Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 1-59578-212-5
Mixed Genre Romance, 2006
Bonnie Dee’s Seasons of Love is a collection of four short stories. All stories are of varying degrees of quality.
The collection kicks off with Maypole Dance representing spring. This is the story of a wood creature who deflowered a human lad and kept him in her realm until she decides that he has to leave and kicks him out. And then she wants him back, the end. I’m not really told what kind of creature Astacia is but since she serves Dionysus, I’d hazard a guess that she’s a faun or a nymph. The lad Coll is, er, touching himself as he thinks of all those lovely ladies parading around during the Maypole festival in 1568 when Astacia finds him. This could have been a better story if the author sticks to the poetic language more appropriate for the setting and era rather than to try too hard to be sexy. When Ms Dee does that, her use of words like “fuck” causes this story to come off as unnecessarily vulgar and coarse. The whole thing feels like Debbie Does Sherwood rather than an erotic story about magic, art, and sex with Thomas du Rhymer overtones.
For summer, we have Amish Paradise which is set in 1956. Our Amish heroine Rachael is window shopping when she is saved from harassment from some of the town kids by our hero, her neighbor Joe Langdon. This is the start of an attraction between them that is complicated by the fact that our heroine is Amish while Joe isn’t. Rachael and Joe are very likable characters but the biggest problem of this story is that the Amish don’t come off very convincingly as Amish. Joe is supposed to be from a different world from Rachael, but this will be more convincing if Ms Dee portrays Rachael and her family as a traditional Old Order Amish family. As it is, there is no mention of God, the Bible, or the Ordnung, so the whole “We cannot be together!” drama comes off like a storm in a teacup. In fact, Rachael’s eventual decision further trivializes the whole Amish backdrop of this story. You can’t use religion as a source of conflict if the characters don’t come off as particularly religious, after all. Ms Dee may as well change “Amish” to “vegetarian” and set the story in some holistic retreat in Seattle. Perhaps that will make a more convincing story.
Crisp Apples is the story for autumn and it is set in present day. Kate Harrington, our heroine, runs the diner in Roseville, Connecticut that is famous for its crisp apples. One day, Alex Bowden, the bad boy from her past, shows up unannounced at her diner. He doesn’t recognize her. Kate takes this opportunity to set up a plan of revenge: she’ll get him to fall for her and then break his heart as payback to that day when he planted some dope in her bag and caused a black mark in her records that prevented her from being accepted into good colleges despite her stellar academic records. I find it very difficult to believe that possession of pot will really bar a poor lady from entering a college, especially when she has a perfect track record in good behavior before this, but then again, I find it hard not to roll my eyes when Kate blames Alex for her subsequent marriage and its failure.
Ms Dee is aware of how silly Kate’s plan is, of course, but the whole romance falls flat where I am concerned. Ironically, this is because I don’t find Kate’s reason for wanting to unleash a little payback on Alex that far-fetched. This is my own personal prejudice at work but I find it very hard not to hold a grudge if someone sabotages my future as a result of his one single act of callousness and then he moves on to a wonderful life while I am stuck in Roseville to run a diner. Maybe it’s just me but if I’m Kate, I will probably loathe Alex too much to start being attracted to him. Alex doesn’t show appropriate remorse where I’m concerned when he realizes what he had done to Kate in the past, saying too flippantly for my liking that what’s past is past and he’s now a different man. Yes, I agree with Ms Dee that Kate becomes ridiculous when she blames Alex for events that happened after she couldn’t enter the college of her choice, but that doesn’t entirely absolve Alex or allow him to wave off his actions in the past with the same flippancy that he exhibited when he ruined Kate’s life back then and promptly forgot her thereafter. Just because the heroine is somewhat wrong doesn’t mean she’s entirely wrong, so Ms Dee by taking this approach has me snorting in disbelief at this story. I won’t be so forgiving of Alex, especially with his pathetic “apology” towards Kate, so I can’t help but to wonder whether Kate will just enable Alex some more in the future, especially when Alex displays a distressing tendency to run away rather than confront his problems late in the story.
And closing this collection, as winter, is A Lily for Christmas, set just before World War I, where our maid Lily falls for one of the sons of her employer, Jonathan Carrington. When he returns from the war a tormented man, Lily of course has some healing TLC only a romance heroine can provide. This is a familiar story of a hero with issues and a heroine so kind and understanding that she is pretty much Mary Sue who will make everything bad go away from the hero’s life with her magic healing touch and infinite feminine understanding and all. Jonathan says that Lily should have been named “Rose”. I’ll go as far as to say that a better name for her is “Saccharine”.
All four stories have at least one glaring flaw that prevents me from fully getting into them. If I have to choose, I’d say Amish Paradise is the best of the four stories but as I’ve said, it’s hard to get into a story with a conflict revolving around religion when no one in the story comes off as even a little religious. Maypole Dance is a wasted opportunity when Ms Dee chooses to use crude words that clash discordantly with the premise, kinda like watching a sleazy greasy-haired male stripper wildly humping a pole to Loreena McKennitt’s The Mummer’s Dance. Crisp Apples… well, it will probably be accepted better by other readers since it’s my own bias that prevents me from fully enjoying it. And finally, A Lily for Christmas is too ordinary, predictable, and sweet for my taste.
Will it be really awful if I use the line “need more seasoning” to close this review? It will? Alright then.