Brava, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0569-4
Contemporary Erotica, 2003
The lines between bad Harlequin novels and bad Brava novels continue to blur as Harlequin Blaze authors are increasingly bought by Brava to write longer versions of their annoying Harlequin Blaze books. Make it stop, please – am I the only one here thinking that “stupid” and “contrived” are far more appropriate descriptions to the majority of Harlequin Blaze novels out there compared to “erotic”?
It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that when there are six authors contributing stories in an anthology, each one will be extremely skimpy when it comes to character and plot development. In Jingle Bell Rock, Lori Foster, Janelle Denison, and Susan Donovan seem to have thoughtfully cut down the length of their contributions to make space for the longer works of the other three authors. Somewhat ironically, the shorter works are the best of the bunch. The only stand-out is Susan Donovan’s Turning up the Heat.
Lori Foster kicks off the naked Christmas skin parade with He Sees You When You’re Sleeping. This one is yet another one of the many short stories the author churns out every other month for this type of anthologies: Booker Dean, one of three brothers (ah yes, there they are, screaming for sequels already – suckers), realizes that his girlfriend doesn’t love him. So now he thinks he is free to make a move on the woman next door, Frances Kennedy. Frances is his friend, of course, although there is always an undercurrent of sexual tension between them, but now that he’s making a move on her, can she resist? Horny hero and an annoying protest-too-much heroine – the best I can say about this one is that it reads like every other story this author has churned out before. Safe, predictable, and forgettable.
Janelle Denison’s All She Wants for Christmas has Faith Roberts wanting to have sex with kiddie doctor Matthew Carlton and on Christmas, he puts on a Santa fat suit and she gets what she wants. This could have been a typically neurotic “I must have sex with that man I am in lust with!” tale typical of Harlequin Blaze sorts, but thankfully, the story is too short to prevent these cookie-cutter “Blazing” template characters from getting out of bed too much to annoy me. The sex is hot. In this instance, I’ll take what I can get and good hot love scenes with no plot development gets my two thumbs up, especially when any plot development in this story will no doubt lead to a direction that will annoy me thoroughly.
Susan Donovan’s Turning up the Heat is the only story that fits the true definition of erotic. Without any contrived sexual neuroses or stupid plots, this one sees Valerie Matthews nursing a broken heart over Christmas. When her furnace breaks down – ooh, that’s subtle, Ms Donovan – she gets visited by a handsome repairman. Yowza. This one is easily the best because it is funny, the characters have fun sex without being bogged down by weird plots or weirder sexual neuroses, and the love scenes have a playful quality to them that makes it more erotic and enjoyable than the mechanically clinical love scenes of the other stories in this anthology.
Donna Kauffman’s Baby, It’s Cold Outside is about how Suzanna York and Jace Morgan are reunited after ten years of nonsense and now they have a chance to rekindle something new when they are stuck in a snowstorm. Alison Kent’s A Blue Christmas is also about reunions: Thomas “Blue” Miller and Jessie Buchanan where Jessie wants One Last Sex Session to get him out of her system, and Bizarro Moron Sex inevitably leads to the predictable conclusion. The Nutcracker Sweet by Nancy Warren is about two co-workers that can’t stand each other but decide to have sex anyway on Christmas. All three read like truncated Harlequin Blaze types complete with contrived sexual baggages and foolish behaviors that make that line more annoying than it should be. The only good thing I can say about them is that they are too short to annoy me too much.
Jingle Bell Rock contains six short stories that don’t actually leave any impact on me. Should I suggest that you go get this anthology? I don’t know. There’s another anthology coming out next month and two months after that and probably ten more after that one. My suggestion is to take your time and see if there are better ways to spend your money, because I’d bet that the anthology next month or the ones that comes after that one will be pretty much the same old truncated Harlequin Blaze affair.