Island Bliss
by Rochelle Alers, Carmen Green, Marcia King-Gamble, and Felicia Mason; contemporary (2002)
St Martin's Press, $6.50, ISBN 0-312-97893-6

Island Bliss manages to recapture some magic of the increasingly geriartic St Martin's Arabesque Author Showcase Anthology Franchise. It's not exactly fine wine, but it's not Jabba the Hut's mutant mother trailing slime all over my living room sort of bad either. Except for Marcia King-Gamble's novella - what was that all about?

Rochelle Alers' From The Heart isn't a hate-me, I'm-50-but-no-cellulite-old-geezer romance. It's about this one-dimensional, perfect, beautiful, and boring as faded Shellac heroine named Aimee Fraser who takes her perfect butt off to the perfect island of St Simons Island where she meets this perfect, beautiful, and boring as Freetos guy named Leland Monroe. She's a historian, so she and Leland take turns reading aloud letters of Leland's perfect ancestor's love affair with his perfect wife.

Ms Alers takes the trouble to wax poetry about what Leland is wearing, what perfume Aimee is wearing, how gorgeous their hair is, how they keep their fridge stocked up with perfect healthy food, and other tedious details. This is one novella where I would actually complain that 87 pages are 86 pages too long. Should've stayed with "Leland is perfect. Aimee is perfect. They marry. The end."

Still, could be much worse. It could be Marcia King-Gamble's An Officer And A Hero, which is next. Oops.

Kitt DuMaurier is on holiday. Yes, this means that our heroine is all whiny and shrill about how painful it is that she and her perfect, gorgeous butt are forced into a bikini nobody would wear without a full-blown liposuction first and how awful that she has to endure this holiday. She falls for the cruise ship officer, after an awful catfight with what seemed like every other woman on the cruise ship.

This is one luxury cruise fit for B grade horror movie hell. Can I blank this story out of my mind and move on?

Carmen Green presents Our Secret Affair, easily the best of the lot. Toni Kingsley is flaunting her disgustingly perfect body in a resort in St Croix, happy that she has earned this paid-for vacation because she is the top salesperson in her company. Even better, she is drooling over the prospect of becoming Vice-President of the Sales Department... until she learns that her rival and former one-nighter John L Roberts is also here. Oops.

He brings along his mother, who of course plays matchmaking - is there any doubt she won't - and Toni will harrumphs and hmmmphs while she falls for John's charms.

Nothing special, really, but at least these two characters have at least the bare minimal of characterizations to make them memorable, and there's also chemistry. Nice.

Felicia Mason's Heart's Desire will be fine if the three kids of the single father hero don't terrify me that much. The opening scene has the three kids, none a day over the age of ten, ogling women and comparing legs and breasts, all in the name of choosing a Mommy for Daddy.

Nothing like stunted, stumpy sex fiends to start the day, really.

If Lucia Heart Allen is allowed to fall for David Reynolds in her own sweet time, this novella will be fine. Lucia and Dave have chemistry. But the three kids are allowed to dominate this story with their matchmaking techniques that are so elaborate and Machiavellian, they make Saddam Hussein look like Dopey the Dwarf in comparison. I'm afraid to think what will happen if they become teenagers and want a car.

Still, the three novellas by Ms Alers, Ms Green, and Ms Mason are readable and pleasant. Sort of like beach reads, I guess, where one could read this book and put it down just as easily when a hunk drowns in the sea and needs CPR ASAP. Come to think of it, I never even feel the urge to finish the book. I did, but it's only because of habit.

I guess I can say Island Bliss is the perfect beach read after all.

Rating: 76

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