Wildest Dreams by Janice Maynard, Morgan Leigh & LuAnn McLane
(Kensington Brava, $14.00, NC-17) ISBN 0-7582-0694-1
**
Any reviewer will tell you that every once and a while a book comes along that they desperately want to like. Such is the case with Wildest Dreams, an anthology where the story behind it is better than the actual published stories.

Things get rolling with “Suite Secrets” by Janice Maynard. Rebecca Fraser is a magazine reporter looking for a big scoop. To get it, she goes to hotel mogul, Sebastian Tennant, a guy who puts the A in Alpha. Seems Sebastian has some hotels on the side that provide sexual fantasies to an elite clientele. Rebecca wants the story, and Sebastian isn’t about to give it up. However, he can’t help but be attracted to Rebecca’s brand of innocence, so he offers her a wager. Pose as his wife while he checks up on his latest hotel, and he’ll give her the story, plus the time of her life.

The main sticking point is the characters, which are more schizo than an entire pysch ward. One minute Rebecca is coyly innocent, the next she’s a tigress. One minute Sebastian is a Alpha jerk set on dominating Rebecca, the next he’s professing his undying love and proposing marriage. None of these personas worked for me, which made believing in the happily ever after next too impossible.

At this point I’m still hopeful that things will get better, and start the second story “Voices Carry” by Morgan Leigh. Camelot Reeve is the best darn secretary in the world. Unfortunately she’s got a problem. Her new boss’s sexy voice is driving her to distraction! Said boss, Jonah McCauley, also has thing for Camelot, but the law firm has a strict non-fraternization policy. What to do?

It all boils down the characters again, with Leigh’s main couple exhibiting some unbelievable behavior. Camelot doesn’t just think her boss has a sexy voice – she gets turned on to the point of reaching cataclysmic orgasm. Her inability to control her urges leads her to see to her own needs (wink, wink) in the most unfathomable and distasteful way. Jonah isn’t much better thanks to a creepy voyeuristic episode and his constant referral to Camelot as “sweetheart” even before they have a first date.

Two stories down, one to go – surely “Cabin Fever” by LuAnn McLane will be better. Sadly, it does start on a promising note, but quickly deteriorates thanks, once again, to the characters.

Rachel Manning is an author of sweet inspirational romances. However, by night she’s Jade Johnson, author of hotter than hot erotica for women. She’s at her cabin in the Kentucky backwoods when her editor, Jake Nichols, shows up. A brief case of mistaken identity ensues and the reindeer games begin.

A lot of the problem here is miscommunication between Rachel and Jake, which leads them to behave in a tiresome fashion. Rachel is horrified by her sex kitten behavior and blames Jake. Jake has feelings for Rebecca, so he’s not happy about her guilt complex or her blame game. On top of that, our boy has serious commitment issues, mainly because he’s a workaholic and has a fear of getting hurt. By the end they admit “they can’t stop thinking about each other,” and call it love. Interesting since they can’t seem to talk to each other like adults for the whole story.

All of these stories got published thanks to a contest that author Lori Foster held at her web site for “unpublished romance authors.” It’s an admirable idea, and all of the authors write nice steamy sex scenes. However, all of the characters annoyed me on some level. Maybe in a longer format that would have allowed the authors to flesh out the characters this concept might have worked. As an anthology though, it never gets off the ground.

--Wendy Crutcher


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