Harlequin Blaze, $4.99, ISBN 978-0-373-79379-2
Contemporary Romance, 2008
Tex Appeal revolves around three stories that are catalyzed by a Valentine’s Day contest held by the various newspapers owned by Deep in the Heart Communications. The anthology starts out fun but then goes downhill all the way from there.
Kimberly Raye kicks things off with Real Good Man, which sees our heroine Cheryl Anne Cash deciding to follow the footsteps of her brother and seek a more adventurous kind of life. Raised by parents who make paranoia an art, she has lived a very sheltered and safe life. But no longer. Her long-time boyfriend Dayne Branson is a boring guy and their sex life has become routine, so he’s one of the first things in her life that she ditches. She is now hoping to embark on a new career as a resident sex guru of Skull Creek, even if her own sex life is far from spicy and she had her degree from some online school. Yes, folks, I’m sure there is a cautionary tale in there somewhere. Dayne wants her back, however.
This story is most amusing, especially when Cheryl’s landlady eventually hijacks her classes from her. Readers hoping to find some kind of empowerment message here will be disappointed as Cheryl eventually realizes that she’s not cut out to be adventurous and opts to return to her more familiar routine, but Ms Raye is right in this instance. Some people are not cut out to be flamboyant and adventurous and Cheryl is very obviously out of her depths here. I actually feel relieved when Cheryl experiences her epiphany before some innocent passerby gets drawn into her mess. I don’t buy Ms Raye’s justifications about how Dayne was a boring guy in the sack in the past because he was being too careful and controlled, but what the heck, I like this story for the sheer amount of laugh-out-out funny scenes. The romance just sort of happen to be in here.
Alison Kent follows that with her Unbroken. Dr Tess Autry decides that it will be a nice break of sorts when she accepts her friend’s offer to work on an article for the Houston Dispatch. After all, she is the shrink. Who else is more qualified to write about the sex life of rodeo cowboys? Wait, don’t answer me. She comes into contact with Wyatt Crowe, the owner of the Triple RC ranch. And believe me, we are talking about full contact here, if you know what I mean.
This one is quite a sensible story in that Wyatt and Tess start to discuss their feelings – she is, remember, a shrink – and how Wyatt is this woobie who is all macho on the outside but is in need of some TLC in the inside. I like how these two characters talk when they are not in bed doing other things. But since the story takes place under a short time, I am not sure if I buy the happy ending. I’ve seen enough seasons of The Bachelor and this story reminds me of such a season.
Finally, Cara Summers closes the anthology with I Can Still Feel You…, where our hero, Cade Dillon (personality: Texas Ranger), attempts to protect key witness Macy Chandler from a serial robber even as she gears up for a TV promotional blitz for her personal chef business. This is the most contrived story of all. Am I suppose to believe that a high-profile criminal is on the loose and yet the key witness in the upcoming court case is so unimportant that only one guy is sent to protect her? And while these two are busy playing hide-his-pistol, I’m impressed at just how much sex they manage to have. The whole story is nothing more than a most unbelievable set-up for the characters to have sex. Seriously, can’t Ms Summers come up with a better excuse for her characters to start doing the ugly?
Tex Appeal has its moments, but most of those moments are concentrated in the first story. I suppose this makes the anthology a perfect one to pick up when one is sitting at the bistro of the local bookstore and want something quick to read while enjoying some overpriced coffee and cheese cake. Just read the first story, bite on the cake, and that’s it, you are done. If you opt for another slice of cake, then read the second story.