This book contains:
"Winterfair Gifts" by Lois McMaster Bujold. The reason I read this book. I always love returning to Bujold's Vorkosigan series, but this, like the last several novels, felt a bit slack to me. Miles's marriage is the background to Armsman Roic's love affair with Taura. Despite poison and intrigue, the plot never had the sense of urgency that used to make me tear through these books. Instead, it kinda felt like Bujold was wrapping up her time with the series by pairing the last spare characters off.
"The Alchemical Marriage" by Mary Jo Putney. Two mages have to work together to prevent the Spanish Armada from invading England. In so doing they join their hearts, their magic, and their ~bodies~. Purple prose, silly plot.
"Stained Glass Heart" by Catherine Asaro. Yet more purple prose and silly plot, but at least it's a twist on that old tune, the arranged marriage: to ensure his family's success, would-be dancer Vyrl is engaged to the Matriarch of Majda, but loves a simple farm girl he grew up with. The Matriarch is an experienced woman, older and wiser than Vyrl; although it's an arranged match, she hopes they'll grow to like each other in time. Which woman will Vyrl choose? Not that I gave a crap, but he chooses the girl described as having "waist-length curls flying in the wind, streaming around her, shiny and red-bronze, touched with gold sun-streaks." (She also has violet eyes, naturally.) He and his luvah experience no hardships for dissing a powerful leader of a planet, and instead get an epilogue about all their babies. Blegh.
"Skin Deep" by Deb Stover. A ghost is given one last chance to get into heaven: get his ex-wife to fall in love with her old boyfriend. Apparently the ghost had framed the boyfriend as a cheater, thus getting the girl. In the guise of a hot lady, the ghost pushes his ex-wife into the path of the boyfriend she should have stayed with. There's a subplot about the boyfriend being a DEA agent, but it feels pretty unnecessary. I don't really know what I was supposed to think about this story: was I supposed to care about the selfish ghost character? The bland ex-wife or blander boyfriend? Another slog.
"The Trouble with Heroes" by Jo Beverly. On an alien planet, people with extra powers are named "Fixers" and tasked with everything from healing to preventing alien incursions. Then a lady falls in love with a Fixer and finds out that a lot of people have a tiny amount of Fixing power, and that they can all work together to make the world a better place. I guess? I started skimming this about 10 pages in; it felt very scattered.
"Shadows in the Wood" by Jennifer Roberson. Merlin emerges from a tree and asks Marion and Robin Hood to help him return Excalibur to its rightful place. Fans of the Mists of Avalon and that kind of pagan fantasy would undoubtedly appreciate this a good deal more than I did. I thought it clunky and artless.
A surprisingly uninspired, uninspiring collection, overall.