Della's House Of Style
by Rochelle Alers, Donna Hill, Felicia Mason, and Francis Ray; contemporary (2000)
St Martin's Press, $6.50, ISBN 0-312-97497-3


This anthology is a sequel to last year's Rosie's Curl And Weave, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Della's House Of Style still features the same old thing, but this time around, the novelty of a romance set in a hair salon wears off on me. Especially when I start wishing that there is more continuity between the four stories.

The main theme seems to be Uptight successful women getting seduced by handsome successful hunks, which, I must say, pops up too often in African American romances for comfort.

Della Frazier, the manager of Rosie's Curl And Weave, has bought over the salon and has remodeled it into Della's Place. It also has a cafe and a nightclub next to the salon. Unfortunately, as it is told in It Could Happen To You by Donna Hill, that woman realizes that she owes the IRS $75,000! The IRS officer out to leech all blood from her is Matt Hawkins, whose motto is 'Take no prisoners'. Naturally, soon Della isn't too reluctant to be be leeched by Matt.

Thing is, Matt is a Bore. I don't like him. He reminds me off Colonel Von Trapp's stuffier twin brother. His rigid lifestyle has already cost him his marriage, but he's still more orgasmic at the sight of the calculator than at the sight of Della. Della is pretty fun, but due to the short length of the story, Matt comes off a total control freak. Della, you deserve better.

Hope Lassiter works in the salon. In Francis Ray's A Matter Of Trust, when Sebastian Stone visits her for a styling session, he is horrified at her purple hairdo. Hope also wants a role in Sebastian's play, but he wouldn't have her no way. Guess again, buster - what Hope wants, she gets. Roll over, deadmeat.

This is a fun, fast-paced story, and I get a chuckle at Sebastian having to eat his words and beg Hope to play the role. But really, with Hope being a very talented accidental actress and he a very talented Broadway superhero, the superlatives can get quite tired. (Did I mention he's rich?)

Rochelle Alers' Sweet Surrender has two people, Maria Ynez Parker (salon nail stylist) and Cameron King arguing over the make-over of the man's niece. But Maria did such a Perfect Job that he asks her to do his nail too. Sorry, I mean, he asks her out for a date. She is burned in a relationship before, however. What to do? (My advice: pucker up, darlin').

This one is a slow easy romance with a nice theme on family. But after a while, I want to do a Big Momma act and thump Maria in the head. What are you dilly-dallying for, girl? Go get that man!

And finally, we have Felicia Mason's Truly, Honestly (nice title!). Unfortunately, this is a Big Misunderstanding piece between DJ Daryl Desmond (remember that nightclub wing?) and party crazy gal Sheila Landon. Both keep getting the wrong ideas about each other. And since this is a short story, with not enough warm moments of resolutions to make up for the sulkings and tantrums, I really have to roll up my eyes and say, "Tsk, tsk! Young people!"

One last word: Della's House Of Style is a posh salon visited by posh, rich people who think nothing of blowing $300 on a perm. How about a nice, suburban salon where gossips fly free for a change? And it will be nice to see more normal, middle-class people for a change. I'm starting to feel as if I'm reading a Jackie Collins novel after so many rich, bored people in my books.

Rating: 77


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