Berkley, $13.00, ISBN 0-425-19594-5
Contemporary Romance, 2004
This anthology is a sequel to last year’s The Lipstick Chronicles and it’s quite a rip-off in the sense that there is only one more employee at the online greeting card service company Allhearts who has a story to tell. The stories by Kathryn Shay and Vivian Leiber are unnecessary sequels – yes, I’m talking about the same characters working out their issues after their happily-ever-after in the previous anthology – and the flimsy conflicts these characters are stuck in aren’t worth the paper they are printed on, much less the $13.00 price tag this anthology is stuck with. Sequels in general are never as good as the original, but unnecessary sequels are a different kind of sad story altogether.
Emily Carmichael starts the show with Touched for the Very First Time, a very appropriately-titled story as it revolves around born-again virgin copywriter Dana Boyle. Dana’s born-again stance is making everyone else at Allhearts miserable, however, and they send her to the Gardens of Oak Creek, a resort where people ohm and zen their way back to a state of spiritual well-being. Don’t try this at the workplace though, as I’m sure Miss Carmichael will take no responsibility if your boss ships you to the unemployment line instead of Club Med when you start doing a Dana Boyle in the workplace. Dana meets the smarmy resort owner Kieran. Will this be a happily ever after?
This is the first of three stories where the heroine actively tries to destroy her own happiness by acting like a twit even Dave E Kelley will be embarrassed for. Dana is so self-absorbed that it’s a miracle that Kieran sees anything in her that is worth falling for.
Vivian Leiber continues the story of sales rep Carole Titus and her budding relationship with Mitch Evans in Nothing Between Us. Just the thought of this one makes me quite ill because the confident Carole of the previous anthology is mutated into a whiny and insecure idiot who actively sabotages her own relationship with Mitch. Ugh.
Kathryn Shay’s Taking Care of Business has Elyssa Wentworth contemplating an affair with a smarmy loser when her relationship with Joe Monteigne hits the rocks in the expected early-relationship terrains. The first time she finds a stone in her shoe, so to speak, she dashes off to flirt with a very obvious Mr Wrong. Nice, it says a lot about the brainpower capabilities of this woman. As for Joe, sheesh, what a whiny green-eyed nimrod. Both characters come off as very immature. While I find them quite pleasant in the first story, this one prompts me to give them a generous two more months.
This anthology is already hard to like thanks to three stories featuring heroines who cheerlessly sabotage their relationships due to petty reasons, but when two of the three stories are pointless sequels that actually destroy my goodwill for the main characters, this anthology redefines the term “unnecessary”. More Lipstick Chronicles just proves that sometimes, more can be really more than enough.