In Hawks and Dragon, a temp office worker named Annie meets Rose, a pest control woman who has a hawk named Cassidy. The two become friends and Rose opens up a whole new world to Annie when she teaches her how to transform into a hawk. The two go on several adventures, one involving a daring dragon rescue. Breaking the Silence is about 4 school friends who reunite after many years. When they get together to recount a chilling event that took place all those years ago, they find that the truth is far more disturbing than what their minds created.
The Woman Who Hatched a Fairy’s Egg is a really long tale about a woman named Cynthia who used to be a man named David. In the process of remodeling the house she inherited from her now deceased lover, she finds a peculiar egg which transforms her life. Mr. Singh Confronts the Minotaur is a short, odd tale about a pair of women from different backgrounds who embark on a Greek cruise. The more open-minded but less refined of the two makes friends with an Indian named Mr. Singh, whereas the uppercrust lady meets a far more exotic man who turns her head.
Charmed by Prince Charming has Colin, a gay male theater actor, falling for Ashley, a lesbian who works in the same troupe. As awkward as it may be, Ash is coupled with Jen, Colin’s best friend, and to make matters worse, Colin finds himself seeing Ash as a man. Can this triangle work out? Seven for the Devil is actually my favorite of the collection and finds Michael, a bass player, having to make a terrible choice after a horrific bus accident claims the lives of the rest of his band. When the devil offers him a choice between fame and fortune for himself or getting his friends back, he doesn’t spell out all the details. When things don’t go the way Michael thought they would, he’ll have to wheel and deal to even survive.
The final story is called The Footballer’s Mistress and we learn of a ghost named Poppy who haunts an old mill that has been turned into luxury apartments. There she spots Grace, a lovely young woman who is mistress to a famous sports figure. While Grace is happy when she is with him, she is distraught every time he leaves. When Grace discovers an old locket that used to belong to Poppy’s mother, she finds a measure of peace and the two become somewhat interconnected.
I found myself liking every other story in this collection. I would read one and not like it, then the next would be enjoyable. Some of the stories were just so long, seeming more like novellas than short stories. After recently reading the very excellent Snowballs from Mars, with its short but punchy stories punctuated with dark humor, some of these stories just seemed to drag on. It’s also quite clear that Stevie Carroll is focused on sexual preference as most of her stories contained some aspect, even if it’s just all of her male characters who apply lip gloss and eyeliner before leaving the house. I just found it a bit distracting and unnecessary, personally. For instance, in The Woman Who Hatched a Fairy’s Egg, she seemed super-focused on “the change” in Cynthia’s life and for the longest time, I thought she was simply referring to Cynthia’s lesbian lifestyle. It seemed an odd way to refer to it, but since the sex change operation isn’t mentioned until much later, it isn’t clear to the reader. It seemed a detail that didn’t really matter, whereas other far more intriguing aspects, like what caused her lover’s death, were never explained.
Overall, this collection took me quite a while to read, considering I normally breeze through a 300 or so page book easily in a couple of days. Some of the stories are quite good, but I wasn’t crazy about the entire collection and there was too much hyper-focusing on the characters’ sexuality, considering that wasn’t a central topic in most of the stories. I’d recommend reading an excerpt to see if it is to your taste, although the stories are so long, an excerpt might not give you what you need to make your decision.