Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-373-09141-6
Contemporary Romance, 2013
It pays to be cautious when it comes to Christmas anthologies, as many tend to contain old stories repackaged in a shiny new wrapper, but the stories in A Very Merry Temptation are all brand new. That’s nice. Depending on what you are looking for, it may or may not be nice as well that these stories are all light in plot, being all about the “boy meets, then boinks, then marries the girl, the end” while paced like a bullet train.
Kimberly Kaye Terry starts the whole thing going with ‘Twas the Season. That is not a very original name for a short story, but you should check out the names of everything else in this story. Our heroine Nikki Danes – not a porn star, honest – works at MagHard, which turns out to be an interior design company instead of an adult film studio. Our hero is Maxwell Steele-Hardaway, and no, he is not a porn star with the longest name in the business, he’s a… serious businessman, for the want of a better word. You’d think that, with such a name, he’d be compensating for an erectile dysfunction problem or something, but no, it gets up and going just fine, thanks for the concern. Did the author plan to set this story in the adult film business only to scrub it clean for Arabesque? The names are too obvious to be coincidence, no?
Anyway, Nikki is an intern who decides to go for a fling during the company Christmas party, and she has her eyes on “Max Stele” (I mean… seriously now) to do the flinging with. She has no clue until later that he’s actually the big boy of the business, summoned to take some reins by his darling mother, and by then, she’s been so much down and dirty with him that they are both supposedly in love. Maxwell shows some weird control freak tendencies, but I don’t blame Nikki. I mean, the guy is filthy rich while still keeping all his hair and teeth, and he has a flat stomach to go with the fat wallet. So what if he thinks he is Christian Grey now and then? The money is worth it and I’d be all for it if I were her.
Pamela Yaye’s Mistletoe in Memphis pairs a stick-up-the-ass hunk Lincoln Davenport with struggling caterer Essence Sinclair for a happy Yuletide shag. This story is easily the best of the three, as the author’s narrative is brimming with great humor. The heroine is so much fun to follow. My only issue is the hero who is allowed to have so many sticks up his ass, he can practically open a baseball bat store in there. It is one thing for a hero to be stuffy and surly now and then, but Lincoln comes off as someone who’s just not fun. He is a control freak who says mean and hurtful stuff when things are not going his way, and I think he’d be an overbearing person to spend one’s life with. Essence deserves someone better.
Finally, Farrah Rochon serves up Second-Chance Christmas, which is, like the title suggests, about Ayana Taylor and Jackson Richards, former sweethearts, meeting again at her brother’s wedding and shagging in time for the happy ending around Christmas. Nothing much here, other than two people deciding to have a go again at a relationship after feeling the world tilt a bit while they are, er, getting to know one another again.
With the stories being what they are, the best reasons to read them would be the sex scenes, although the level of explicitness is understandably nowhere comparable to a typical erotic romance. I know, that sounds shallow, but there’s not much else to be had from these stories. They are short, so there is no much characterization here, and the romance is basically “Hey, we’ve had hot sex, so let’s get married, ya?” Still, all three stories are easy and painless to read, so this book is like someone to have a fling with. Jump into it with minimal expectations, and nobody gets hurt at the end of the day.