Island Magic
by Rochelle Alers, Shirley Hailstock, Marcia King-Gamble, and Felicia Mason; contemporary (2000)
St Martin's Press, $5.99, ISBN 0-312-97300-4

What happens when four authors and their editors decide to do let's find a cute hunk with tight bum while vacationing in a tropical beach short stories inspired by Terry McMillan's How Stella Got Her Groove Back? Island Magic is a good read, but the somewhat predictable plots do tend to dim the... er, magic of each story.

Starting off is Felicia Mason's Enchanted. Regine Bryant is the only single woman in her buddy-entourage vacation to Martinique. Regine may be drop dead beautiful, but she's also the usual I have no life apart from work sort of woman who has to practically agonize over the idea of a beach fling. Ugh. Nothing new here, although it's pretty readable.

An Estate Of Marriage by Shirley Hailstock has Naomi Davenport and Stephen Weller sharing the same Hawaiian estate as a result of a "mix-up" on Stephen's travel agent's part. Stephen is still smarting from a broken engagement, but his heart beats triple time for Naomi, who, unfortunately, is engaged. Don't worry - the other guy is predictably boring and milquetoast material. Again, everything's familiar.

And in Marcia King-Gamble's Then Came You which has another vacationing woman, Raven Adams, going solo on a cruise to St Vincent and the Grenadines. On her port-of-call, she meets hunky bartender Logan McFee, who doesn't mind jumping her bones but tells her he wants a more ambitious and lively woman. This novella has the most obtuse hero worthy of my hardest rolling pin, and I'm not too fond of the heroine either. Still, nothing much new here too.

And finally, the great Rochelle Alers sends Ericka Williams off to the Virgin Isles in her novella Far From Home. Ericka wishes to spend some time away from her almost-adult kids and her ex-husband, and she meets a handsome divorcee in a restaurant. This is a nice romance with no I hate men/women or I will never trust again nonsense, just two people taking their time to fall in love and rediscover life. It's my favorite of the four.

IM retreads old paths in exotic locales. Ms Alers and Ms Hailstock have the best stories, and Ms King-Gamble should have castrated her hero in her story, and Ms Mason's story is somewhat forgettable. Hence, instead of being a nice, fantasy escape, IM manages to be yet another comfort read. Nothing new, nothing special, nothing earth-shattering.

Rating: 73

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