My Scandalous Bride
by Christina Dodd, Stephanie Laurens, Celeste Bradley & Leslie LaFoy
(St. Martin’s, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-312-99522-9
Anthologies are difficult to rate because each story by each author is different and gathers a different rating. This one borders on the sexy, steamy side, which I usually enjoy. However, I usually like some plot around my lust-filled nights and a few of these were lacking in the plot department. Of the four stories in My Scandalous Bride, there are two which I would give 3 hearts and the other two get 2 hearts. Hence, I have to go with the Think Twice warning.

Dodd’s entry is from 1995 entitled “The Lady and The Tiger,” thus named because the heroine sees a tiger in the hero’s eyes and feels stalked by him. The reality is they spend more than ¾ of the story in bed and the other ¼ solving a spy/smuggler mystery. The strength is in the two nemeses as they parry back and forth and realize that love does come to those who lust. It is by no means one of Dodd’s best, but her talent shines through in the depth of the background given so that the reason for the hate – lust – love scenario makes sense.

Lauren’s story entitled “Melting Ice” is rather inane, and not one of her best, it too being resurrected from 1998. The title of this one comes from the fact that Lady Fiona Winton-Ryder freezes like an ice cube when any man touches her except her old friend Dyan St. Laurant Dare. They are reunited after 15 years (and a big misunderstanding that set them apart) at an unsavory house party when Fiona decides to protect her friend whose husband hosts the house parties and the orgies that occur during these weekends. Dyan just happens to show up to save her from embarrassment and herself when it becomes clear that the hostess is more than a willing participant. The two lust and end up committing to each other in love. It was preposterous with little plot and lots of hot sex.

Bradley, who I have never had the pleasure to read before, actually had the best story and heroine with “Wedding Knight,” but suffered from a dull, rather incongruous hero. Kitty, twin sister to Bitty (I am not making up these names) stands in for her sister at her wedding when Bitty takes off. Kitty, thinking it is just nerves, figures she will come to her normal senses and return before the truth has to be unveiled to the groom. But she doesn’t return and Kitty must take severe lengths to keep the groom at arms length. The story is at times funny and at other times, silly, but it is generally entertaining. Kitty is a hellion and the kind of heroine who will never be a man’s doormat. She sets out to teach Alfred Knight a lesson when it appears he wants to bully her sister…er…her. Unfortunately Knight switches from being a pompous heap to being a gentle, funny, caring man more times than I can count. I liked the story but never truly became enamored of him.

The final story was a tried and true predictable tale of a widow who was set to marry when the love of her life from the past comes at the last minute to claim her. LaFoy’s “The Seduction” was pure formula and while enjoyable, didn’t set me afire. I found myself skimming parts that seemed redundant. How many pages can one reader stand of lust, love and more lust followed by denial of love and finally capitulation to love? After three similar stories, this one was one too many.

My Scandalous Bride contains four hot love stories that vary in intensity, vary in character development and vary in plot lines. However, they are all pretty formulaic and could easily be skipped for better tales.

--Shirley Lyons

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