Merry Sexy Christmas
By Beverly Jenkins, Kayla Perrin, and Maureen Smith; contemporary (2012)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-373-53487-6

Despite the embarrassingly cheesy title of this anthology, which has me mentally replacing the second word of Merry Sexy Christmas with a more appropriate exple... er, adjective every time I look at it, it has an interesting theme that delves beyond a drunken snog in a broom closet after too many ho-ho-ho's. All three stories deal with the challenges encountered by black women who are successful at their careers, with their success often making it hard for them to have decent relationships with men.

Beverly Jenkins gets to go first by virtue of the alphabetical order, and she delivers Overtime Love. Basically, Natasha Bloom's grandfather died and willed everything to her, including his semipro football team. Everyone thought the team would go to the general manager Drew Davis - including the man himself - so imagine the surprise. Drew will get the team... if he marries Tasha. Both are determined to make the best of the situation without the indignity of marrying because of a will, and to their surprise, they work well together. Marrying isn't so hard to do after all...

On the bright side, Tasha is a very successful woman in her own right, so she doesn't need the team or to marry Drew. She just doesn't see why she can't work with Drew, as she is, after all, up for any challenges. Drew is a great hero as he respects Tasha and doesn't feel intimidated by her success or tenacious personality. Unfortunately, the story is quite boring, because it's basically Tasha and Drew mutually admiring each other while Tasha tosses around money to make huge improvements for the team and improve their public image. These characters face no challenges in turning things around, so it's all about who gets to be the most amazing human being ever.

Kayla Perrin is next with Ex-mas Reunion. In this story, Kendra Harris and Damien Monroe are reunited by a winter snowstorm that strands them at the DC airport. They soon have to share a rental car and, later, a hotel room - the usual, really.

While these two broke up the first time around for some pretty realistic reasons, which is a nice change for once, this story is certainly a complete 180 from the previous story in that this one has plenty of drama instead of a mutual admiration society. Unfortunately, we are talking about tedious refusal to talk or put things in perspective here, especially on Kendra's part. Coupled to her unfortunately stereotypical "I finally had my dream job, only to realize that it really sucks and all I really want is love" baggage, Kendra's emotional pogo dance only makes her come off more like the office neurotic drama queen instead of a confident and successful career woman.

Maureen Smith closes the anthology with A Holiday Affair and I don't know what she's trying to tell me with her story. Attorney Ava Cameron, still smarting from being dumped by her guy who thought she spent too much time at work, has a one night stand with Colby Austin, who turns out to be the opposing counsel in the case she is working on. Of course, there will be no story if these two know what "professionalism" means, so they keep boinking anyway.

Here's the thing: Colby tells everyone he works with that he's sleeping with Ava. No, he's not being a snake or a jerk, he just tells because those people he works with are sequel baits from Ms Smith's other stories and the author wants to waste no opportunity padding this story with pointless details of these secondary characters' personal lives that have no relevance whatsoever with this story. And because these people are sequel baits and hence the good guys, Colby sees no problem in discussing his love life with them... only, word gets out and Ava's reputation is absolutely ruined.

But that's okay, because Ava is clearly representing the bad guys, and now that she's out of a job, she can devote herself to popping out a baby a year and making her true love happy, right? She'd surely show up in Ms Smith's next story with the other 35 Happily Married Women, eager to regale me with how they are so blissful in their marriage with their men.

But, honestly, what is the author trying to tell me here? Ava loses her job and her reputation, but not Colby, so the message is, what? Women, keep your legs shut unless you're willing to give up a job for love? Money or honey, but never both? At least the previous two stories have heroines who are good at what they do. Here, Ava is just... sad. It's as if Ms Smith was forced to contribute a story here when she'd rather write about women whose main concern in their lives is getting a man to marry them.

Beverly Jenkins turns out to be the only author in this anthology that celebrates a successful career woman who gets to keep both her job and her love. It's a shame therefore that her story is the least realistic of the three. The other two stories just reinforce the sad trope that successful career women are all unhappy emotionally-starved losers who would cheerfully toss everything aside for a ring on their finger at the first opportunity.

I think I'd just get drunk come Christmas, thanks.

Rating: 64

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