Dafina, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-7582-6867-9
Contemporary Romance, 2011
All I Want Is You is a collection of two short stories minimally tied to the year-end holiday season, although they could be set during any time of the year without having to significantly alter the story lines. Oh well, I guess we all need an excuse to load up on the love during this season.
In Kayla Perrin’s Holiday Seduction, I get a familiar story. Mikki Harper is itching to get married because her biological clock is ticking. Alas, her boyfriend ditched her shortly before she is supposed to attend her sister’s wedding! Never mind, she finds an old high school acquaintance, Barry Sanders, who has since mellowed into a gorgeous hunk. They end up having sex, only to have her wailing in the morning that she is such a slut and, oh, she’s never going to get married. She doesn’t know what to do anymore, especially when her ex comes back expecting another chance, and oh, she’s never going to get married so the world is ending. This story is more chick-lit than anything else, mostly because the heroine has the luxury of being like a self-absorbed, rude, neurotic, and desperately needy wretch while the one-dimensionally perfect Mr Right patiently waits to take her back. Sure, in the end, she learns that she shouldn’t settle for less, but I can’t help thinking that poor Barry is the one settling for less here. Sure, Mikki is hot, but she takes him for granted so much here. Is her pretty face really worth all that effort?
Deborah Fletcher Mello’s Her Holiday Gifts is a far better story. Malisa Ivey is a celebrity chef who accidentally finds herself trapped in the towering cake she has prepared. The cake has a latch at the bottom of the stand for someone to pop out and surprise the guests, you see, and Gabriel Whitman is indeed pleasantly surprised when he happens to pass the cake, hear Marisa’s cries for help, and releases her. They have an instantaneous attraction, but Gabriel’s ex-wife is determined to ensure that these two will not find happiness together.
While I’m never fond of the ex-wife plot device, here the author manages to make Delores a malicious but still believable character. She’s a nasty piece of work, but she never comes off like a cartoon character. Normally, a hero would come off looking like a fool for tangling with such a creature, but here, Gabriel comes off pretty well, as he and Delores share custody of their teenage son and he tolerates her presence because of this. He is no fool to her attempts to manipulate him, however. Likewise, Malisa is an intelligent heroine who can hold her own very well against Delores. She is no victim here. She and Gabriel have a nice chemistry bubbling here, and it is actually a pity that Delores’s antics take up so much of the story later on.
However, the bigger issue with this story is that huge chunks seem to have been removed, maybe to shorten the story into a more manageable length, without much efforts made to make the abrupt cuts in transitions of scenes less noticeable. This story, therefore, feels curiously disjointed, especially towards the end when the scene abruptly jumps from Malisa giving it good to Delores to a happy ending with Delores nowhere in sight. Oh well, but it’s still a pretty decent read nonetheless.
All in all, All I Want Is You is a decent, if not too memorable, read.