Four Degrees Of Heat
by Brenda L Thomas, Crystal Lacey Winslow, Rochelle Alers, and ReShonda Tate Billingsley; contemporary (2004)
Pocket, $13.00, ISBN 0-7434-9145-9


Four Degrees Of Heat is an erotic anthology. I'm not too sure about the "romance", but that's the beauty of this anthology. I don't know how it has come to this stage but this anthology packs a better punch than any Brava anthologies because it succeeds in doing what the latter anthologies fail: to shed off every nonsensical Harlequin Blaze plot devices. The heroines dare to go all the way and beyond in some of the novellas. I like that.

Normally stories of prim teachers turning into strippers will make me want to test the new microwave oven with my head but Brenda L Thomas' Maxed Out works. I believe this is because Maxine is a heroine that doesn't try too hard to convince me that she's a good gal that I must not disapprove of. She lets her hair down - among other things - and have fun. Ms Thomas doesn't care too much about making sure that the heroine remains unbelievably pure or untainted by her experiences. Maxine has fun, it shows, and I have fun with her.

Crystal Lacey Winslow's Sex, Sin & Brooklyn is, er, interesting. I'm not too fond of this story because the heroine is a twenty-year old mercenery, cheating, lying, stealing, no-good ho hitting at her latest target, a sexy millionaire. Nicoli and Black do everything but upside down monkey sex, but after a while I'm feeling that I've stumbled upon a celebrity's home-made amateur porno video starring a high-priced barely legal prostitute. I feel quite dirty after I'm done with this story.

Rochelle Alers' Summer Madness is the most conventional love story. It is also the least erotic and consequently, the least interesting story. Nina Watkins and Andrew "Down Low" Watkins meet at her best friend's wedding and against her better judgment, Nina invites DL to join her for a cha-cha in her summer cottage in the Hamptons. This is the only story that chains itself to the more tedious formulae of the romance genre. Reading about Nina and DL is tediousness incarnate especially when they are just beautiful, just perfect, just wonderful, and, when they talk, so wise and, when they do the cha-cha, so cha-charific. Since these two people are so amazing they can program their VCR without the manual, I don't know why I'm supposed to care. No hot sex, no interesting wit or drama, just two smoulderingly perfect people boring me to tears.

ReShonda Tate Billingsley restores the party mood with Rebound. The jilted bride-to-be Victoria decides not to waste her paid-for honeymoon to Belize and meets Damon who is going to confront his adulterous wife. I don't know if I'd call their relationship a romance - I think it's more appropriate to call it a "rebound" - but this story has a trump card up its sleeves: it's very laugh-out-loud funny. Filled with sass and bounce, this novella closes the anthology with great fanfare.

Four Degrees Of Heat nearly gets everything right.

Rating: 85


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