Once Upon A Pillow
by Christina Dodd and Connie Brockway, assorted (2002)
Pocket, $12.00, ISBN 0-7434-3680-6


It's all about the bed, the Masterson Bed to be precise. You sleep in it with someone else, you pop out a brat nine months later. The brat will always be a son. And the two poppers will find true love.

Ladies, beware. This bed will render all your IUDs and diaphragms and contraceptives obsolete. I doubt even surgery can defeat the power of the Masterson Bed. Frankly, the idea of even sleeping on that bed and popping out brats like clockwork every year terrifies me silly, even if there are promises of multiple orgasms to go along with it. Multiple labor contractions versus multiple orgasms - you make your pick.

And excuse me, what's so grand about sons as compared to, say, daughters? How many uses of a penis can you think of as opposed to, say, female sense of direction? I rest my case.

The four short stories in this anthology follows the bed through history. Behold, the power of the Bed.

Connie Brockway takes up to the medieval times, around the 1200s, in The Bed Is Made... where our really adorable hero Sir Nicholas No-Name wins back his lands after a sojourn at the Crusades, beds a tavern wench in his "I'm A New Man Now" campaign, and gets stumbled upon by his wife Jocelyn. Oops. But "limp winkie" is not in our hero's personal dictionary. But he does wilt a little when he learns that Jocelyn finds him more useful dead than alive. It's darned inconvenient to want bad a woman who prefers you as a corpse than a healthy stud, and we ain't talking necrophilia here. What to do?

Let's just say Nicky here is no usual knight and Jocelyn is no usual medieval heroine. But no amount of brilliant repartees can hide the lack of convincing chemistry those two have, and the "I love you" thing is too abrupt to me. The Power of the Bed, people! You've been warned.

Oh, and for all her admittedly fun blusters, Jocelyn is actually a doormat where her husband is concerned.

The Bed Is Unmade... is Christina Dodd's Elizabethan story and also my favorite. Penniless rogue Rion kidnaps whom he believes is the heiress he has been flirting with, until he learns that he has been set up by the wily heiress. He has kidnapped the heiress' poor relation Helwin instead. Now, the two of them are compromised, and now they must try all their best to uncompromise themselves before they find themselves wedded to each other.

But stuck in Rion's crumbling manor with his really bad-mannered mercenary cohorts (think the seven dwarves with hyperactive thyroid glands), and when Helwin cooks and cleans and cleans and cleans, all of them fall in love with her and the Giant Dwarves begin egging their boss to marry that woman.

This one is cute and even laugh out funny at places, and Rion is really, really naughty. If anyone needs a spanking and a pinch in the butt, this incorrigible rascal is he. A shameless flirt who's also pretty creative (ahem), he is a charming one. Helwin is his pretty good match.

But seriously, I'm keeping this one away from my hubby. A woman winning her man's love by cooking, cleaning, cooking, cleaning, and cooking? Forget it. I don't want that man to get any funny ideas.

Connie Brockway's back once more with The Lady Makes Her Bed, a really red hot piece of work that could easily find a home among the pages of the new Brava anthology (especially when the stories in the new one isn't as hot as I expected), only better because there is some decent comedy and wit and a little romance to go along with the red heat.

It's Regency era now and Philippa and Ned once had a pumping good history - really. But things happen, and now Pip is engaged to another guy and she has somehow (deliberately) handcuffed Ned to the Masterson bed while (accidentally) locking herself up in the same room in the process. Oopsie doopsie. These two then have fun playing "Where's the key?" while snapping and baiting each other. Ned, by the way, is one sexy obsessive guy, and I like that a lot.

But all my mojo dissipates when later in the story it is revealed that Pip here is doing the handcuffing because she wants to save - no, not Daddy, good guess, but the stupid younger brother. This really irritating, overdone, stupid plot device is like cold water splashed on my face. I actually thought Pip is better than those braindead take-fate-in-my-hands-and-do-stupid-things heroines. I expected better from this story.

Bah.

Finally, contemporary time with Christina Dodd's The Bed Wins All. The bed comes to life and starts chomping on people, until a super secret agent who looks just like Colin Farrell and his babe boss who looks just like me zap the bed to death after a lengthy, explicit French-arthouse-movie style love scene.

Okay, I'm just kidding about that, unfortunately. This one is about our modern day heroine Laurel. She's a curator at this museum where the Masterson bed is being kept, and in the last three stories, she appears in the prefaces telling the stories to raptured visitors. Laurel is not happy as the museum is shutting down and everything in it will be auctioned off.

Then her ex shows up, the ex's name is Max. Ex Max. Max the Ex. Hmm, sounds very poetic, I must say. Max is a super rich guy, he buys everything to keep Laurel happy, and some Interpol thing gets roped in (don't ask), and I scratch my head in confusion.

Let's just say that Max is better off a historical hero than a contemporary era control freak. With Max's clunker of an alpha male personality lumbering towards the pre-1990/Embarrassing Linda Howard Reissues territory - oh, sorry, Ms Dodd, for bringing up Linda Howard, I don't mean to do that intentionally, really! - anyway, this is one novella that may be more satisfying if it's a historical one. The over the top harping on Laurel's virginity and Max's arrogant sense of entitlement will work well in a feudal lord situation, but in 2002 this is a sexual harassment suit waiting to explode.

Still, three out of the four are really fun and entertaining romps. As novellas go, they at least have some characters that seem real enough a little for me to like them in some way or the other. I'm not sure if they are worth $12.00, to be honest, but hey, I've had fun. In fact, I don't really regret paying twelve bucks for this, so I guess this one is alright after all.

Rating: 88


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