Pink Ice by Susanna Carr
(Signet, $14.00, NC-17) ISBN 0-451-21955-4
****
Anthologies are a great way to give new authors a test drive, although as most readers will tell you, they can be a mixed bag. Inevitably, while one or two stories might rise to the top, the others sink like a stone. Single author anthologies are an even riskier proposition. What if that author’s voice doesn’t work for you? Will all the stories be duds? Happily, this is not the case with Carr’s latest. Not only does she have an appealing premise that leads to sexy shenanigans, she also links the stories in such a way that it keeps the reader turning the pages to see what happens next.

The Graham sisters are at a celebrity auction when the middle sister, Sabrina, spies a pair of breathtaking, pink diamond earrings. She has to have them. Unfortunately, they are way out of her price range, so after some begging she convinces her sisters to chip in. They’ll take turns sharing the earrings, and as it turns out, they’re all hoping that the baubles will spice up their otherwise ordinary existences.

“Pink Champagne” tells Sabrina’s story. Tired of being a wallflower and sick of blending into the background, Sabrina “borrows” designer gowns from the dress shop where she works, puts on the pink diamond earrings, and proceeds to crash swanky parties. It’s at one of these parties that she meets Ian West, who is working security. He’s on the lookout for a jewel thief who has been working the party circuit and when he spies Sabrina’s diamonds, he comes up with a plan – he’s going to use her as bait.

Sabrina is a nice girl who is tired of being overlooked. While Ian suspects she’s crashing parties to meet men, she actually just wants to be the life of the party. To live it up and leave her ho-hum daily reality behind for a few hours. Being Ian’s bait gives her a thrill, and naturally the thrills extend to the bedroom.

“Touch of Pink” finds oldest sister Lindsay Graham in Hawaii. Normally the voice of reason, Lindsay takes the diamonds on vacation and falls into bed with Dominic Stark. It’s not until she’s on the airplane home that she realizes that one of the earrings is missing, and she knows where it is. Dominic must have stolen it from her! So back to Hawaii she goes, with a plan to get back her earring – she’s going to beat Dominic at his own seduction game.

While both Lindsay and Dominic have less than stellar motives throughout the story, it’s the mystery behind why Dominic took the earring that keeps the pages turning. All well that ends well, but not before these two blackmail each other back into bed.

“Pink Positive” finds youngest sister Nicole Graham organizing an exhibit of royal jewels for the museum where she works. This exhibit means working closely with Alex Rafferty, who is some sort of liaison to the royal family. Both are hot for each other, but tap dancing around that fact. Then Alex sees Nicole’s pink diamond earrings and all bets are off.

This story is the weakest link in the bunch, but still enjoyable. More information on Alex and the royal family (like oh, which royal family?) would have gone a long way in making this tale feel more fleshed out.

Last but not least is “In the Pink” which tells the story of a thief desperate to get her hands on the pink diamond earrings. Working for a caterer means getting access to a house party thrown by Lindsay, but she wasn’t planning on Tony Jackson showing up. A former police detective turned private eye, Tony has always had a thing for the beautiful thief. But her marital status, plus her unsavory occupation, has always stood in his way. Can he convince her to go straight and live happily ever after with him?

Revealing the heroine’s identity treads close to spoiler territory. Needless to say, she’s not what one would consider a “traditional romance heroine,” which is probably why this story stands out. With vague moral values, and a natural curiosity on how the author could possibly resolve this story happily, it’s easily the most memorable story in the batch.

Carr’s latest is a smooth read, with four interlocking stories that tie the premise together nicely. If, like a lot of people, you find your attention span spread thin this holiday season, Pink Ice is a fun, quick read that will keep you entertained when you’re not baking, wrapping or shopping. Hot sex, a pleasing premise, and memorable stories make this an anthology worth a look.

--Wendy Crutcher


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