Magically Delicious Kisses
by Jo Goodman, Hannah Howell, and Linda Madl; historical (2002)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7348-8


Let's make this simple - only Linda Madl's The Orange Tree is worth reading. The heroines in Jo Goodman's A Basket Of Magic and Hannah Howell's The Magic Garden are personality-free, professional "Beat me please, I'll suffer because I'm virtuous that way!" martyrs that perform enough common-sense free actions that almost drive me to gouge my eyeballs out with my own fingers. These two braindead heroines also happen to happy servile dingbats who make yummy food (the anthology has a theme of yummy food). Someone has forgotten to tell the authors that while these stupid stupid stupid women make ideal cheap labor maids, they make horrible romance heroines. I swear, when their husbands die, these women will try to cross the road and get run down by a bus, and that is after starving to near-death because they can't remember where hubby kept the money and the key to the larder.

Jo Goodman reutilizes her lazy-ass "the heroine can sense the goodness in him and that's all that matters in a relationship development" thing in her novella. Abby Winslow bakes some yummy food one day for the scary man in the woods whom everyone says is a evil man who can turn himself into a giant wolf. She travels through the woods alone to meet this man whom everyone claims to be dangerous. All because he smiles at her once and tells her his first name, and that, people, is how our heroine sees and believes in the goodness of this man. He gets hurt, she gets hurt, she nurses him, she cooks, she cleans, she gets debauched, she gets proposed to, the end. This is a fundamentalist women-bake-make-sons reader's wet dream, but me, this story is an utter waste of my time.

Hannah Howell's Rose Keith suffers and suffers and suffers because people think she's a witch because she makes yummy food that can make people go horny. But she is willing to suffer because she gets what little pleasure in life seeing her food make people happy to hump each other. Aw, what a noble woman, eh? Here, Rose, eat your own pastry and go hump the kitchen wall, shoo! The Laird Sir Adair Dundas - Dumbass to you - sees her, summons her, and as she demurs, it's all about the purity, virtue, and innocence as dumbasses take over the world. Rose has no personality apart from her doormat demeanor, and Adair is all about the martyr fetish. Bonus is the annoying, often indecipherable dialogues filled with "nae", "ye", "willnae", and more.

Again, waste of time.

Linda Madl, thank goodness, presents a medieval story between a disillusioned warrior Lord Hugh and a rather sensible widow Lady Emmalyn falling in love as she visits the reclusive man to get a few of his rare oranges. The oranges, see, is for Emma's daughter. She wants the daughter to have a happy wedding night. I wish I have a mother that sporting.

One thing though - this story is set in the 13th century. Scurvy as a disease is only officially described in the 16th century. I really don't think that Hugh will know that oranges are effective cures for scurvy. But hey, who cares?

This story is actually a pretty good story, even without being compared to the waste of toilet papers accompanying it in this anthology. I like the two main characters, and while they don't talk about important things until it's almost too late, they have a nice comfortable thing going between them. There's also a nice - if melodramatic - parallel between the dying orange tree and the state of their hearts or some rot. It may be melodramatic, but it works on me. All the bad feelings I feel after sloughing through Ms Goodman and Ms Howell's tour de stinkeroo evaporate, leaving a nice warm simmering feeling in me.

This novella deserves to be stuck in a better anthology. As it is, I'll put the photocopier to good use. Magically Delicious Kisses is a nice cake with pretty icing hiding its underbaked and soggy state. When will these authors understand, stupid heroines aren't sexy, adorable, or romantic?

Rating: 38


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