Sweet Delights
by Terri Blackstock, Elizabeth White, and Ranee McCollum; contemporary (2001)
HeartQuest, $9.99, ISBN 0-8423-3573-0


This is my first inspirational romance, or shall I say, Christian romance that actually preaches to me. Allow me to say that I am not an atheist. I believe in God. I just don't know which club, so to speak, to affiliate myself to. Although all my life, I am most fascinated with Catholicism. It's a long story, so I'll just say here that I have nothing against being preached at. These authors wouldn't be the first - and last.

Terri Blackstock's For Love Of Money, a morbid title for a Christian novella, is actually a rework of her previously secular work. And the latter ironically is a complete rip-off of that man tips waitress with winning lottery ticket story that is later made into an atrocious movie called It Can Happen To You. This time around, the hero is Blake Adcock who is financially in deep smelly-stuff. But it's Valentine's Day, and lonely, he keeps ordering food at the diner so that lovely Julie Sheffield will keep coming over his table.

Julie and Blake indulge in chit-chat (which consists of them preaching to each other about forgiveness - worrying, really, I mean, don't these people talk like normal people meeting for the first time?) and they like each other. But when Blake receives the bill, he is shocked. $114? Oh dear. He has just enough to pay the bill, but not enough to tip Julie so he leaves behind half of a lottery ticket instead.

Julie sees this as an insult. She's a waitress, you know, and boy, does she has a chip on her shoulder about her job. You'd think she was the Queen of Sodom the way she rags at Blake for "mocking and insulting" her. But Blake drops the good news - they've won. The ticket wins the jackpot. $20 million, people! Woo-hoo!

Julie refuses the money. Not right, you know. Julie, I want to scream, just because you are a good Christian does not mean you can be stupid - TAKE THE MONEY!

She does, and makes such an annoying fuss out of it, you'd think she's just been granted another term as the Queen of Sodom. Blake wants to marry her, and she screeches, "Not on your life, you only want me for the money!" What happened to the believer-clicking thingie she is sprouting early in the story?

I find it amusing that for two people who keep going on and on about how they should love the one inside and not outside, Blake and Julie are the first to leap on the worst conclusions and heap judgements on each other. Blake is okay, but Julie is an idiot who keeps making a misguided martyr out of herself for all the wrong reasons. Oh, to possess ten million dollars, what a pain, et cetera. Frankly, if you ask me, people who equate poverty with piety are the real morons, period.

On to the next story.

Thanks, Elizabeth White. Your The Trouble With Tommy succeeded in insulting me thoroughly. Gad, I don't know where to start. A particularly didatic episode of that crap TV series 7th Heaven has nothing on this one. Let's see, I'll start with Carrie Pierce's divorce. Apparently her husband not only cheated on her, he is a total brute. Forget why Carrie even married him in the first place. What got on my nerves is how Carrie blames herself for this divorce. Apparently she doesn't make it work. She isn't a good enough wife.

Some women keep staying in abusive marriages for this reason alone, and I know unfortunately enough first-hand accounts of such behavior and the tragic results that ensue. Should the author be advocating such unthinking behavior? Fine, divorce is not okay according to the author's beliefs, but to actually shove this down, that women are to stay with bad, bad husbands hoping that things will work? And when Carrie finally decides to change her tune, she now decides to blame herself for the breakup with a different reason - if she has studied the Bible enough, she would have known not to marry her evil ex. Err... I don't know what to say. Stupidity is not justified by any religion, and it is no excuse to use religion as a cause for misplaced martyrhood. Bad marriage? Get out, move to your mother's house, or something.

Then Carrie's mother starts praying - "Dear God, let Carrie find a good man." I really roll up my eyes here. That gal just escaped a lousy marriage, give her a break! So now a woman's life can't be whole without a man in her life?

This story has her falling for a mechanic with dubious past, but I didn't hang around this long to find out. This novella will thrill readers of the extreme religious right wing type. Oh yeah, Carrie's a moron. Just think of her as Ally McBeal who has discovered religion, and you get the idea. Be very afraid.

Ranee McCollum's What She's Been Missing is a welcome relief. No outright preaching and rubbing my face in the author's personal beliefs, bias, or prejudices, just a gentle story of two nice Christians falling in love. Anne Singletary and Rhys Carter don't make me fear that my house would be burned down by Christian extremists because I'm not good enough to warrant their condescending attention, unlike the characters in the above novella, and I actually think of them as real people. Annie and Rhys know each other since way back, but they never actually start feeling this attraction between them until Rhys come back to town.

Annie is organizing the annual Annual Men's Valentine Day Sweetheart Contest and Silent Auction, and Rhys is coming back at Annie's request. See, she wants him to be the spokesperson for a charity she is starting. Rhys, a successful New York Christian-slanted columnist, has enough publicity and clout that will help her make a success of her venture.

Annie and Rhys are nice people, and the author actually lets them have sexual attraction without going all puritannical about it. I like this one, it's a nice, easy, readable story of likeable people.

All in all, Sweet Delights is an okay book. Elizabeth White's novella I find vile, Terri Blackstock's okay despite a rip-off premise and a heroine on the dim side, and I love Ranee McCollum's. The trouble with these type of books, I realize, are that they seem to be confused as to who their target audience will be. Ms Blackstock seems to be writing for the lost believers, Ms White seems to be writing for the zealot-types, and Ms McCollum for believers and non-believers alike. So which is which? But of all three, if their intention is to preach to flock, only McCollum is doing a good job. Her characters are those I would actually invite to tea - non-judgemental, intelligent, and open-minded even as they live their lives according to the tenets of their beliefs. Maybe I'll give this author's full-length books a try in the future. The other two? Nah, I'm not in the mood to spend time in the company of the suspicious, judgemental characters that they happen to write here.

Rating: 64


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