by Carolyn Davidson, Judith Stacy, and Theresa Michaels; historical (2000)
Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29131-0
This anthology should have a subtitle. One Christmas Wish and underneath, maybe something like "Annoyingly stereotypical angelic brat wants a Mommy" stories galore! There's something about modern child-rearing psychology in sanitized historical settings that make me think of Good Housekeeping, Oprah Winfrey, and all those stupid "Women's Daily" websites and magazines that seem to think that all I live for are recipes, horoscopes ("Is today the right time to flash my panties at him?"), and love quizzes ("Is he the right man for me?"). Not exactly a pretty picture really.
Carolyn Davidson starts off the anthology with Wish Upon A Star, which, the way I see it, is a purely self-indulgent exercise of revisiting old characters, which would surely please the fans of her Tanner romances. Me, I haven't read any of Ms Davidson's romances before, and I am absolutely bewildered at the way she lands me right in the middle of what seems like a drama already unfurled halfway in a previous novel.
Morgan Brady is already seducing Anna Tanner on page 1 and he would've gotten the Holy Grail were he not interrupted by some crucial Business Matters. (I have no idea how they met.) He actually wants to marry Anna since his daughter wants her to be the new Christmas Momma, and he doesn't mind having her as the Christmas Hot Momma too. But Anna thinks he wants her to be his mistress and flounces back to her town, where her family practically rules it, with a huff.
Morgan goes after her. But will he propose to her right away? No, he must kiss her first, and say a lot of stupid things that only enforces her idea that he wants her as a mistress and nothing more. Morgan decides he must win her family's approval first before proposing to her (don't ask), which is actually an excuse to show how the Tanners of previous romances are now having kids, happily married, successful, et cetera.
Frankly, I don't really care who are having whose kids, because in the first place, I have no idea who is whom! The least these Tanners could do is march up in a single file and announce, "Hi! I'm Somebody Tanner, and I'm the sheriff in this town, and I'm married to Somebody Here!" or something on Page 1.
And the romance is frankly tedious too because it relies on miscommunication and unbelievably dense behaviors on both Morgan and Anna to keep the story going.
Judith Stacy's Christmas Wishes is a much better story. It has heroine Abbie Doyle, who unfortunately is as stereotypical as they come, promising Jack Graham that she will fulfill his daughter's Christmas wish if he would agree to her bossy and unpleasant employer's demands on a housing project. (Somehow she mistakes him as a suitor from her matchmaking friends and screams some nasty things at him at first sight - smart - and now she thinks it's her fault he's turning down her boss's demands - smarter - and so she will make him say yes or she'll be fired - whatta genius!)
Of course, Abbie's what Jack and his daughter want for Christmas. The end.
CW is readable in a Hallmark manner, although Abbie's out-of-the-blue and definitely too-contemporary views of parenting yank from this story much of its credibility.
Theresa Michaels's More Than A Miracle is the best of the lot, although the heroine is rather one-dimensional in her Earth Momma Saintly role. Maureen O'Rourke is a widow who is squatting at a seemingly-abandoned cabin with her daughter and a boy she has adopted. The one day comes the owner of the cabin, Gabriel Channing, who incidentally is also the father of the lost boy. Such coincidences are wisely explained as "His Will", by the way, by this author - smart move, especially since it's Christmastime.
Gabe stays to mend fences and make peace with his past as well as to reclaim his son, while Maureen weaves her Perfect Maternal Christmas Warmth on everyone with her perfect home-made Christmas yummies and all. This is a perfect fantasy, mind you, complete with perfect fireplaces and all, and it works despite all the modern pop parenting tips Maureen keeps sprouting.
Oh, and I did try one of the three recipes that accompanied this book. The Savoiardi one. Never mind that my maid and my husband fled as far as they could from the kitchen - I have not cooked for 30 odd years now - the Savoiardi thingies turned out okay. Or at least they looked okay for green Savoiardis. I'm still trying to do a postmortem analysis on what went wrong.
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