Wait Until Dark
by Karen Robards, Andrea Kane, Linda Anderson, and Mariah Stewart; contemporary (2001)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-671-03655-6


Wait Until Dark is an anthology showcasing four of Pocket's romantic suspense authors. All in all, it's an uneven one. Karen Robards and Andrea Kane turn in decent stories - maybe that's a reason why their names are in bigger fonts - while Linda Anderson and Mariah Stewart seem stuck in some fuzzy limbo. If I'm cruel, I'd say Wait Until UBS.

Karen Robards' novella is Manna From Heaven. It's quite sexy, it's quite romantic in a rushed way, and it's a pity I still remember my Physics lessons from school, because this story is completely unrealistic when it comes to details. Never mind.

Charlie Bates, a singer who is a one-woman SPCA army in her free time, is driving some strays to the nearest woods when a man crashes onto her jeep and dies. Ouchie. Another man lands nearby, he doesn't die, but he gets to drag Charlie into a chase adventure.

Parachuting in the dark is already making me go "Huh?" But I know too well that a man falling to a jeep from God knows how high above would smash the roof the jeep completely and kill everyone in it. F=ma, and all that rot. Then there's the silly sex (you know, the enemies chasing you kindly give you time to have sex - do they hide behind the trees and do a peek-a-boo?). But all in all, it's a very readable story. It helps for me think that this story takes place in another planet where the gravity isn't as strong as Earth's. Maybe that dream illusion world in The Matrix, perhaps.

Andrea Kane's Stone Cold is a pretty average story. Heroine inherits house from a man who turns out to be her mother's married lover. Hero wants house too - actually, he wants the land so that he can build condominiums on it, and he approaches the heroine under false pretenses. Heroine Lindsey is the typical neurotic, pale, frigid heroine and hero Nicholas is the typical arrogant, lying cheating scumbag who finds his perfect match in an oblivious bunny.

It's an okay story. Nothing memorable. It's cookie-cutter romantic suspense at its most average.

Linda Anderson's Once In A Blue Moon is next. Addie Rivers is a librarian with all the predictable sterotypical personality traits attached. She is engaged to a boring man (you wouldn't have guessed he's a school principal, huh?) and her life is perfect. Until two of her friends are raped and murdered.

"Nah, just nothing," Addie says, and proceeds to jog after dark. Alone. Feeling that someone is stalking her.

Luckily, there's a handsome prof to save this woman from being another statistic in the violent crimes against women report.

This story is also the darkest in the sense that the violence here is not just implied. But the heroine is as dumb as a casket of bricks. And it also becomes very obvious how the author is trying to keep the story going. A good suspense draws me in. Here, I can practically see the "From Point A to Point B" plot twists that the author is carrying out. If the FBI is this inept in real life, my condolences to the people of the United States of America.

Finally, Mariah Stewart's 'Til Death Do Us Part. I am becoming more and more convinced that this author is way out of her league playing Romantic Suspense Author with the big gals. For one, this is the third romantic suspense effort from her that I find has severe problems in pacing.

Our supermodel heroine is stalked and attacked. She follows her brother to her old small-town for some wholesome fun with an old flame. If this novella sounds romantic, well, it isn't. The romance is stated in a matter-of-fact manner - they meet, ka-pow! Patty cakes time. What's left? Lots of secondary characters from God knows where (I am not familiar with this author's pre-1999 backlist) taking up space. Brothers, sisters, in-laws of both genders, neighbors, old friends, cats, dogs, new friends - all drop by and say hi to our supermodel heroine. (Don't blame them - if Karen Mulder drops by my area, my husband and every other guy in the area will be dashing to pay her a visit too.) Hence I am subjected to pages and pages of chatter and picnic-partying and - oh yeah, the stalker crashes the interminable lawn BBQ party for the obligatory closure.

I know some authors use novellas as means to plug backlists as well as tease readers into buying their new books, but TDDUP is pushing it a bit too far. There is a big opportunity to create a grand romance here, or even a stereotypical one, but no, I get this "We are family" backclapping ra-ra fest instead. Lots of great descriptions of food though. I have to dash to the nearest A&W for some chocolate ice-cream waffles after finishing the story.

All in all, Wait Until Dark has two readable stories of varying quality. I have no idea what Ms Stewart's agenda is when she wrote her novella. Linda Anderson's contribution reads like a T&A slasher movie, complete with dumb law enforcer caricatures and heaving heroine doing stupid things that are just begging for a grotesque death scene in slow-mo technicolor. The slow-mo death never came, and hence it's pretty unsatisfying.

Rating: 65


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