Once Upon A Holiday
by Beverly Jenkins, Adrianne Byrd, and Kimberly Kaye Terry; contemporary (2010)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-451-23072-0

Once Upon A Holiday promises to heat up the winter holiday season with some steamy stories of hot people getting naked and having a fabulous time in the process, but like most anthologies out there, these stories are lightweight in every way that counts.

Beverly Jenkins starts things off with Holiday Heat, where ATF agent Eve Clark dresses up as the X-Men character Storm during a costume party and ends up abandoning her usual prim and proper demeanor for a night of wild monkey loving with our cop hero Leyton Palmer. Of course, they will meet again. These two spend a short time wondering whether the other person is serious about the relationship and the author fills up the space and time with some light drama revolving around our characters' jobs. But on the whole, this one is light in plot and characterization. It's just another "good girl has a wild night out and falls in love with the guy she did the woo-hoo thing with" story.

Adrianne Byrd's Candy Christmas is also a predictable story that relies heavily on clichés to fill in the gaps. Montel Starks and Candy Lahane are two of their ad agency's top executives and now they both are chasing after the same account in Europe. You can guess what happens on that trip, I'm sure. This one is a play on stereotypes. Candy is a successful career woman, so naturally she's cold, brusque, and business-like, while Montel oozes sleaze... oops, I mean, charm. He'd be sleazy if he were ugly, but since he's hot, all that constant innuendos and come-ons are supposed to make me melt inside, I think. I give Ms Byrd some credit for not having Candy resign to play the content housewife in the end, but I also wish she hadn't made Candy another stereotype of the hard-hitting cold businesswoman who is that way because she doesn't trust men. This story is also light on plot and characterization. It's all about reinforcing gender stereotypes in this one.

Finally, there is Kimberly Kaye Terry's Chocolate Truffles. Camille Jackson decides to have a drink with a handsome stranger to celebrate her recent promotion, only to end up doing the chiggy-wiggy with Gideon Tabor. Naturally, they meet again when he turns out to be the instructor of the two-week managerial workshop that she just happens to attend. There is some mild drama about Camille being unsure of whether she wants to settle down in a relationship at this stage in her life, but the story isn't that heavy on plot, I'm afraid. Gideon, by the way, comes off like a smarmy player rather than a charming Casanova, but, I don't know, perhaps smarm is the new charm?

You may be wondering how erotic this anthology is. Well, there is a pretty noticeable emphasis on love scenes here, but the heat level is still on the mainstream side and nowhere near the typical heat level of an erotic romance.

At any rate, the stories and the characters in Once Upon A Holiday sure aren't well developed enough to be reaons to pick this anthology up. If you really want to buy this one, as opposed to borrowing it, you may as well tell yourself you are doing so for the hot stuff in this one.

Rating: 65

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