A Thousand Kisses
by Sonia Icilyn, Kim Louise, and Doreen Rainey; contemporary (2004)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-406-4

Doreen Rainey kicks off this Valentine's Day anthology with The Perfect Date. It is a simple - probably too simple - story of Sierra Rivers, a heroine that has a jaded viewpoint on musicians thanks to the disintegration of her musical parents' marriage, being courted and wooed by Justin Simmons, the VP of a record company. Justin is an appealing man and is probably too nice to be a record label person, but his courtship of Sierra is commendable. So we have a nice handsome man with lots of money who isn't afraid to spend the dough on his lady, so what is Sierra waiting for? Sierra comes off as a one-dimensional misguided sort and her seeing the light is the main objective of this novella. She's too obvious as a plot device to prolong the story. While well-written, I find the story a little too overreliant on the premise of a misguided woman taking her time to see the light to be memorable for me.

Kim Louise's The Price Of Kissing tells the story of free-spirited, belly-dancing, fortune-telling, Cirque du Soleil-wannabe Ashley Allgood and her womanizing best friend Gordon Steele becoming really bored one day to contemplate making a bet on who's the best kisser between the both of them. Guess what happens from thereon. Ms Louise's writing is still a little too stilted and clunky at times, but I like Ashley and Gordon. The only real problem I have with this story is Ms Louise cluttering up the limited space of this novella with her other Allgood family member characters. Really, romance authors should really leave the clutter out of their novellas, please!

While the above two novellas are pleasantly readable if not exactly stand-out materials, Sonia Icilyn's Valentine's Bliss ends this novella in a discordant note. Lyle and Sefra Fairthorne have been separated for five months, fourteen days, and eight hours after four years of marriage and they meet again on Valentine's Day this year. I am sure that sparks are supposed to fly, but Sefra acts like a gratingly shrill, self-centered, and spoiled tarmagant while Lyle is brusque and unlikeable as a self-absorbed workaholic. I have no idea how they lasted for four years previously but after reading about their non-stop bickerings and childish views on marriage (they behave more like very young teenagers arguing over a bad date instead of an adult couple trying to work on four years' worth of realistic marriage experiences), I'm just glad to be done with them.

Leaving Sonia Icilyn's unfortunate story aside, A Thousand Kisses is a readable anthology - just readable, I'm afraid, but not much more.

Rating: 67

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