Heat Wave
by Stephanie Bond, Leslie Kelly,and Heidi Betts; contemporary (2007)
HQN, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-373-83714-4

The woman on the cover of Heat Wave is really easy on the eyes. Unfortunately, I think I'd rather see a guy in skimpy swim wear rather than a woman in skimpy bikini on the cover. Is HQN trying to get the straight guys to pick up this anthology? Still, I can reassure any straight and macho guy who happens to pick this book up thinking that it's a great complement to the latest issue of FHM that reading it will not cause every hair on the body to fall off. It's not that sweet or icky, at the very least.

Stephanie Bond starts the ball rolling with Rex On The Beach, a most enjoyable story of our PI heroine, Lucinda Belvedere trying to track down the best friend of a runaway groom for her client (the bride that almost was) only to fall for her target, Rex McCormick. Rex is having some private time of his own in the beach away from his girlfriend who is pushing him to get married. Can Lucinda coax the information on the missing groom's whereabouts from him?

This story is going to be on thin ice where you are concerned if you don't like stories where the guy is cheating on his girlfriend with the heroine. I have a few doubts about the story myself but Ms Bond nonetheless addresses the question of whether Rex is sleeping with Lucinda just to find an excuse to break off with Ginger to a degree that satisfies me. I can't vouch for any other reader too, heh. To me, this is more of a case of Rex meeting the right woman for him while being involved with another woman. I can't say I'm pleased that he doesn't break off with Ginger until after he's slept with Lucinda, but I'm satisfied that every one in this story manages to keep his or her dignity at the end.

Besides, Rex and Lucinda are plenty of fun together that, the sticky issue about Rex's girlfriend aside, this story is a most entertaining read.

Leslie Kelly's Getting Into Trouble pairs Allie Cavanaugh, last seen in Here Comes Trouble, with Damon Cole, a burned-out social worker who decompresses by traveling with his aunt's circus as "the Gypsy King, the World's Greatest Mesmerist". When the circus comes to the town of Trouble, Allie has no problems getting hypnotized by Damon.

I find this story the weakest of the three. It's not that it is bad in any way - it is in fact most readable - it's just that I find some of things Allie pulls in this story to get away from Damon too much like a Lori Foster-type contrivance on the author's part to keep the story going. Allie is often hot and cold in her behavior towards Damon for no good reason. Still, this one has plenty of sizzling chemistry between Allie and Damon and they are generally likable and fun characters to root for.

Heidi Betts closes the anthology with Shaken And Stirred, which pairs a researcher heroine with a military hero. Abigail Weaver is a stereotype of the hot researcher who has no clue that she's beautiful and indeed she looks stunning in a bikini so Ms Betts is definitely cheating here. Gunnery Sergeant Michael Mastriani is at the same beach that Abby is taking a vacation on, only he's trying to get back in shape before he rejoins the Corps. They meet and the rest is history.

Abby is truly an irritating "Me? Beautiful?" stereotype and it is Mike who goes all out to make this story an unexpected delight. That guy is a complete dream as he cherishes, pampers, and spoils Abby so much more than the silly cow deserves. He is so adorable that I feel deigned to love this story even if a part of me would have loved to cheerfully throttle the awful heroine who gives brainy women everywhere a bad name.

Heat Wave is an anthology with tales of finding escape from the humdrums of life through sex and romance in the summer, although not necessarily at the beach as Leslie Kelly's story demonstrates. All three stories are most entertaining in their own right, making this a perfect beach read where I'm concerned.

Rating: 85

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