A Kwanzaa Keepsake
by Bridget Anderson, Carmen Green, and Margie Walker; contemporary (2001, reissue)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-269-X


I'm unfamiliar with Kwanzaa so I won't even try to explain what that is. This anthology however comes with a preface by Yannick Rice Lamb, editor-in-chief of Heart & Soul, and she does an amazing job explaining and describing Kwanzaa. There are also recipes included at the end of the book.

But let's just focus on the stories instead. To summarize, I like the novella by Bridget Anderson, am indifferent about Margie Walker's, and Carmen Green's bores me.

Imani (which means "faith") is Bridget Anderson's contribution and it kicks off the anthology. Natalie has just dumped her long-time boyfriend Kevin and to recuperate, she decides to visit her Aunt Polly in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. While she is ooh-aahing about the meaning of Kwanzaa, she meets hunky farmer Rod (heh heh heh) and sparks fly.

Rod, like all romance novel farmers/ranchers/cowboys, has an ex who dares to dump him for Arkansas city lights. After all, we all know good women are those who stay in a dimly lit ranch and tend to babies while the Marlboro Hubby plough the fields, right? Thankfully, the author avoids any incessant "City girls are all bitches" nonsense and focus on Natalie and Rod's blossoming relationship instead. This relationship is short, sweet, and simple. I like that.

Then Natalie's ex Kevin appears and worse, he turns into a complete psychopath. All semblance of realism fly out the window. Too bad, because for a while, it seems as if Imani will be above such ridiculous rescue-me-baby hoopla.

Carmen Green's Whisper To Me is next. It pairs frigid-Brighid Iman with millionaire single-daddy Cedric. While this one has two girls that don't make me scream for a crucifix and a vial of holy water, the whole story lumbers slowly on a sedated pace.

Most damaging is the dialogues, which come off stilted and corny. When I spend so much time wondering what each of those characters find so funny in the other's stillborn one-liners, the story is a goner.

Oh, and it's predictable too. Kwanzaa-spirited heroine bring joy and faith back in jaded millionaire's heart and be a good mommy to his kiddies, the end. Whatever.

I guess in the end, it's no Kwanzaa without pots and pots of money. Right, Ms Green? And they call me cynical.

Finally, Margie Walker's Harvest The Fruits. Selinae and Sterling finds love in the true meaning of Kwanzaa - or something. I completely tune out while reading this story, because it is actually more of a heavy-handed sermon about Kwanzaa than a love story. Every tiny miscommunication seems to be conceived only so that the author can unleash a long monologue about the True Meaning of Kwanzaa and how Modern Folks have lost the faith, et cetera. I know Margie Walker is enthusiastic about Kwanzaa, but seriously, Ms Walker, Ms Lamb of Heart & Soul is doing a much better job than you. Stick to storytelling, please.

A Kwanzaa Keepsake is just that - a keepsake. The thoughts and meanings that go into the writing is worth much more than the actual writing. At the end, even good intentions cannot redeem a generally lacklustre if readable anthology.

Rating: 70


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