cover image ONCE UPON A ROSE


Nora Roberts, Jill Gregory, Ruth Ryan Langan, . . Jove, $7.99 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-515-13166-6

An addition to the "Once Upon..." series (Once Upon a Dream, etc.), this anthology of magical stories is anchored once again by the prolific Roberts. All four entries have the vaguely mystical feel of the fairy tale and the connecting conceit of the rose. The best of the lot is Willman's "The Fairest Rose," a quest narrative with a winning heroine who displays a strength of will that surprises even herself. The weak link is "The Roses of Glenross," by Langan. Featuring a pair of battle-scarred lovers recuperating in a haunted Scottish abbey, the story is tainted by inconsistent characterizations and a contrived rose motif. Roberts deftly conjures a fantasy world of ice and snow in "Winter Rose," but her chilly tale lacks the fiery romantic tension typical of her writing. Finally, Jill Gregory's "The Rose and the Sword" is an engaging but slight quest narrative; the hero and heroine achieve their ends too hastily and learn very little from their journey. The rose motif ties this anthology together better than many similar projects, but none of the selections are outstanding. Although each of the contributing authors has a loyal fan base who will be pleased by this book, this isn't a worthy introduction to their work. (Oct. 2)

Forecast:With Roberts's name emblazoned on the cover in large print, this mystical anthology will sell, especially among avid readers of historical romance and fans of fantasy.