Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 0-8217-7643-6
Contemporary Romance, 2003
The stories by Fern Michaels and Virginia Henley are actually repackaged from older anthologies published in 1996 and 1995 respectively. The ones by Holly Chamberlin and Marcia Evanick are new. Having said that, none of them are particularly good in any way.
Marcia Evanick’s A Misty Harbor Christmas tells the story about city girl Olivia Hamilton inheriting her grandmother’s big house in Misty Harbor. She comes here to sell the house only to fall for Ethan Wycliffe, the hot teenager all grown up and even hotter than ever. Like every evil grandmothers that leave their granddaughters houses in so many unoriginal small town contemporary romances, this big house will be the blackmail tool that will prevent the city girl from ever leaving the smalltown ever again. In this case, after pages and pages of Why Small Town Life Is the Best moments, Olivia realizes that oh, she can’t bear to sell the house of her beloved granny and she loves Ethan and because Ethan is a guy and hence exempt from making sacrifices in a relationship, she will stay here forever! My, isn’t it convenient then that Gran has left her the big house to stay. There is nothing new in this story and as a result, there’s nothing memorable about it either.
Holly Chamberlin’s All I Want is a shrill 130 pages of our chick-lit heroine Abby Walker whining, complaining, and moaning about her life, her job, her mother, her friends, and the handsome hunk that keeps eluding her. Excuse me while I stuff cottons up my bleeding ears and nostrils and try to forget that I’ve read this unfunny first-person diatribe and rant of moans and groans. There’s nothing here that can’t be solved if the spineless but whiny nitwit heroine pulls herself together but no, it’s a non-stop infliction of her moans and groans on me instead. Chick-lit? This is more like slit-wrist lit if you ask me.
Fern Michaels’s Merry, Merry is bizarre. Our vet heroine Andi Evans moans that she’s out of money and her practice is going under. At the same time she is unwilling to sell her land and she insists on feeding too-many-to-count unwanted pets dumped on her doorstep. Yes, this is one of those truly pathetic girl-child heroines that cannot save themselves no matter what, someone that will scream that she’s starving to death even as she spends the last of her money on expensive dog food because, you know, doggies are cute and all that. But at the same time, she has the smarts to insist that the hero Peter King pay more than three million dollars for her land when she finally, tearfully realizes that she has to sell her land no matter what. Hmm, maybe she’s just lucky. Unfortunately, after this brief moment of lucidity, Andi’s character begins to erratically switch between little-girl mode and grown-up mode. The predictable Evil Woman creates trouble for the couple. Unintentionally hilarious dialogues round up the fact that Fern Michaels really knows what she is doing when she uses First Draft, Inc in the copyright notice.
Virginia Henley’s Christmas Eve suggests that this author really shouldn’t try writing too many contemporary stories unless she stops confusing “feminism” with “psychobitch”. Psychobitch Eve Barlow and chauvinist pig Clint Kelly are stranded together during a snowstorm and exclamation marks fly as these two exchange insults while ripping each other’s clothes off. Eve and Clint are caricatures rather than characters. He is laughably chauvinist and macho and she is just as bad in her pouty and stormy insistence that she is Independent! Modern! even as she walks straight into a hole in the frozen lake. While this author’s stormy and tempestuous bodice-ripping characters work very well in a campy historical novel setting, they come off as awkward, stilted, and even insulting in a contemporary setting. But really, this story is so campy and unintentionally funny – some of the insults these two hurl at each enough really make me laugh – that it’s hard to remember that I’m not supposed to be enjoying bad stories like this one.
When the best moments of this anthology come from the unintentional campiness of the stories by Virginia Henley and Fern Michaels, I think it’s safe to say that Let It Snow is… well, let’s just let it go, I guess.