Special Report
by Merline Lovelace, Maggie Price, and Debra Cowan; contemporary (2000)
Silhouette Intimate Moments, $4.50, ISBN 0-373-27115-8

No, the Special Report is not a surprise ultrasound showing that heroine is pregnant with triplets. Thank goodness. The only baby in this anthology is a term of endearment the lovers have for each other. If the special editor of SIM has to sit through that crap movie Con Air to get inspiration for this anthology, I must say it's a great feat and a sacrifice worth my standing ovation. Apart from Debra Cowan's tears-and-pampers mush fest, the stories in this anthology are exciting and romantic too.

An amazing feat indeed for novellas barely 100 pages long each.

The stories are linked by the hijack of Con Air 407. Maggie Price's Midnight Seduction kicks off at ground control. The airport director Christine Logan has to work with her ex-flame Quinn Buchanan, hot cop. Both broke up after the death of Quinn's brother came between them, but after several disasters and now this airport situation throwing them together, they can't help but to snog each other all over again.

This is a standard reunion story made very readable because both characters actually talk. When Quinn kisses Christine's forehead lightly and tells her, "I love you, Slim. I want you to love me back. Let me into your life again. Please" I have to reach for my box of Kleenex. And the whole action thing just rocks too - it keeps me reading. I actually go "Dang!" when this novella ends. But the hijack situation is still not ended. I eagerly turn to the next novella...

... And have my mood ruined entirely. Debra Cowan's Cover Me! must be the inspiration for the cover. The kick-ass heroines of the other two novellas certainly don't need to cling to their men like that pathetic Mimi-Rogers-on-a-bad-hairday clone in the cover. This novella is Sleeping With The Enemy meets Tearjerkers Gone Overboard. The villain on the plane is Carl Hart, and he demands, among other things, to see his ex-wife Kelly Jackson. Kelly is now living a quiet life in some small town city. Spence Cantrell, uniformed hunk, is sent to bring her to the airport. Spence and Kelly go way back, however, and he is attracted to her. He will protect innocent, whiny, dweeby Kelly from the evil world raining outside her fragile bubble.

Kelly has a novel way of dealing with her life's troubles. Despite the author telling me that Kelly is strong, she contradicts herself by having Kelly burst into tears at the slightest hint of adversity. When an officer grills her about her marriage, she bursts into tears. When she sees Spence and realizes why he is in her life, she bursts into tears. She also blames herself for her mother's death ("I work, and hence isn't there to care for her" - isn't that the most inane excuse a heroine can come up with?), blames herself for... well, everything.

Hence, Spence has to bend over and cuddle her. "I'm so weak and helpless," she confesses after their lovemaking, and I go, "There, there, dear, go swallow a tranquilizer dart." Jesus, woman, get a grip on your emotions! Kelly probably spends her free time cowering in her bed, wallowing in imagined guilt and self-hatred. Lucky for her Spence is a perfect babysitter.

Cover Me! is an apropos title as Spence the adorable hunk covers the weak heroine so that she will never, ever have to deal with reality again. I feel like running for cover myself.

Merline Lovelace's Final Approach... To Forever restores my good mood. The previous novella ends with a shootout and now the plane is going to crash unless someone does something fast. Pilot Suzanne Delachek has to guide prisoner (wrongly convicted, of course) Ryder Hamilton step by step in landing the plane, first with she at the ground and he at the plane, and later she executing a daring maneuver to get on the plane herself. This is definitely wow-wow-wee action, or at least as much action one can cram in a 68-paged novella.

Of course, duress and danger do funny thing to one's hormonal metabolism and Suz and Ryder soon start seeing each other as potential spouse material. Ryder has some minor issues about his ex, however, who framed him for the crime. But no problem, our two superheroes breeze through it all and snog in time for the grand epilogue.

Except for a sticky point: Ryder doesn't want to go back to the can.

Ryder and Suzanne's relationship is forged under stressful conditions and I have no idea how they will pan out once the honeymoon's over, but it is good while it lasted. The whole plane-land thing is fun and exciting enough, and the growing relationship between those two is added bonus. Final Approach... To Forever is a grand finish to this anthology.

This anthology almost restore my faith in category romances. Special Report is an adrenaline bum rush of romance and danger. Maybe a surfeit of uniformed heroes isn't that bad after all.

Rating: 89

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