Midnight plays but a token role in this latest Once Upon a... anthology (after Once Upon a Kiss), with the exception of the solid offering from Roberts, who easily outclasses her companions. Roberts's "The Witching Hour" is a fantastical but slow-to-start romance between a warrior and the woman destined to save the magical island of Twylia. Gregory, best known for her western romances, also offers a pleasant fantasy in a medieval setting ("Mirror, Mirror"), but her protagonists, a feisty young healer and a wounded knight, are little more than rough sketches. The final two stories—Langan's saccharine, ghost-aided romance ("Dream Lover") and Willman's conventional werewolf tale ("The Midnight Country")—are strangely set in the present. Both, however, feature prosaic characters and improbabilities aplenty. In Langan's story, for example, the protagonists meet on a blind date, fall in love and find their happily ever after in a single day. Two equally far-fetched twists allow the protagonists in Willman's entry to find happiness. Overall, the skimpy character and plot development and awkward mishmash of historical and contemporary elements may convince readers that this series has played itself out. (Oct.)
Forecast:With the avalanche of new books coming out this fall from Roberts—three paperback originals (Key of Light; Key of Knowledge; Imitation in Death) and one highly touted hardcover (Remember When)—this anthology is likely to get buried in the mix.