>> Sunday, January 30, 2005
I bought Three Weddings and a Kiss for the second and third stories and I was right, those were the best of the bunch, though one wasn't too good.
The anthology started badly, with Fancy Free, by Catherine Anderson, a western. Rachel Constantine wants to get revenge on Matt Rafferty for embarrassing her little sister, who had a crush on him, so she plans on drugging him and leave him without his pants in church, for the townspeople to find in the morning. But short-sighted Rachel makes a mistake and gets Matt's brother Clint instead. Plus, she gets knocked on her head, so they are found together and forced to marry by her father.
First of all, I must say I couldn't bear to finish this one. I read half of it, about 60 pages, and I couldn't go on. I got up to Rachel getting to the Rafferty ranch, and realizing that although she was "titillated" by the fact that Clint isn't really bothered by having had to marry her, because he wants her for her housekeeping and cooking skills, oh, what a dilemma, she has none of those skills. I just couldn't stand to read the whole fun as Clint expects her to kill a chicken and she can't handle it, and so on. Yuck. I can't think of anything less romantic to me than getting stuck in a ranch with a ready-made family composed of 8 uncouth men who expect me to labour after them all day. Plus, Rachel is completely bird-witted, totally and completely brainless.
It's possible that the story might have improved in the second half, but sorry, I read for enjoyment, and this promised to be painful. My grade for what I did read was a D.
The second story, The Mad Earl's Bride, by Loretta Chase, was by far the best of them all, a story which left me wishing for more and I thought might work well as a full-length novel.
Dorian is convinced he's losing his mind, just as his mother did before she died. He believes he's started on his final decline, and that he'll be dead before long. Gwen, who's had training as a doctor, agrees to marry him both because she's interested in his case and because she'll get her own hospital in the bargain.
The first half of the novella was wonderful. Gwen was simply delightful. She reminded me a bit of Jessica Trent, the heroine from Lord of Scoundrels. She was smart, sensible and matter of fact, and she basically kept Dorian completely off-balance since the very moment she met him.
The second half was all right, but not as good as the first one, because I felt Chase lost a bit of focus there and the romance suffered for it. Still, it was a very good story, and I'd give it a B+
Promises, by Lisa Kleypas was a disappointment. Lidian Acland fell in love with a man who soon left on a Grand Tour, asking her to wait for him. A year later, she's still waiting, still in love, even if she's had no news. But she meets Eric De Gray, who makes her want to forget about her old love.
The main problem with this one was that Lidian comes across as someone as brain-free as the heroine in the Catherine Anderson story. Her beloved is so obviously an utter dog, that she looks idiotic, and she's fond of running off alone into the night. Also, there was no chemistry at all between Lidian and Eric, and I just couldn't understand what he saw in her.
Oh, and another problem was that the writing felt weird, kind of self-consciously Regency, which is something I haven't encountered in other Kleypas books. She's an author I usually like, but my grade for this one would be a C-.
The last story was the absolute worst. The Kiss, by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, was barely 30 pages long, but I felt as though it would never end. I never read The Flame and the Flower, so I didn't know the hero, and the author didn't even try to develop him in the least. He and the heroine were like two stick figures without any discernible motivations, and the plot was laughable. Basically, Jeff Birmingham runs into a young woman who's fleeing from her uncle, who wants to sell her to a man she doesn't like. So, Jeff buys her. Since Jeff is handsome, she doesn't really mind being bought by him, and for some reason, they marry. And that's it, except for a couple of appearances by the protagonists of The Flame and the Flower, which contribute nothing to the story. Add to this a writing style I thought was abominable, and you get a story which I'd grade an F.
My grade for the entire anthology would be a C-. The only story worth reading was the one by Loretta Chase.