"Bloom" by Rachel Cross leads off the pack. Ava Bennett is on a Californian farm in the middle of nowhere and her car has broken down. Why is she there? As a favor to Asher Lowe, a rock star whose contributions to Ava's events over the years have made her business a success. She can't say no to him, no matter how outlandish his request – such as sending her out to the boonies to look in on his farmer friend, Nate.
She meets a farmer, all right – a large man whose two dogs accidentally ingest some of the antifreeze leaking from her broken car. After calling a vet to help the poisoned dogs, Ava realizes the farmer not only is the man whom she's been sent to check in on, but he's also the legendary guitarist Nathaniel Robbins. Suddenly, his connection to a rock star makes sense.
He cooks her dinner, and they talk, realizing how much they have in common. After eating, she wants to get going, but no one works weekends out in this rural area. She is stuck there until Monday at the earliest, when she can get a tow truck out. Nate offers for her to stay with him. In a second, they are all over each other. They spend the weekend together, but as Sunday draws to a close, she realizes her impromptu vacation must come to an end. And Nate has a secret so big that it could ruin the two of them before their relationship even gets off the ground.
I found the story entertaining and the characters relatable. Some heavier issues are brought up in the story, such as mental illness and addiction, but they are never explored to any depth, as there isn't much room in a short story. I thought there was a nice mixture of ideas, issues and character development.
Next is "Laying Down His Colors" by Debra Kayn. Kristen is drinking whiskey in a bar, waiting for Bruce Grennan to stop bartending. The next day is Valentine's Day, the anniversary of when they first hooked up. But the day after they hooked up, he was gone and he's refused to talk to her since. He belongs to the Bantorus motorcycle club with her dad, which has specific rules about the daughter of a member – namely, that she's off limits.
Kristen thinks that she's struck out again, since Bruce is ignoring her while she's drinking. She decides to go home to her cabin behind the bar. But maybe she hasn't struck out, for Bruce follows her there. After a year of silence on Bruce's part, Kristen might finally get the truth about what happened a year ago between them and what it means for their future.
I found the motorcycle gang part of the story interesting, although I thought sometimes the pacing of the story wasn't as smooth as it could be in terms of the actions and reactions of the characters. Perhaps this story would have been done more justice as a full novel by itself, as there was a lot of background that needed to be explained. But overall, I thought it was an enjoyable romance with a good ending.
"Trapped by Cupid" by Nicole Flockton starts out with Lisa Wheeler, a nurse stuck on the night shift at the hospital on Valentine's Day. She is single and wishes to be anywhere but at her job on such a holiday. Sexy, but arrogant, Dr. Noah Collins starts to talk to her, asking her if she's received any special deliveries for the day. She wonders why he would even bother talking to her, and feels lower than ever.
Later on, she is riding the elevator when Noah gets on. They get trapped in the elevator and it turns out Noah is claustrophobic. Although help is on the way, they have to wait for the repair service to come. They start to chat, and the chatting leads to something more. Noah has a secret that he wants to tell her, and it might forever change the way Lisa thinks about him.
I thought this was a cute, very straightforward story with little of the angst that is so common in contemporary romances. It was a refreshing to have a simple boy likes girl, girl likes boy plotline.
The final story of the collection is "A Demoness Matched" by Holley Trent, and it is completely different from the other romances in that it has very strong paranormal elements. Julia Tate and her brothers are half-demons. Julia doesn't want to serve Hell, so she escapes with her brothers' help. They find a man who's supposed to be her soulmate and tell her she needs to hide on his property. The only drawback is the man doesn't know her and she doesn't know him, and she's supposed to convince him to let her stay.
Switch to Calvin Wolff's perspective. He wants to be left alone, and he purchased this middle-of-nowhere cabin to accomplish that. He's an ex-ballplayer, and tired of the fame. When the doorbell rings, he's prepared to ignore it – until he gets a look at the beautiful woman outside. When it starts to rain, he lets her in.
His problem is he's a werewolf. Neither one of them know the other's secret, but with so much baggage between them, will they ever get close enough to find out?
The premise of this last story was interesting, and it was a good change of pace, being completely different from the other stories in the collection. However, I feel it could also have benefited from being a longer story, maybe book length, in order to give the reader more of a lead-in to the alternate reality of the world. With more room to maneuver, it would've been easier to connect with the characters and expand the plot line so that the motivations of the characters' actions were clearer. Also, unlike the other stories, there weren't any steamy scenes in this story – it was more action-driven than romance-driven, I felt. The romance, while central to the story, didn't have as much time to develop because of the complexity of the backstory and plot.
All in all, I thought this was an entertaining collection of romance stories and a good way to start off my countdown to Valentine's Day.