Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 0-8217-7611-8
Contemporary Romance, 2003
Maybe This Christmas is a collection of two revised short stories by Janet Dailey. Darling Jenny dates back to 1974 and Strange Bedfellow 1979. I don’t know why the author revises her stories when a more appropriate action would be to buy every copy of the anthology where the short stories come from, bury them in a landfill somewhere in the middle of the desert, and deny the existence of the stories. Hopelessly outdated to the point of being offensive in its anti-progressive writings, the two stories here will appeal only to fans of thoroughly alpha jerks and pathetic heroines needing a surrogate spine. A healthy stay-at-home make-baby-boys message compliments the whole suite of insulting stupidity beautifully.
Darling Jenny is awful, but it’s the better story of the two, the same way that a lobotomy is a better option when one has to choose between that and a full anal probe with an electric drill. Jennifer Glenn is a “smart” graduate, only twenty-two, but alas, she is so beautiful that nobody wants to hire her until finally, she gets a job but that’s only because the boss wants to sleep with her. How sad, how sad. If the fact that our business school top grad student here goes to Minneapolis to apply for a clerical post doesn’t alert you to the fact that this story is hopelessly dated, let me welcome you, grandma, to the twenty-first century. Can I borrow your time machine to warn myself not to buy this book yesterday?
She decides to take a break and head off to the mountains for Christmas. Then a convenient snowstorm occurs and our heroine and the hero Logan Taylor have to share a bed in an old man’s house while waiting for the storm to stop. I guess in 1974, women are so ignorant sexually that Jennifer freaks out at the idea of even getting in the same bed with a man. Doesn’t anyone ever tell her that it is okay for a man and woman to sleep in a same bed without actually having to have sex? What a moron. Logan, however, is a bigger one: he’s a complete asshole, from his forcing his attentions on her and justifying it as okay because “you like it” to calling her “Jenny Green” when she asks him not to. Then the heroine decides that her sister likes Logan too and the whole story becomes utterly horrible. Can Logan tell her that nothing is going on between he and that sister? Of course not! He’s an alpha male, you know, so all he does is to leer and manhandle Jenny here while Jenny wails and protests only to submit to powerful pleasures when he ignores her and roughly shoves his paw up her blouse. Communication is nonexistent as he doesn’t talk and she is too stupid to see the obvious. So she runs away, he chases after her, they have sex, she runs away, rinse and repeat until the author has mercy on me and ends the whole imbecilic nonsense.
But Darling Jenny is like a fresh breeze compared to the putrefying brain pus that is Strange Bedfellow, starring a heroine so stupid and a hero equally stupid and horrifically nasty that I’m sure their brains have not evolved past the primordial slime mold stage. In this one, Dina Chandler is going to marry Chet. But her husband, whom she has thought dead when he disappeared two and a half years ago in some jungle far away, returns to spoil the impending nuptials.
The story is going okay until Blake reenters her life. I’m told that Dina is forced to be independent after Blake’s “death”. Chet helped her, taught her to run the company, and today she is a stronger woman than before. Isn’t that lovely? Then she throws everything away to degenerate back into a spineless pretty doll for Blake. It’s a lovely message for the women of today… if today is 1703, that is.
Let me count the ways I absolutely loathe this novella. Let’s start with the godawful contrivance of making Chet a villain. Even if he is a villain, so what, right? Does that negate anything good about Dina’s growth as a person? But Ms Dailey apparently subscribes to the belief that it is better to live under the thumb of a man, meek and silent, than to make mistakes and grow up, so Dina resumes being Blake’s pretty doormat. Blake is the worst. He is completely irrational, verbally and psychologically abusive, and to be blunt, a complete piece of dung. Even the world’s cheapest toilet paper is too good for him. He calls the wife irrational names and treats her cruelly because heaven forbid a woman getting over a dead man and moving on with her life! He shuts her out of her job, makes offensive insinuations about her morals, and coerces and harasses her into sleeping with him, and when she gets pregnant, he has the nerve to accuse her of using her eggs to try to control him! This behavior goes on until the second last page, and a quick apology and utterly insincere kiss-and-make-up scene are supposed to make me believe that these two will have a happily ever after. Yeah right.
Both men in this story are sexist jerks that treat their women like pieces of cold meat, Blake Chandler coming close to being an outright time bomb. If the author and the publisher want some extra money for Christmas, the least they can do is to publish something new instead of “revising” two stories that have no relevance today.
Fans of old school bodice ripper romances may want to take a look at this book but for me, no thanks. Maybe This Christmas gets a RSVP that says “Not in this lifetime, buster!”