A Valentine’s Kiss
by Carla Fredd, Brenda Jackson &Felicia Mason
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-596-6
Every time I have reviewed a Valentine’s Day anthology, I have been compelled to mention A Valentine’s Kiss. Arabesque/BET Books’ 1996 anthology is one of my favorites. It is, in my opinion, the publisher’s best Valentine’s Day collection. Until now, TRR readers have had to take my word for it! The collection has been out print for several years. Arabesque/BET Books has re-released the anthology I wholeheartedly recommend.

Carla Fredd’s “Matchmaker” is the story of two old friends who think their grandchildren would make a great couple. However, it isn’t exactly love-at-first-sight when Camille Johnson and Justin Valentio meet. Camille is speeding through town in her sports car when Sheriff Valentio stops her and gives her a ticket. Their relationship goes downhill from that point. Justin’s mother and ex-wife were women who preferred city life to the goings on in Wainswright, Georgia. He doesn’t think he would have much in common with the Atlanta speedster. Soon, the whole town has taken an interest in getting them together.

In Felicia Mason’s “Made in Heaven,” Valentine Sanders hates her name, Valentine’s Day (which is also her birthday) and the notion of love-at-first-sight. After several dates-from-hell, her best friends decided to give her an appointment with A Match Made in Heaven for her 30th birthday. Val is mortified to visit a computer dating service even though her friends insist it is a way to “sort out the weirdos.” Eric Fitzgerald has worked hard to make A Match Made in Heaven a success. Eric has a hard and fast rule not to date any of the “needy women” who have made him successful. Eric and Val are introduced off-site by his business partner who neglects to tell him that Val is a potential client. Their relationship quickly develops the old-fashioned way -- without bits and bytes.

Kyle Garwood, III is matchmaking from the grave in “Cupid’s Bow” by Brenda Jackson. In an attempt to unite “the granddaughter of my heart and the grandson of my blood,” his will leaves his estate to Kyle Garwood, V with just one major stipulation. Kyle must marry Kimara Stafford within sixty days of his grandfather’s death and conceive a child within six months of the wedding. Kyle is not happy.

The Stafford and Garwood families were close friends for several generations. Kyle’s and Kimara’s parents were killed together in a plane crash and they were raised by the elder Garwood. Kyle remembers her as “Chubs.” Kimara remembers Kyle more fondly. She has had a crush on him since she was six and he was 14. At sixteen, she planned to declare herself on Valentine’s Day, but her plans were cut short when he introduced his fiancée. A lot has changed in the decade since they last saw each other.

“Cupid’s Bow” introduces one of the couples in Brenda Jackson’s popular Madaris and Friends series along with Sterling Hudson, hero of One Special Moment.

A Valentine’s Kiss holds together thematically. Fredd, Jackson and Mason used creative approaches to tell stories about the lengths to which some matchmakers will go in order to fix up initially unsuspecting couples. The collection is equally weighted. Each author was at the beginning of her romance writing career when the book was released. It is interesting to see which elements remain as constants in their work. The writing is economical and there are no wasted scenes. There are credible storylines, good characterizations, subtle humor and satisfying HEAs.

If the mark of a classic is that it holds up through time, A Valentine’s Kiss is a classic. I have replaced the dog-eared copy on my keeper’s shelf, with a new copy.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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