Truly
by Geri Guillaume, Adrienne Ellis Reeves, and Mildred Riley; contemporary (2001)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-196-0


This Valentine's Day anthology misses the bullseye by the long shot. Unless they have changed the rules and arrhythmia's the way to spend Valentine's Day now, that is.

Geri Gauillaume's Stolen Hearts is the only readable story here, and even then the hero and heroine display a remarkable lack of chemistry as opposed to the hero and her twin sister. Oops. Justin Malloy flirts with Karimah Hart, the Outgoing Twin Sister, but meets Kallista, the Sour-Faced Twin, when his nephew is caught shoplifting a $30 necklace for his "lady".

This romance shows how tight, prissy women are best off left in the closet or shipped to the oil rig ten minutes into a romance. Kallista is so frigid that she can make an iceberg red hot by comparison. I have no idea what Justin sees in her. But Karimah is interested in his gangster best friend, so maybe that explains it. A man gotta make do with what he has.

Oh, and that shoplifting boy gets only a mild reprimand. Likewise, the subplot has vengeful women, wronged by men, punished for even daring to make the bastards pay. Okay, so the vengeful women here takes things to the extreme, but in this story, men get off the hook because they have penises, I guess.

It's a popular plot device in Arabesque novels, I know, to make paint the other women as sluts that deserve their abuse because "they ask for it". But I find it distasteful even in a well-written novella like this one. Let me pinch my nose and move on to the next novella...

Which I'm glad I did because otherwise I might have suffered a stroke during Adrienne Ellis Reeve's irritating Valentine's Day. The plot is ridiculous. What sort of supposedly intelligent, modern, independent woman would agree to go home to Daddy and Momma if she can't get her book published in a year? That's Johnetta Raymond, who must have troubles severing her umbilical cord. Still, she falls for Rafael Thorne, a superperfect hunk, but she can't tell him she's an aspiring writer because she's not sure if she will ever get published.

After professing eternal love, Rafe finds out that she's an aspiring writer and the smelly-stuff hits the ceiling. Get this: apparently Rafe's ex-wife was an aspiring writer too, and he hates all aspiring writers now because we all know how those slutty writers-wannabe prefer to write than to wait on their men hands and feet, right?

What sort of silly denouement is this? And why is it that when a hero's past marriage breaks down, no one ever pause to consider that maybe the ex-wife left because the man was an immature, silly jerk?

Yucks. Let me get my airbag and move on to the next story, sl-ooo-ooowly, fearing for whatever unspeakable horrors that I may encounter...

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

If I ever read another guy who speaks slimy and conveys fake sincerity like talk show host Drew Dawson (yes, he's a talk show host) in Mildred Riley's Because Of You, it is way too soon for my own good. What a skin-crawling man! I'm surprised the otherwise intelligent Anika Wayne puts up with this joker's nonsense.

Apparently, five years earlier, Anika and Drew vow eternal love. Then Drew goes to start his talk show, gets a big ego, and marries the first bimbo he meets. So much for love. Now, Anika is a flight nurse. Drew wants her back. His courtship consists of slimyspeak like "Anika, when they pulled me out of that car, and I was drifting in and out, somehow I heard your voice, sensed your presence... please, I'm begging now - because Anika, you are my life!"

Deep. He says this ten minutes into seeing Anika again, mind you. As Drew cranks up the smoochy-ugh-speak, Anika starts to display signs of codependency. Oh, she wishes Drew will never leave her again. Love her, Drew, and never let go! Oh, oh, oh! But she must keep driving him away, because she can't trust him again (even though she loves him), so oh, oh, oh!

And Drew goes on and on about destiny, fate, second chances, destiny again, more fate, "Anika, I love you! You are my life! Please, please, please!" and hey, more destiny... no wonder he gets a talk show. He must be even more unwatchable than Jerry Springer.

Drew just makes my skin crawl. It's instinctive. He doesn't speak like any human being I know, and even if I try to see him as an effeminate, New-Age-kooky guy, I think I'm insulting effeminate, New-Age-kooky guys everywhere. His Valentine's Day poem, instead of making me swoon, makes me go "Eeeeeuuuuuw, that's so sleazy!" During that love scene, when Drew bares all, I am expecting to see a tattoo on his bum that says "Kiss me here, Pookie!" Alas, not a chance.

Truly is truly bad indeed.

Rating: 33


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