Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Comfort and Joy by Fern Michaels (and others)

Comfort and Joy by Fern Michaels, Cathy Lamb, Marie Bostwick, and Deborah J Wolf is a collection of novellas all with a holiday theme.

Comfort and Joy by Fern Michaels is the first story, a stereotypical romance about a very handsome man and a beautiful woman who are butting heads until circumstances force them to cooperate with one another.  Add a meddling mother and a patronizing father and you have all the makings of a cliché ridden romance.  I expect some clichés in a Christmas story.  Cliché I can forgive; boring I cannot.

A High-Kicking Christmas by Marie Bostwick is a variation on a romantic theme.  Single career-minded woman, this time a dancer with dreams of being on Broadway, breaks her ankle.  Lucky for her she has recently befriended a girl from a small town where she can go to recuperate and fall in love with the friend's brother who happens to be a pastor with a young child.  Enter a complication one could see coming a mile away and you have the inevitable ending.  This one was a bit insulting, however.  The characters are all stereotypes.  The former Rockette, because this dancer is actually dancing at Radio City Music Hall if not on Broadway and still feels like a failure (?), comments on how considerate the elderly couple, with whom she is staying while she recuperates, is and says that she would never find that in New York.  Maybe I took that one a little personally because I'm from NY and on the same day I read this part of the story I received an email from an unexpected source thanking me for my thoughtfulness.  Yes, Virginia, not only is there a Santa Claus but there are actually considerate New Yorkers!  And then there's another ridiculous scene in which an elderly widow lambasts the dancer by equating what she does as a Rockette with burlesque dancing, wearing skimpy costumes and make-up an inch thick, etc.  When is this story supposedly taking place because the last time I checked, the Rockettes were not considered risqué or harlots?  Pffft . . . the whole story was just silly and predictable.

Suzanne's Stockings by Cathy Lamb started off with great promise but, by the end, had degenerated for me. I overlooked a lot of tedious clichés at the beginning because of the interesting premise:  woman in a coma gets to see the reality of her life and those of her friends and family.  Sort of like It's a Wonderful Life only, instead of seeing how everyone's life would be without her she gets to see what's really going on in the lives of everyone behind closed doors, including her fiancé, who is the weakest character in the story.  Most of the characters seem to have layers as their secrets reveal facets of each person not immediately apparent on the surface.  However, Suzanna's fiancé has no redeeming qualities; he's not only short and not terribly attractive but he's dispassionate (not even good in bed!), rude and condescending to everyone, a liar in business, manipulative with his family members to the point of being nearly abusive, and he is eager to pull the plug on his "beloved."  Oh . . . and his deep dark secret that is literally kept behind closed doors is a bore.  I don't want to spoil it but given every other loathsome personality trait he has, his one secret seems so silly.  Hardly a deal breaker.  I think if Lamb could have infused the fiancé with some compassion or even likability then I might have liked this story even if it proved predictable.  But no.  Close but no cigar.  I almost could have liked this one.  *sigh*

Family Blessings by Deborah J Wolf could possibly be more offensive than I found it but I refused to even finish this story.  It began with some promise, the story about a woman who has Alzheimer's and its effect on the family, a large Irish (presumably Catholic) family.  However, in chapter two we are told that the narrator's uncle Daniel has been a source of familial consternation because he "dropped out of college two months into his sophomore year, fathered a child out of wedlock, married a Jamaican woman darker than a starless night, and had been in and out of rehab" more times that the narrator can count (397).

Let me emphasize:  married a Jamaican woman darker than a starless night.

Let me further emphasize:  this is listed as one of the sources of consternation.

Are you fucking kidding me?  Do I even have to explain why this is offensive, far more offensive than my using the word "fucking" in the previous sentence?

Or am I the only one who is disgusted when she finds her holiday cheer mixed with racism?

This is the first time, I think, I've reviewed an unfinished book in this blog.  This is not the first time I've left a book unread because I found it racist or offensive.  I wish this story had been the first.  Then I wouldn't have bothered suffering through the first three.

A horrible horrible book which I recommend nobody read.  I will probably not read anything written by any of these women ever again.  And hallelujah!

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