Sizzle by Lori Foster and Elda Minger
(Harl. Temptation #739, $3.75, R) ISBN 0-373-25839-9
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A lot of romance readers don’t like anthologies. They say the stories are too short or they aren’t equally weighted. Or, readers don’t find the themes or the authors selected for the collection suitable.

I tend to like anthologies. In anthologies, I’ve “met” a lot of authors who are now on my “must read” list: Brenda Jackson, Carla Fredd, Roberta Gayle, JoAnn Ross, Judith Arnold, Eva Rutland, Tiffany White. Lori Foster and Elda Minger are on that list.

In February of this year, I read Lori Foster’s “Tangled Sheets” in Jove's Hot Chocolate anthology. Since then, I have only one book left to read on her backlist. I "know" Elda Minger through her anthology work, too. My first was “Kitchen Casanova” in the Love by Chocolate collection. Minger’s story, “Buried in Her Heart,” was also included in Hot Chocolate. (Are you recognizing a theme here?) I was thrilled to learn that the two authors were being reunited in a Temptations duo. I like both authors’ writing styles, character development, touches of humor and scenes that sizzle.

Which brings us to Sizzle, Harlequin Temptation's mini-anthology The Foster and Minger stories in the collection are variations on a somewhat familiar theme. What would it be like to be stranded on a deserted island with the person of your dreams? Two couples with "histories" are given second chances at love in two thematically similar, but vastly different stories.

Lori Foster has made her mark within the Temptations line with one-word titled romances about heroines with limited sexual experience and heroes who are more than willing to offer intensive one-on-one tutoring. I like her work a lot. Sizzle begins with her story, “Body Heat.”

Melanie Tucker and Adam Stone grew up together in a small Ohio town. Melanie was the only daughter of its wealthiest man. When Adam’s father became ill and died, neighbors had to take up a collection. Melanie represented everything Adam ever wanted and couldn’t have. Early on, he resented her and became her tormentor. Later, he stopped wanting what she had and began wanting her.

As Sizzle begins, their paths cross years later aboard a party boat off the Florida Keys. Melanie and Adam are swept overboard and wash up on a deserted island. While being stranded with Melanie might be the stuff Adam’s dreams are made of, being all alone with her childhood nemesis is her worst nightmare. They spar and posture before they finally admit their longstanding mutual attraction. And, as time passes, things begin to heat up.

"It's going to get hot as hell, you know."

She felt the heat already. Adam's stomach was solid rock against the backs of her fingers. And warm. Very warm in comparison to his clammy clothes.

"Humid, too" he added, only more softly now, his voice a rough growl. "Down right steamy."

And it does. “Body Heat” has all the snappy dialogue, downright funny scenes and well-matched characters I’ve come to expect from a Lori Foster romance. While this one is just a little slow getting out of the blocks, I really enjoyed “Body Heat” and recommend it.

But Elda Minger’s “Slow Burn” is my sentimental favorite among the two. The love story of Flynn Ryder and Allison Hennessy began in Evanston, Illinois, a town very near and dear to my heart. Minger crafts a wonderful tale of how two high school students from differing backgrounds met, fell in love and married -- only to have their relationship sabotaged by her father.

“Slow Burn” begins eight years after Flynn and Alison were divorced. They have not seen each other since Alison walked in on a drugged Flynn apparently in bed with another woman.

A lot has changed. Her father is dead. Alison is a successful, but lonely, landscape designer. Flynn signed on with treasure hunters following the break-up of his marriage. The crew discovered gold and he has created an exclusive, secluded paradise.

Aware of Alison’s penchant for entering contests, Flynn concocts and rigs a contest he knows she’s bound to enter. The prize is a ten-day getaway to the famous Paradise Resort in the Florida Keys. Unknown to Alison, Flynn is the reclusive owner of the world reknowned hideaway. She has won a contest, but he hopes to win her. He's got less than two weeks to help her discover the truth about their breakup and convince her to stay with him.

Like Foster, Minger knows how to create heat that permeates from the pages. True to its name, the story gradually heats up to a slow burn and the reader is swept into it. Minger is an economical writer. Her characters are always able to carry the story. There are no wasted words. Secondary characters are minimal. They provide a backdrop to a story singularly focused on the relationship between the two characters. Minger's plotting offers us insight into the young lovers and the evolution of their relationship and a sensual glimpse of its full-bodied maturation.

Both stories are worthy of the “Blaze” name. And a word to those romance readers who don’t read anthologies: You don’t know what you’re missing...

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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