Star Of Wonder
by Jo Beverley, Alice Alfonsi, Tess Farraday, and Kate Freiman; assorted (1999)
Jove, $6.99, ISBN 0-515-12653-5


It's a little bit too early for Christmas and the New Year, but already these sort of holiday anthologies are hitting the bookshelves. If Bantam's Yours 2 Keep cashes in on the Milennium Bug, this one has New Milennium Madness plus Christmas themes. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean this anthology is any better than Y2K - in fact, this one is suprprisingly mundane. Mundane as in unexciting and totally blah.

The central unifying theme here is the Star of Wonder, a star sapphire pendant given by one of three Magi, Melchior, to an infant Jesus. In this anthology, when a new century comes to pass, the heroine will find the Star and the Star will bring her great love and happiness.

Jo Beverley's Day Of Wrath takes place in 999 A.D., when half the world is convinced that Armageddon is nigh and makes pilgrimage to Rome while the other half decides, Nah, I'm going to burn anyway, so let's paaa-aaa-aaarty! Especially when the Danes are causing havoc all over the English holdings. Our heroine Wulfhera of Froxton runs away to spend her last moments with her family, only to find that her home is hijacked by the man she has a crush on, Raefnoth Eldrunson. Raef's home has been usurped by a Danish conquerer, Hera's sister has joined that Danish overlord to cohabitate in sin, and Raef wants that Danish man's head for raping and driving his poor late wife to suicide. Hera can't help but to stick her nose in.

Hera and Raef are pretty decent characters, but my interest start to flag when the second half of the story degenerates into a Blame the poor dead wife for everything, now that she can't defend herself farce, where dead Edith is implicated for everything from being too fastidious to cowardly to just plain loony. That's nice - blame it all on the Other Woman, a dead one to boot. And the final descend from logic comes from the grand love scene - in a dungeon where these two are held captive by the Danish overlord. Let's hope that Danish guy doesn't have cameras installed on the roof or someone's going to get blackmailed.

DOW isn't too bad or too good, it's just there. But things get even more blah from here. Alice Alfonsi's Starlight Wedding has Miss Felicity Fairchild lamenting her state of spinsterhood and how bloody unfair the world is to womenkind. It's now 1799 by the way. She finds the Star in a harborside, gets attcked by ruffians, and is rescued by William Court. Will is a guardian to his nephew Jacques, whom Will is mad at because Jacques' presence robs him of the title he inherited from Jacques' father. Felicity plays Mary Poppins the Wondernanny to Jacques, Will marries her (he mistakes her for a none-too-respectable woman and debauches her despite her I'm respectable! I'm noble blood! I demand you... ooh baby, do that again, and yawn, I don't really care because Will acts like a spoiled, overgrown child-man who needs constant pampering from Felicity. He's mad at having to marrying Felicity even though she'd told him over and over she is not mistress material. He misreads everything she says or do until he finally stamps off in a huff because of some minor nonsense. Like I said, an overgrown brat. Go home and play with your toys, Willy Boy, Granny's busy. Scram.

Tess Faraday's Last Kiss At The Loving Cup Saloon sounds like a jolly fun Western romp, but it's actually a rerun of so many things I've read before in Western romances that comes before it. It's now 1899. Gambler Joe Nelson wins a - altogether now - a salon, Loving Cup Saloon which turns out to be (let's say it together) run down. Meanwhile, in comes (everybody!) innocent towngirl looking for estwhile fiance. Her name's Katherine but she can be Bathushebatta for all the originality her character displays. Hero kidnaps her to (ready?) look after some brats he inherited but (say it loud people!) she can't cook. If you can fill in the phrases in italics without me putting them in in the first place, you've read this story before. I have, Hence this story hits my snooze button. Next!

The final story is by Kate Freiman. Joy To The World takes place in 1999. Angela MacMichaels is mourning the death of her brother Matthew. Matthew's best friend Joshua comforts her (you can hear wedding bells already), while Angela discovers that saintly brother Matt may have been embezzling funds from their company. Angela goes into hysterical denial and vows to clear Matt's name. This is an okay romance too, but really, I can't put my faith in Angela's love for Joshua. That woman's grieving, the last thing she need is to embark on a relationship in her irrational state of mind. Can she spell R-E-B-O-U-N-D? This novella has no epilogue, so I can't help but to wonder what happens in 2005 when the initial excitement fades. Hmm.

Star Of Wonder isn't very interesting or even memorable. It is perfect for that three hour flight or that six hour train ride, but at $6.99, I'd rather take a Connie Brockway or Amanda Quick or Marsha Canham. Sometimes four aren't better than one. Not by a long shot.

Rating: 40


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