Review: Hook & Ladder 69 by Various Authors

Note: This ARC was provided by Southern Belle Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Hook & Ladder 69 is an anthology consisting of eighteen stories from eighteen different authors but all tied together by the fact that at least one of the main characters in each story is part of St. Louis's Station 69. All the stories are fairly short in length, making them very quick reads and standalones, except for one particular couple whose tale was told over two successive chapters--the anthology is separated by chapter, with one chapter representing one author's story--but not all of the stories are resolved in this collection.

I gave majority of the stories here four out of five stars. Five Alarm by Emme Burton was lighthearted and fun to read, although I admit that Matt and Erin's non-relationship made it difficult for me to believe he chose to do what he did. M.C. Cerny's Spark had a falling-for-your-best-friend's-sibling trope going, with Ryland and Summer having danced around the fact that they've both had a thing for one another for years. The same sibling's bestie theme is found with Kate and Eddie in Rescue Me, written by Lia Fairchild.

The Chase and The Catch, written by Michelle Dare and Z.B. Heller, respectively, both receiving four stars as well. The first one introduces readers to Colton and Logan, while their story reaches a satisfying conclusion in the second one. Both stories are the only M/M ones you'll find in the anthology, and me being the M/M romance fangirl that I am was happy they were included. Colton makes an appearance again in Firecracker by Jami Denise, which had a good amount of sexual tension between Rivas and Heidi.

The Lisa Edward-penned Second Chances is aptly titled, it being a second chance romance between Gus and Maggie, whose reunion was rather dramatic. Going for a more a lighter touch is Glenna Maynard with The Scratch, which carries a May-December story, though it plays out in a way that I didn't expect. I was glad that Oz, who pops up in quite a few of the other stories, gets his time in the spotlight, but if you're the type of reader who considers cheating of any sort a no-go, this may not be your thing, as good as it may be.

Fan the Flames by M. Stratton was creative and probably had the best opening line in the entire anthology, with Ryan and Lana out on a first date neither will ever forget. Inferno by Madison Street pairs up a nerdy looking Mackenzie and hunky Trace, who not only knows Mackenzie's firefighter brother but is wary about the more than decade-wide age difference. Raccoons and Cookies by Felicia Tatum was a quirky tale with Mason and Eva forming connecting while rescuing a raccoon and rewarded with cookies.

One other four-starred story was written by Morgan Jane Mitchell and entitled Hope, which was about Ian and Jessica, two people who had already formed their connection in the past but had never really done anything about until Jessica, a detective investigating two inter-connected cases of suspected arson, asks Ian to help her out. Theirs a bit of suspense thrown in, and I did end up wondering if this, like a couple of the other stories in this anthology, were prequel novellas to future or already published full-length novels.

Two stories get three stars a piece: Rose by Sarah M. Cradit and Untitled by Mary Catherine Gebhard. The former was about two firefighters, Brendan and Rose, who were high school sweethearts whose relationship came to an end. The latter was about a former firefighter, Cage, and a mystery woman, Zee, and the story had a dark feel from the very beginning. Both stories left me with a lot of questions and there was one heck of a major cliffhanger with Cage and Zee's story. Cliffhangers are EVIL. Evil, I tell you!

There were four stories that were my favorites, each one getting 4.5 stars from me: Rekindled by L.B. Dunbar, Just One Night? by Kristen Hope Mazzola, Birthday Blaze by Kacey Shae, and Burnt Sugar by Emerson Shaw. Among these four, the one by Kristen Hope Mazzola appears to be part of an already published or on-going series. Of course, I could be wrong but new St. Louis transplant Mitch seemed to have a lot of history, and I wouldn't mind if he and Candi got a full-length novel because of this anthology.

L.B. Dunbar gives us a story of Ash and Adara, two high school classmates who never really interacted as teenagers but are thrown together unexpectedly for a formal event. Brennan and Jenny's story was sweet and simple and had me grinning like silly, so kudos to author Kacey Shae for that. Then there's Emerson Shaw's story, which was such a complete story that even though it was short, I didn't feel as if I was missing anything. Plus, Jesse's closing line to Aurélie was my absolute favorite among these eighteen short stories.

Overall, I liked the anthology. There wasn't a lot for me to complain about--other than the cliffhangers but then I usually complain about cliffhangers, so yeah--and anthologies often give us an opportunity to have a variety of stories to peruse. This was one of the most unique ones I've come across because they had Station 69 in common. I'm already curious about the back lists of a few of the authors, so I'll be poking around Goodreads soon enough. Hook & Ladder 69 was entertaining and it gets an average of four stars. ♥

Release Date: 16 June 2016

Date Read: 16 June 2016

Learn more about Emme Burton, M.C. Cerny, Sarah M. Cradit, Michelle Dare, Jami Denise, L.B. Dunbar, Lisa Edward, Lia Fairchild, Mary Catherine Gehard, Z.B. Heller, Glenna Maynard, Kristen Hope Mazzola, Morgan Jane Mitchell, Emerson Shaw, Kacey Shea, M. Stratton, Madison Street, and Felicia Tatum.

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