get into this Snow White re-telling.
Thankfully by story four, Shattered Glass, there was marked improvement. This tale must be based on a fairy tale I am not familiar with, or it was so loosely based on one that I missed it. However Lina Langley has a lovely writing style, and with a slightly longer story than most in this anthology; I found this story by Langley to be a much better experience than the three before.
The last 3 stories were quite strong. Were I compiling this edition I would have moved one of them to the opening story spot. A strong start to an anthology tends to keep readers carrying on through the weaker stories.
Story 6 - Finding Aurora by Rebecca Langdan
This story has lots of little twists and turns during it's retelling of Sleeping Beauty. I found it to be clever, amusing and overall an adorable little story. Even if the ending is 'conveniently' resolved. I especially liked the twist on a dragon guarding the princess. This story is definitely worth a read.
Story 7 - Master Thief by Sita Bethel
This is, easily, the steamiest of the stories by far. It has a lot of erotica in it between two boys. Our thief character is quite clever and manages to resolve all the 'challenges' set forth for him in a very unique way. I didn't love that this was a very one sided romance, until the very end. While our characters are divided by class (typical of a fairy tale), this one seemed to feel one step too far to me. I didn't like that one boy was putting in all the effort while the other one sat back and (more or less) laughed. A happy ending (of course) but I feel like 5-10 years down the road that division would play out in a less than happy way. Although I could just be too practical for this story. (lol)
Story 8 - True Love Curse by Tray Ellis
I may be biased, but I like this one best if only for it's representation of older women who are looking for companionship. Yes there are two boys who find 'true love' (of a sort) but I have to say that I was far more interested in the parallel story of our two widowed women. It would be very cool to see this story expanded on, or the concept taken to a full length novel. I think, in literature, we don't explore the 'older lady' relationship dynamics the way we should. Maybe because most authors aren't old enough to have experienced them? All I know is that I think it's truly gorgeous for people to find love, comfort or companionship later in life once their prior loves or partners have passed (regardless of what sex that new person may be).
This anthology is worth it as a light read if you want something easy. I would dub it a 'beach' read. Easy to read in a lazy way and with 8 stories of different lengths you can plan out when to read what (if you don't want to read in order).
That said, I won't be rushing out to get novels from any of these authors just yet. Each of them has room to grow (some more than others). Our last three writers should definitely be on the 'future radar' list as with a solid editor I believe they could improve enough to be worthwhile authors.
I would however read a future anthology that takes fairy tales and twists them into LGBTQ+ scenarios. I really did enjoy the cleverness of many of the stories and will be watching for volume 3 to come out in this clever little series.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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