Hot Chocolate, an anthology

>> Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Yesterday evening, while watching Argentina and Paraguay play for the Under-20 South American Tournament, I started an anthology, Hot Chocolate. I'm not a big fan of anthologies, because it often feels like authors of romance short stories try to cram a complete novel into less than 100 pages. The result of this is a story that feels rushed, and often not very good. Let's see if these authors do better. So far, I've read the first 2 stories and one was good and the other one awful.

The first one was Not Abigail!, by Suzanne Forster.

Abigail's handsome boss, Max, wanted her to find him a wife. Then a sip of a delectable love potion made Max fall for his lovely assistant. But was his love forever or fleeting
It was a mess, a grade of D-. So many elements I don't like: boss-secretary romance, love potions, getting married because of a "biological clock"... Plus, I never felt the guy was in love with her. He's just a spoiled imbecile whose life is completely out of his control and needs his mommy to lay out his pills and clothes. And Abby... the stereotypical shy heroine who needs to loosen up.

The final love scene was the pits, complete with baby talk on the part of the heroine. All in all, a stupid, nonsensical story and I hated it. The only reason it's not an F is because it was competently written.

The second story was Tangled Sheets, by Lori Foster

Night after night, bar owner Cole Winston was seduced by prim and proper Sophie Sheridan's way with hot chocolate... until her sexy and outrageous twin, Shelly, walked into the bar...
Now, I don't like Foster's online persona at all, but this story was a goodie! An A-At first, it looked like a loser. I mean, it starts with the heroine lamenting the fact that she's 26 and a virgin! I was like "OMG, not another "I have to lose my virginity ASAP" story!". But luckily, this wasn't what this story was about. I also groaned when I realized the heroine was going to pretend to be her own twin to seduce the hero. Her reasoning almost made sense, I'm afraid to say, but come on! It was an obviously bad idea.

What completely made this story were the hero and the love scenes. The first was yummy and the latter were hot, hot, hot! Cole tries to resist the sexy twin, because he's already in love with the shy Sophie (points for him), and catches on quite quickly about what's going on (even more points!). And when those two make love, I liked how Cole did everything he could to tie her to him, and make her want more than a one-night-stand. The final scene bumped the story from a B+ to an A-.

What I didn't enjoy in this story were the "series gimmicks": the ones I've mentioned (virginity, pretend twins), the contest, all the newspapers in town chasing the Winston brothers because they're hunky, etc. This one was a better story than that.

Posted later...

Well, I finished Hot Chocolate, and my final grade for the whole book, which contained an awful story, a great one and two mediocre ones, is a B-. BTW, before I write about the last 2 stories, I must say I might have been a bit too hard on Not Abigail!. Or rather, I guess the author must have intended for it to be taken a bit less seriously than I did. Anyway, the last 2 stories:

Third one was Buried in Her Heart, by Elda Minger.

A luxurious bed-and-breakfast hosting a chocolate convention wasn't the standard business lodging for Abby and Jack. But one taste of the convention's delights, and they were tantalized - with each other...
This one gets a grade of B-. I liked the fact that though this was a story about a woman giving up a big career in the big city to go cook for a living at a small sea-side restaurant, I didn't get the feeling the author was preaching about how the big city is evil and a woman's place is in the kitchen. Abby doesn't make this 180º change in her life because of a man. The man, Jack, is just the catalyst for a change she was craving long before she met him. Furthermore, I really did believe she was going to be much happier in her new life (it helps the sea-side restaurant is actually in a big city.

Unfortunately, the problem with this story is that catalyst Jack never becomes more than just a catalyst. When I finished this, I'd no idea who he was or why he was in love with Abby. Still, if you read this not as romance but as women's fiction, it's not bad at all. And I really enjoyed all that stuff about chocolate.

The last story is Ecstasy, by Fayrene Preston.

Brenna's fudge recipe was a huge hit at her café, and tycoon Hayden Garrett wanted it - and Brenna. But how far would he go to make them both his own?
The best description for this one is boring, a C. The premise felt contrived (though the first scene at the café with women having orgasms right and left when eating the fudge, was cute), and the little suspense thingie was half-assed. I couldn't finish this one fast enough.

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