Wish List, an anthology

>> Wednesday, April 12, 2006

book coverI actually read the Wish List anthology last month. I picked it up because it had a short story by author Lynsay Sands, who had been chosen as Author of the Month for March in my romance reading group. I had actually bought the book for the Kleypas story, but since it was already in the TBR, it saved me the trouble of ordering a Sands single title.

The first story was the one by Lisa Kleypas, I Will. Lord Andrew Drake (who seems to have been the villain in another Kleypas book which I haven't read) has been disinherited by his father for being an all-around scoundrel. He hatches up a plan to pretend to court an unimpeachably proper woman, in order to get his father to reinstate him in his will, and blackmails Caroline Hargreaves into cooperating (she agrees in order to keep her reckless brother from ruin, duh).

This story did have the potential to be a good one, but Kleypas just tried to cram much too much into it. The main story was ok, if a bit lackluster, but then there's a half-baked blackmail plot (not Andrew's; yet another one) which just had me barely resisting the temptation to skim until the end. A C.

The second story was the best of the lot: Puddings, Pastries, and Thou, by Lisa Cach.

Orphan Vivian Ambrose has spent all her life being shuffled between reluctant relatives. After the death of the horrid old distant cousin she was serving as companion to, she's sent to yet another branch of the family, the Twitchens, who seem to be much kinder and even seem willing to help her get married and get a life of her own.

Actually, the Twitchens' daughter, Penelope, is even more anxious to get Vivian married, and quickly, than her parents, because she's ready to start her first Season and would much prefer not to share it with her older cousin. So, with Vivian's reluctant approval (Vivian's pretty pragmatic, and does want to get married ASAP, too), she matchmakes between her cousin and Richard Brent. Vivian and Richard are immediately attracted to each other, but Richard, for reasons that become clear later in the story, is not considered to be suitable by Vivian's aunt and uncle.

I really, really liked the humour in this story. Vivian's constant eating never failed to elicit a smile, and the whole tone of the story was really charming. Both Vivian and Richard are interesting characters, she with her clear-eyed attitude towards her prospects and he with his hunger for a family of his own, that's just as deep as Vivian's. I especially enjoyed the reason why Richard isn't considered a good prospect. These two share a very nicely-done attraction, with some very real heat. The ending, however, wasn't that good, as these two came across more like petulant adolescent than responsible grown-ups. My grade: a B-.

New-to-me author Claudia Dain takes the third spot with Union, and I was not impressed! Clarissa Walingford's brother Albert has given her an ultimatum. She needs to get a husband, or else! (We never are told why it's so urgent that she marries, but her brother is adamant) Clarissa is determined to marry an Irishman, so she's really resentful about having to go to London and get herself an English husband. She decides that as long as she has to do that, she'll find one who at least has an Irish estate where she can retire to. She meets Lord Montwyn, and there is an attraction there, but since she thinks he doesn't meet her requirements, she refuses to let it go anywhere. Until she finds out that he does have property in Ireland, and then she goes after him.

I didn't care for this story at all. I found Clarissa extremely unsympathetic, and her Irish obsession was irritating, even after I found out the why of it. The romance was just blah, and the secondary characters too numerous. And her big brother Albert? I guess he's supposed to be a kind of Wulfric, but he wasn't nearly as interesting. A C-.

Finally, I came to the story by the author I wanted to try: Lynsay Sands. In All I Want, Prudence's father has been drinking and gambling like there's no tomorrow, ever since her brother died. He's oblivious to the fact that his gaming has reached alarming proportions, and his creditors have began to hound his family.

Determined to do something to gain his attention (and given that she can't manage to get to even talk to him the few hours he's home), Prue decides to infiltrate his gaming club and make him listen to her. Most of the story involves her constant attempts to get in and the disasters that follow each of them (the little menace manages to start a fight and poison the entire clientele, among other things). But rather than get her arrested, the club's owner, Lord Stockton, falls in love with her.

Why didn't this one work for me? The humour, basically. I just thought it was all distinctly unfunny. Sands is known for her silly, slap-stick humour, and, while I sometimes find silliness hilarious, Sands particular brand of it left me cold. And since the story is basically nothing but the humour, the entire story fell flat. A C-.

All in all, with only one story worth reading, this anthology was a disappointment. My grade for it all: a C.


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