Man Of My Dreams
by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Maggie Shayne, Suzanne Forster, & Virginia Kantra
(Jove, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-13793-6
***
Anthologies are often an excellent way for readers to try new authors without investing a whole lot of time and money. This latest collection from Jove succeeds in giving the reader a sense of taste and flavor – but ultimately fails to deliver a wholly satisfying meal. Still, it’s a pleasant enough diversion.

“Fire And Ice” by Sherrilyn Kenyon starts things off in barn burning style, as the author delivers the hottest story in the book. Adron Quiakides is drinking away his sorrows in a seedy intergalactic tavern when an innocent shows up to tempt him. Livia typpa Vista is a princess who has no desire to wed the much older man her father has betrothed her to. Since her fiancé specifically desires a virgin – Livia decides to ruin herself. So she goes to the tavern and picks up Adron. Naturally when Livia’s father finds them in a compromising position, complications ensue.

Despite the clichéd plot, Kenyon’s story is entertaining thanks to her characters. Livia is innocent, but has grown up in a world where the men of the family dispense corporal punishment to disobeying females. Adron is a former warrior now severely wounded who thinks himself unworthy to even live, let alone fall in love. However, the story is almost too short, and the intergalactic world so minimally explored that it’s a bit of a letdown. Readers should also note that “Fire and Ice” is technically a reprint – having been published previously as an e-book in the early 1990s.

Maggie Shayne’s “Daydreamer Believer” provides a shift in tone thanks to a psychic heroine and a mystery plot. Maggie Rose is psychic, not that it’s done her a lot of good. Her “visions” are more often than not about mundane things like when the phone is going to ring, or if a storm is coming. So when she has a vision about a young girl who is murdered she calls the chief of police. The chief is naturally skeptical, and is worried that details of the crime scene were somehow leaked. So he orders Sam Sheridan, his best detective, to get close to Megan and discover what she’s really about.

As a reader who got bored with psychic characters a long time ago, I still found myself enjoying this story. Maggie and Sam are both nice people, and Shayne does a good job creating atmosphere. What doesn’t work well is the mystery, which is painfully obvious. Frankly, I questioned Sam’s intelligence for not figuring it out ages ago.

I anticipated Suzanne Forster’s entry, having never read her before, but found that “Shocking Lucy” was the weak link. Lucy Sexton is a woman on the verge of her wedding day. Sure, her fiancé doesn’t make her feel “sparkly,” but he nearly meets every one of her requirements for her idea of the perfect man. OK, so he’s not that good of a kisser – a girl can’t have it all can she? Then she has a chance meeting with Noah Hightower, an electrician working in her building, and sparks start flying.

Engaged to other people characters rarely work for me, but that wasn’t the main issue here. Lucy is a charming girl, even if she’s feeling a little bit scatterbrained by her attraction to Noah. The problem here is the hero, who is hiding a deceitful Big Secret. When this reader wants the heroine to remain single and ride off into the sunset by herself – well that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for a romance.

Lastly is Virginia Kantra’s “Midsummer Night’s Magic,” which is a nice spin on an old story. Janet Porter is a small town librarian who leads an unexciting and predictable life. On her way home from a dinner party her car breaks down, and upon her search for help, she comes across what looks like a Renaissance Faire. Imagine her shock when she meets a man who looks like the ex-boyfriend who dumped her and vanished 14 years ago. Is this man her old flame, Ross MacLean, or just his younger doppelganger?

Reunited lovers is one of the few themes that tend to work well for short stories, as the characters already have a past together. Ross is suitably hunky and has been battling for years to escape the clutches of the Fairy Queen. Janet is a nice woman who has never really been able to let Ross go; despite thinking that he betrayed her by taking off without any explanation. It’s a sweet story, and easily engaged me during my lunch hour.

Ultimately, Man Of My Dreams is a pleasant anthology. There’s nothing here that knocked my socks off, but all the stories were enjoyable on the certain level. Outside of Forster’s hero, all of the characters were likable people and all of the authors succeeded in giving the readers a “taste” of their styles with each story. There are worse ways to wile away a few hours.

--Wendy Crutcher


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