Arabesque, $9.99, ISBN 1-58314-389-0
Contemporary Romance, 2003
Happy Mother’s Day from Arabesque. This year’s anthology comes in a lovely inexpensive hardcover edition. The cover shows a happy family. But they lie. It will be a miracle the day anybody publishes a romance story starring a guy who actually looks like the man on the cover (bald, chubby looking). They call this book a “moving gift”. They’re right. Send it to a friend who is moving. That way, they can hate you with a distance separating you two and it will be less strenuous on the nerves that way.
All three stories are flawed in one or more ways that really prevent them from rising above mediocrity. If it’s not a weakness in the plotting, it’s the weakness in the characterization.
Deirdre Savoy’s Fairy Godfather takes the prize for being so blissfully ignorant of how… perplexing its title is. I am expecting a fairy godfather to appear as a drag queen in glorious tutu. I’m somewhat disconcerted that this “fairy godfather” is a romance hero, Alonzo Clark, who sets up a contest and then rigs it so that a woman he knows wins it. Couple this with the now infamous Dierdre Savoy trademarked Unpleasant Career Ho with Eyes on Our Hero plot device, and ugh soon becomes ugly.
Alonzo here rigs the contest so that the mother of the kid he knows will win the Mother’s Day contest and get a free-makeover along with a blind date. Personally, if I’m a single mother, I’d prefer cold hard cash, but then again, I’m smart. These heroines aren’t. His eye is on Daria Johnson. He makes the move on her, but she, being a hysterical and intellectually-challenged heroine, plunges the story into a tedious communication breakdown nonsense that lasts for way too long.
Then again, the plot is broken from get-go. Rigging a contest to get into a woman’s pants? Asking kids to enter a contest without their parents knowing (hence no parental consent)? And apart from one mention of potential “illegal” elements in what Alonzo is doing, there is no legal repercussions? The characters may as well be as stupid as they can be from thereon.
Jacquelin Thomas’s The Price of a Mother’s Love stars two characters who totally deserve each other because they are both selfish and dysfunctional. Stone and Kree’s marriage fell apart because… well, pull your seats close. Kree brought in some kids whose parents have died to take care of them. Stone thought that they were both too young and financially incapable of taking care of these people, but he kept his mouth shut. The boy got wild, brought home a gun, and accidentally shot Kree and Stone’s son, leaving Jeremy wheelchair-bound. Stone was rightfully angry and wanted to kick that idiot trigger-happy brat Charles out, but Kree, who had no personality other than 100% ever-giving, refused. Even if there are other relatives to take in Charles, she can’t let Charles go away! She was probably delighted that she had one more dependent to mope, sigh, and go all guilt-ridden over. Stone walked out. That was then.
Today, the remaining kids – Charles is dead – have inherited Kree’s tendency to whip themselves in guilt and believing that the whole divorce is their fault, decides to matchmake Kree and Stone again. They can do this, thanks to Alonzo Clark’s radio show.
The trouble is, Kree, Stone, and the kids are all one-dimensional characters who have no personality outside their baggages. Kree comes off as pathetic and delusional in her Joan of Arc complex, Stone is self-absorbed and even cruel at times, while the kids are walking sugar monsters. The author handles her story as if she is delivering a heavy-handed lecture about redemption and healing. But with her clumsy characters and stilted dialogues, the story comes off more about two dysfunctional idiots getting together again due to forced circumstances. If they’re supposed to be better this time around, that’s because the author insists that they are, not because she is able to show me that they will succeed this time around.
But Ms Thomas’ preacher lady style of writing is nothing compared to Karen White-Owens, who seems to be using a pick-ax to etch words onto her pages. A Mother for Scott is the story of a teacher, Ashleigh Davis, who falls for Dane Harris, the father of her favorite student Scott. Dane is an idiot father who tells her not to get close to his son because Scott’s mother died and he doesn’t want Scott to experience loss again. I guess he’ll be happier then if Miz Davis here starts smacking Scott around and kicking him during playtime hour. Still, Ashleigh thinks Dane is hot. Why? Because Ms White-Owens says so.
Scott is a horrible creature who bursts into tears and speaks in horribly saccharine “I’m a kid, I say cute adult things that catalyzes soppy epiphanies in adults” Care Bear monster way. Whenever he’s in the story – alas, which is almost every page – I half expect rainbow heart beams to blast from Scott’s belly button and blows me away to Kingdom Come, upon which I will joyously scream, “Thank you! Thank you! Now I am at peace!”
Dane’s epiphany is more like the author pushing my face down towards her pages so that I will not miss those Important Points about Life’s Lessons that she is making. There is no subtlety at all to her writing. Her characters are clunky walking suitcases of issues and the resolution of their problems come from Scott making “wise and sage” observations about life and love and asking Daddy to marry that nice teacher because Scotty Knows about Life and Things That You and I Don’t. Because Scott is One Special Kid and because Kids are Special. Fifty bucks that Scott will appear on America’s Most Wanted in ten year’s time.
To Mom, with Love has nice packaging – I love the floral borders of the hardcover jacket and the family photo is really adorable. It’s just too bad that the three stories just don’t hold up in comparison