Sun, Sand, Sex
by Linda Lael Miller, Jennifer Apodaca & Shelly Laurenston
(Brava, $15.00, NC-17) ISBN 0-7582-1096-5
****
Officially signaling the start of beach reading season, Brava offers readers a little sun, sand, and sex.

Big name draw, Linda Lael Miller starts things off with “One Last Weekend,” a marriage in trouble story that suffers because of a short page count.

Teague and Joanna Darby were college sweethearts, but after raising a now married daughter, and with demanding careers, they’re on the brink of divorce. Their attorney convinces them to spend one last weekend at their vacation cabin on an island off Washington’s coast, and they very reluctantly agree. When ferry transportation is grounded because of bad weather, they find themselves stranded in the cabin. Together and with no electricity. Whatever shall they do?

There is a lot of sex in this story but very little communication. In fact, the Darby marriage is in trouble because Teague and Joanna have forgotten how to talk to each other. They patch things up by having a lot of hot sex, but they never solve the root of their problem. One wonders if they’ll head back to the divorce lawyer once they’ve run out of sexual positions to try. An average read that needed to be longer than 60 pages to flesh out the conflict.

Jennifer Apodaca’s “You Give Love A Good Name” is a fun, amusing story about a disgruntled wedding planner on the lam. Lexie Rollins hates planning weddings, but took over the family business when Mom had a heart attack. Then a groom gets a little too amorous with her and she snaps. She retaliates with a staple gun, and wouldn’t you know it – the guy has no sense of humor and files charges. To top it off, someone appears to be stalking her and no one is taking her fears seriously. So she packs her bags and heads to San Diego to lie low.

Nick Vardolous is a bounty hunter hired to bring Lexie back for a court date. He’s also never gotten her out of his system after propositioning her after his sister’s wedding. He’s a one-night kind of guy, and she isn’t. But Lexie is running scared, and when Nick finds out about her stalker he’s determined to protect her.

This is a fast, flirty story with undercurrents of serious conflict. Nick has baggage, and Lexie is tired of not having her own life, answering to the whims of her family. Given the short story format the mystery isn’t much of a brain-bender, but Apodaca keeps it light and lively. A very solid read.

“My Kind Of Town” by Shelly Laurenston is a curious addition. Will a paranormal featuring witches and shape shifters scream “beach read” to the average reader? Emma Lucchesi is a powerful witch who arrives in Smithville, North Carolina looking to close a portal her Coven opened before anything nasty crawls through – but she’s too late and is almost killed in a car accident. Enter Deputy Kyle Treharne, a shape shifter who doesn’t trust Emma as far as he can throw her. One thing is for certain, he’s not letting her out of his sight until he can figure out what’s going on in town. Sure the entire town is populated by shape shifters, but things are weirder than usual.

Emma and Kyle have an adversarial relationship, but there’s a sexual tension that leaps off the page. While one wonders about the addition of a paranormal story in an anthology featuring two straight contemporaries, this is a good, solid entry with plenty of series potential. It’s definitely worth checking out for paranormal fans.

Outside of an average Miller story, Apodaca and Laurenston fire away on all cylinders. This anthology certainly won’t change your life, but it’s a fun, fast read perfectly tailored for summer reading. Sun, Sand, Sex is perfectly at home in any beach bag, right next to the sunscreen and beach towel.

--Wendy Crutcher


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