Paris Or Bust!
by Kate Hoffman, Jacqueline Diamond, and Jill Shalvis; contemporary (2003)
Harlequin, $6.50, ISBN 0-373-83573-6

Paris Or Bust! is not about a fairy godmother offering mothers a choice of owning harems in Paris or getting a breast boost to 36DD plus dimensions. No, Harlequin just wants your money, oh, give 'em your $6.50 and weep. And I find it amusing that the mothers-cum-heroines in this anthology are sexually frustrated and financially lacking single mothers. I guess now we know what kind of readers/mothers Harlequin assume Middle Class America that read their books are like.

Actually, the stories by Kate Hoffman and Jacqueline Diamond would be nicer if they aren't overloaded with tired gimmicky premises that don't work. Their characters display decent chemistry. It's just that the plots they are stuck in don't give the characters much room to be anything more than tired, derivative gimmicks themselves.

The common thread tying all three novellas together is that a magazine, Family Voyager (just think some tired and boring housekeeping magazine these New York editors believe all romance readers read along with their Ann Coulter's Word Of Wisdom On Evangelism, Housekeeping, Funless Sex, and Joylessness), has organized a contest for mommies in America. People will nominate mommies they believe worthy and the winning mommy will be sent to Paris for a shopping trip. The mommies in this story don't get to Paris though, they get to become stereotypes instead. Oh well.

Kate Hoffman's Romancing Roxanne? tells the story of Christopher "Kit" Lawrence's father fixing it so that Roxanne Perry, single mom, will meet his son and they will live happily ever after. Because it's too hard to introduce the son to a nice woman, this man (a radio station guy who is doing the advertizing blitz for the contest) just has to do a Jeb Bush In Florida to get his son to meet a perfect stranger instead. Because we all know people who submit contest entries never lie. And this father must die. Once Kit and Roxanne get over the tired contrived conflict that is triggered off by their unorthodox matchmade meeting, they actually settle down in a comfortable rhythm of repartee, courtship, and love. Unfortunately, the premise of the story necessitates them to act in tedious, tired ways in response to a plot that is nothing more than a tired "matchmaker" gimmicky nonsense created just for this anthology, logic be damned. Think of this as a When Potentially Good Authors Sell Amway scenario.

Jacqueline Diamond's Daddy Come Lately fares even worse as a Secret Daddy story. Callum Fox, one of the important guys in Family Voyager, chances upon the entry sent by Jody Reilly, a woman he had sex with, and after doing some calculation, starts to suspect that the twins of hers are also his. He goes to meet her, obstensibly to offer her some incentive to drop out of the competition (conflict of interest and all that), but soon ends up being the grand prize for Jody instead. Callum isn't bad, but Jody is one of those weird women who, on grounds of "ethics", not only deprives her kids of a father but also during the course of story, prefers to be "honorable" and deprive her kids of financial opportunities they will need. Jody may not be a selfless martyr as much as a selfish martyr. While the romance is readable, the plot is broken and Jody's character is unsympathtic and even unlikeable.

Jill Shalvis' closes the anthology with Love Is In The Air. Unlike the other two novellas where at least the characters have some decent chemistry, this whole story is one stupid gimmick - the Funny Dotty Old Woman Matchmakes Her Daughter, Tee-Hee-Hee one-note joke. And to add to the insult, the Dotty Old Woman is a bingo game manager at the local senior folk party home. Dotty Miss Daisy here enters the contest hoping to matchmake her daughter with Wade McKinnon. Don't ask. Wade talks like a sexist pig screaming for a slap and a sexual harrassment lawsuit, Kate Birmingham acts like frigid shrew actually all indignant because she's like, eeuw, having a libidio, how disgusting, Momma make my privates some tingling, et cetera, and I must say, Ms Shalvis, please, make it stop. I can't take this. The story has no characters coming close to being decent or realistic, the plot is a joke, and the whole story reads like an amateur's first draft to the editor.

Forget Paris Or Bust!, these authors would do better to find a decent plot instead. Or go bust.

Rating: 68

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