The Only Thing Better Than Chocolate
by Janet Dailey, Sandra Steffen, and Kylie Adams; contemporary (2002)
Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 0-8217-7293-7


There's nothing more fun that seeing a New York Times bestselling author (and Nora Roberts' biggest fan) Janet Dailey being trounced and humiliated by two minor players, Sandra Steffen and Kylie Adams. This is first class David-squats-and-pees-all-over-Goliath lowbrow entertainment at its finest.

I'm feeling the Kylie Adams love at the moment, even if it's just me and a bottle of Listerine, so I'll start with her novella, Sex And The Single Chocoholic. If this what Ms Adams does best, please stay around.

Seriously, this novella is a riot. The heroine Candace Rowley makes good chocolates, but she wants the Holy Grail: product placement in a surefire blockbuster movie that will help her make lots of money. To do that, she must get that annoying rival of hers, that cheap slut Strider Moore, away from Greg Tapper, the star and executive producer of the movie Chocolate On Her Pillow. If you can't beat a slut, be one, and that's what Candace intends to be. A fake slut, of course. But not if Strider has his way.

This story is ridiculous, but a gem nonetheless. Candace is your usual neurotic, whiny, insecure nitwit heroine who, under the wrong author, will cause me to hemorrhage from every orifice in my body, but not here. Candace's best friend, the B-grade straight-to-video actress Tatiana, and even Strider will ruthlessly puncture all her attempts at going trite and whiny.

Like when Candace protests about that slut thing.

"Remember, you're a whore," the B-movie queen/ex-Playboy centerfold told her. "But instead of your body, you're selling Decadence. Repeat after me. I'm a whore."

Candace tried to force the words past her lips. But for an anthropology major from Wisconsin, it was rough going. "I'm... I'm... I'm Britney Spears."

Or when Candace protests that she is not pretty.

"Did you think your mother was beautiful?" Tatiana asked.

"Of course," Candace answered matter-of-factly.

"I used to believe the same thing about my mother, but Dr G helped me see it a different way. I never would've known how beautiful she was if she hadn't always been pointing out how unbeautiful I was."

I *heart* Tatiana, that fun, shameless whore. And I also love that cheap, slutty, stripteasing-at-the-drop-of-the-dime Strider Moore, and how he is so goofy and cheap that he doesn't care that Candace may be using him as a casting couch thing. And I'm so bad that I love Ms Adams' really evil sticking-it to the dumb bimbos that hang around Strider's overdeveloped biceps.

But seriously, I love the whole unapologetically vulgar and bitchy mode of Kylie Adams' writing. At least she is under no pretensions that her heroines' stupidity is due to misfired nobility. Fake seduction? Let Ms Adams tells it as it is: you're going to be a whore, hell, may as well enjoy the ride and be one.

Yeah, yeah, I get tons of flames when I gave this author's debut, Fly Me To The Moon a very high rating, but I don't care. As long as Ms Adams celebrates the whores, sluts, and bitches, the most crucified underdogs in the romance genre, I'm buying. (How many authors you know will make Tatiana the heroine of their upcoming full-length novel?) Stick around, Ms Adams, for a while more. I could use more of the "I'm a slut, hear me roar!" lipgloss you're selling.

Then again, some meaty characterization won't hurt too. But seriously? Stick around.

Sandra Steffen's I Know I Love Chocolates presents a different mood. It's an amnesia story - I'm not going to quibble about the plausibility, because let's face it, who expects real medical stuff in this kind of stories anymore - and the hero is a weirdo with some telekinetic powers that make everybody tells the truth in his presence.

Why would anyone ever want to marry a man like Sam O'Connor? Me, you bet I will never even go near a man who fishes out all my secrets just like that *snap*, much less spend 24/7 in his company.

But "Annie" is amnesiac. She remembers only sketchy details such as her love for chocolate and nothing more. Sam spends time in her company, thus drawing out memories from her subconscience. At the same time, "Annie" seems to be more and more likely a reporter, and Sam hates reporters. Reporters chase after him, you know, and he just hates them. Oooh!

Sam is one of the most self-absorbed bastard ever. Annie does rip a new orifice in Sam's nether regions when he throws up a childish temper tantrum in the denouement, but the author spoils everything by making Annie "understanding" Sam by the last page. And coupled with Sam's spooky powers, this novella leaves me cold. For the life of me, I can't imagine marrying a man from whom I will have no privacy from at all. And besides, he's a jerk. And a golf freak. Yucks.

IKILC is well-written though. No problem with the style and storyline and heroine.

Finally, Janet Dailey. The Devil And Mr Chocolate. Kitty Hamilton is a successful art gallery owner. She is engaged to a nice, sensitive man. So what's the problem? Her ex-husband, Sebastian Cole, keeps barging in on her when she is bathing and grilling her about her sex life.

It's obvious that Kitty and Sebastian have an immature thing going still. But it takes them so many pages just to realize that, during which I am subjected to Kitty's stupid fickleness, Sebastian's ridiculous alpha male poseur antics, and poor, poor shafted Marcel.

This one is as fun as watching two insane chickens chasing and pecking at each other. Stupid kids playing at grown-up love, pffffttt! Get those two annoying critters out of here before I make them chocolate their pants.

Still, one great read and one okay one - two out of three - ain't too bad.

Rating: 83


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