Books to Love: Shorts Go With Short Stories
Summer is sadly coming to a close. I know we still have a few weeks left, but already people’s minds are turning to the upcoming school year and all the commitments that come when our summer wardrobes are tucked away in favor of sweaters and more sensible footwear.
However, as I said, there are still a few weeks left of the sun soaked days and sultry summer nights. Let’s embrace them. Let’s go outside and lay in the sun. If you’re lucky enough, go to the beach and wiggle your toes in the sand. Swim in the sea. Splash in the pool. Wear your short shorts.
And, speaking of shorts, let’s talk about shorts of a different sort. Short stories. They are perfect for the last weeks of summer. A short story demands little investment compared to an entire novel. So, if you want to snag a fifteen minute break during your shift, preferably with a cup of iced coffee, or just peruse a few pages while you bake on the beach then here are my recommendations. Added bonus, these are all available on the Kindle or the NOOK, so you can upload them onto your phone via those apps and carry them wherever you go.
The Three Fates by Kate Quinn
Kate Quinn is one of those authors who you simply do not overlook. I first came across her when I was searching for a good historical novel set in ancient Rome that WASN’T a Colleen McCullough. While McCullough is an excellent author and I highly recommend her, I wanted something out of the Caesarian way. Quinn offered that in the form of Mistress of Rome. What I didn’t know when I picked that novel up was that it was only the beginning of her series. It’s four books long now, taking us from the rule of Emperor Domitian through Trajan and Hadrian and ending with Marcus Aurelius. These books are favorites. I’ve even read through them more than once, which says something in my book. So, if you’re interested in dipping your toe into Ancient Rome without committing to the whole series, take a gander at this novella. It will not disappoint.
Midsummer Night by Deanna Raybourn
Lady Julia fans out there? If you love Deanna Raybourn’s first Victorian murder mystery series, and lament that there hasn’t been another for too long, then snap up this short story and enjoy. It’s perfect for summer. I mean, look at the title…
Far in the Wilds by Deanna Raybourn
And, if you remember A Spear of Summer Grass- the giveaway from last year (see posts here and here)- then you’ll remember Ryder White. Ever wonder how Ryder got those gloriously gory scars up his arms? Well, this short story tells that tale. If you’re looking to get dusty and adventurous out on African safari, this novella should quench your wanderlust thirst.
Ivy and Intrigue by Lauren Willig
The time period is completely off with this short story as it takes place during Christmas, but if you need a little Christmas right this very minute, and you want it complete with a figgy pudding and a little Regency romance, then Ivy and Intrigue is right up your decked hall. Taking place right after The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (see post here), this story is a bit of lark as Amy and Richard reacquaint themselves with their friends after their honeymoon. And, because Lauren Willig writes the most fun spies since Baroness Orczy gave us the Scarlet Pimpernel, this short story will thoroughly entertain you.
The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match by Juliana Grey
Juliana Grey is a nom de plume for Beatriz Williams. More often you might have seen it attached to a series of romance novels. However, Juliana Grey is branching out a bit and this short story, which also contains a hefty dose of romance, also includes a sprinkling of spies. Meet the Duke of Olympia, a single man who has lived a life of adventure. He’s been things and seen places, as Mae West would say. Now aboard the SS Majestic, the Duke is on a mission to recover sensitive documents of intelligence and unmask an anarchist. But nothing fouls up a mission more than an intriguing American widow who won’t stop running about in his thoughts. I mean, he’s the Duke of Olympia. He’s too old and too mature and too too for such fanciful thoughts. So what’s a duke to do? Prequel to the Emmeline Truelove series, this short story is a delightful introduction.
Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge
Perhaps you’re on the lookout for something a little more fantastical. Look no further than Rosamund Hodge’s short Gilded Ashes, a retelling of the classic Cinderella fairy tale set in the same world as her first novel Cruel Beauty (see post here). I appreciate Hodge’s voice. I also enjoy her style. She writes in the first person, and the world which she has created has a firm foothold within historical/mythological context even though it is its own fantasy world. I really love that she writes variations on fairy tales. It's the little girl in me, I guess, but Hodge does it so well. If you’re not sure whether you want to plunge into an entire novel by her, then get ahold of this short story and give it a go.
The next three short stories are all interrelated. The characters can all be found in Renee Ahdieh’s duology: The Wrath and the Dawn (#1) and The Rose and the Dagger (#2)- her retelling of Scheherazade and her thousand and one nights.
The Moth and the Flame (#0.25)
The characters in this short story are secondary in the novels. Khalid’s Captain of the Guards, Jalal, and Scheherazade’s maid, Despina’s story is rather interesting, however, and I was glad to have this look into their dynamic. At times it was witty and biting, that electric tension that sometimes teems between lovers, other times it was poignant, sometimes it was tragic. At all times, it was well written and evocative.
The Crown and the Arrow (#0.5)
The Wrath and the Dawn duology is written entirely from Scheherazade’s point of view. This short story gives the opening of the story from the perspective of Prince Khalid, the man who Scheherazade married even though the threat of execution loomed over her when she did so. It takes place before the start of the books and is a great introduction to Ahdieh’s writing style as well as the plot of her novels. She conjures Arabian Nights superbly.
The Mirror and the Maze (#1.25)
I would recommend that you read the first book in Ahdieh’s series before you read this short story as it contains spoilers. Written from Khalid’s POV again, this story occurs between the two books and gives perspective to Khalid’s behavior pre- The Rose and the Dagger. Honestly, I think these three short stories are the perfect accompaniment to the last days of summer. As they are a re-imagining of the Arabian Nights, you have the hot days and cool nights of the desert. And, as this is Ahdieh, you also have vivid and delicious descriptions of the food, too. Warning: don’t read these on an empty stomach.
I hope some of these short stories have whetted your appetite. One of the great things about short stories, too, is how cheap they are. Depending on which one you choose, you can get them from as low as $0.99. Some are even available for free. Now, what do you say to that? Free reads in the summer. Ah!
Any short stories to recommend, dear readers?