Stroke Of Midnight
by Carly Phillips, Janelle Denison, and Jacquie D'Alessandro; contemporary (2004)
Onyx, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-41164-1

Carly "I Owe My Career Mostly To Kelly Ripa" Phillips, Janelle "Stupid Woman Ripa Doesn't Love Me So I'm Trapped In Brava Hell" Denison, and Jacquie "Um, Can We Pretend I'm Just Passing By Or Something" D'Alessandro band together in-between their hard at work at presenting their next Harlequin blockbusters to offer Stroke Of Midnight (not to be confused with Stroke At Midnight, which is my story when I try to read some of these author's longer books). Don't be mean, authors need pocket change too. It's been a tough last few years, people are losing jobs, and authors are losing contracts. Be nice and give these authors your hard-earned money.

Carly Phillips presents Midnight Angel, subtitled "Another Example That I Seriously And Really Can't Plot Or Write Decent Characters But Guess What, I'm A Bestselling Author, Woo-Hoo!". It's about some pathetic Hollywood manslut who decides that he's tired of the sluts of Hollywood (picket lines against Sluts of the World start right there) and decides to head back to some Smalltown Typicana where of course, the stupid woman he screwed and dumped ten years ago will dump her goody-goody boyfriend for this manslut. The hero comes off as a selfish jerk who gets to eat his cake after sampling every other goody in the bakery store in the whole town, thanks to crappy romance novel double standards, while the heroine spends ten years thinking about him while wasting her life hanging on to a guy who can't commit while dreaming of the loser who dumped her.

Janelle Denison's Meet Me At Midnight is a friends-turned-lovers story. She is commitment-phobic but wants to settle down (thanks to mummy issues and all that) and he's willing to be all she dreams of. Of course, we need a gimmick now so the guy gets the heroine tangled up in some Internet love thingie, where he knows who she is but she doesn't know who he is. This one is pleasant, the characters are human especially compared to the badly one-dimensional losers in the previous novella, but this story is ultimately still on the forgettable side. What are the characters' names? Hold on, let me check - oh yes, Shane and Alyssa. It's forgettable because despite the silly Internet thing, there is really no urgency in the story. The characters are fine and easy on the nerves (a good thing where I'm concerned) but I am never caught up in their story.

Jacquie D'Alessandro's Mine At Midnight, which is what I will be cackling soon in crazed laughter if this story is longer, is different from the last novella in that the mood is too upbeat, too ridiculous, even farcical. A so-called free-spirit woman and a so-called prim and proper guy have a mad affair around Christmas and love complicates everything. Ultimately, while these characters are initially fun in a madcap manner, they become tedious when they start creating conflicts by not talking and just assuming the worst of each other as well as their situation. Zaby dialogues, sassy wit, ah yes, they are all here, but like all things too zany and too sassy without much substance to make the one-liner overdrive palatable, I'm glad that this one is over and done with quickly.

Carly Phillips isn't even trying. Ms Dennison and Ms D'Alessandro do okay within the safe boundaries of the romance formula. This anthology is a typical anthology in the sense that outside of tedious flights or hunkless beaches where one just has to read something or just die of boredom, it doesn't really have much use.

Rating: 56

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