Romance in the Rain

Charlotte Russell, Marianne Stillings, Dawn Kravagna, Clara Tisdale, Sheri Shaw and Kristine Cayne
October 2012, American Historical
Kristine Cayne, $2.99, 360 pages

Grade: C
Sensuality: Varies

The recent drought that hit much of the country has left me with a fondness for rain. I've always loved it but now I especially appreciate the way it refreshes and cleanses everything it touches. Much like rain, love can bring healing, joy and the start of a new and wonderful experience in life and that's the theme explored in Romance in the Rain.

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Frontier/Western Hist Romance (1853 Washington Territory)

Splendor in the Moss by Charlotte Russell opens the anthology with a standard historical romance. James Caldwell, fourth son of Lord Kensworth, has come to Seattle to prove himself. His rich claim, with a breathtaking view of Mt. Rainier, should provide him and his manservant Tilford a living. However, he is failing at that, just the same as he has failed at everything else. When Mattie Jensen comes striding out of the woods, he sees her as nothing more than a pleasant distraction for his last days in the Washington Territory. The eternal rain and rough living are driving him back to Baltimore, where he will find something else to fail at. Mattie's rough tongue soon convinces him that whatever kind of distraction she proves to be, it won't be pleasant. As they are thrown together, first by the developing romance between Tilford and Mattie's friend, then by circumstances in general, he comes to love Mattie, rough tongue and all. But can she ever love a failure such as himself?

I didn't believe in Mattie and James' love. Aside from a few passionate kisses shared between them we never saw them click as a couple. I didn't hold that against the story - this isn't the first romance I've read where sexual attraction took the place of relationship building and it won't be the last. However, it didn't help move the tale out of the realm of the ordinary either, which good relationship building could have done. As a result, we wound up with a typical read with some lovely location descriptions.

Grade: C

American Historical Romance (1942 Texas)

Final Approach by Marianne Stillings highlights some of the unseen heroes of WWII. Charlene (Charlie) Thompson is one of the best pilots in the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. When she first meets Captain Joe Caldwell she is at a local bar, having a drink and enjoying the music. Initially, she mistakes Capt. Caldwell for an overly slick pilot on the make. Unfortunately, he has to quickly disabuse her of that notion. Handsome and charming he may be but the news he bears is not. Charlie's best friend has just died. It would make sense if it had been an airplane accident of some sort (Edith was a pilot, too) but the plane landed with both pilot and plane physically intact. There's an tiny bump on the back of Edith's neck but nothing other than that to explain her death. As Charlie and Joe work to solve the questions surrounding this mystery they find themselves increasingly distracted by the chemistry between them.

This is a fun story for fans of WWII romance since we're given a quick look at the WAFS and the vital service they provided. Charlie and Joe are affable, likable characters who fit perfectly into the story. Even though the subject matter was serious, the story had a light tone which made it a quick, easy read. I enjoyed it a lot.

Grade: B+

Contemporary Romance

"All the world’s a stage," William Shakespeare told us. In Dawn Kravagna's Love Phantom, Kara Caldwell learns that all love needs is a stage. As a budding playwright studying at the University of Washington, Kara has to earn undergraduate credits by working on one of the school's productions. Her first day starts with a bang; well, really more of bust. As in a busted nose when the man she tries to rescue from a falling prop turns around and accidentally smacks her with a backpack full of books. Thus begins a comedy of errors as Ellis falls for Kara, Kara falls for Gerald and Gerald tries to choose between the bevy of beauties lining up for his attention. Welcome to life and love as a freshman in college.

This is a cute, sweet story that will remind you of your own high school or college dating experiences. Kara is relatable as the shy klutz who doesn't seem to have a chance with handsome Gerald. Ellis is the guy we all dated at one point or other, the man with the heart of gold who gets overlooked in the shadow of his more handsome counterparts. Gerald is the dream man that every girl both wants and fears getting. The story reads young but it makes for a fun trip down memory lane for those of us who are older. For the younger crowd it may draw sympathetic groans from those still experiencing these moments.

Grade: B

Contemporary Romance

I have a huge failing - I like my romances to be romantic. Shelter from the Storm by Clara Tisdale is sort of the antithesis of what I call romantic. When J.D. Caldwell shows up at his friend's house he's just looking for a place to crash. The last time the two had run into each other, he'd been assured he could use the house as a landing pad while he looked for a job and a permanent place to stay. Instead he finds Maya, the friend's ex and the actual owner of the home. Maya is beautiful, mysterious, moody - and hiding some deep secrets. The two share a passionate evening and agree in the morning to become platonic housemates. J.D. can cook and do home repairs in exchange for rent; she can get more work done on her art while he handles the day-to-day details. But when J.D. gets into a position to move out the question is, does he want to?

J.D. and Maya have a very practical sort of courtship. I could have stood that if it wasn't for two things. The first is that J.D. was completely unconcerned that he was moving in on the recent ex of a friend. This gave me a twinge. The second is that Maya's big secret is pretty nasty. I don't mean nasty in terms of her having something horrific done to her but in terms of her doing something somewhat horrifying to someone else. At the moment all is revealed the story ceased to be romantic to me and just became something to get through. I totally didn't believe in this couple's HEA and expect the break up will be angsty and nasty.

Grade: D+

Contemporary Romance

The highlight of this anthology is What's Wrong With Mr. Perfect? by Sheri Shaw. The answer to that question? Not much. Chef Ivy Turin has been a tad unlucky in love lately so when a mysterious clerk presses a jade pendant upon her, guaranteed to find her the perfect man she accepts it with sheepish reluctance. She doesn't believe in the charm but what harm can it do? Then Sam Rockney, the smokin' hot quarterback for the Seattle Pioneers walks through her door. After just a few dates Sheri determines that Sam really is perfect. Not just perfect for her but absolutely perfect in general. Is it safe to love someone so fantastic?

Sam and Ivy really come to life in this terrific little tale. The author uses her small space to really build up who they are both as individuals and as a couple. I thought Ivy's panic and find some way to fix it attitude in tough situations was perfectly appropriate for a five star chef. Sam's calm demeanor in same served as a foil for her volatility. Both of them are kind, considerate people you are rooting for as they fell in love. I also just really enjoyed how the author handled the larger than life nature of her hero. I think the average gal would feel intimidated by a star quarterback. She highlighted that without having Ivy be insecure or whiny, which was really nice. I loved this entry and will be looking for more from Ms. Shaw.

Grade: B+

Contemporary Romance

Even though it is California that is known for its earthquakes, Seattle gets hit by them too. In Aftershocks by Kristine Cayne technical rescue firefighter Jamie Caldwell is estranged from his wife when the quake hits. The two fight over everything and just that evening had fought over Jamie not being able to pick their daughter up from child care. He gave his ex only moments notice. Erica (Ricky) races to preschool to pick Chloe up on time but then has to turn around and return to the office to get work to take home. The minute they get to the familiar office building Chloe races ahead of her mom and the two are separated when the quake hits. Both are trapped by debris in a shaky building as aftershocks continue to rumble through the city. Will Jamie and his crew find them in time?

Every once in awhile I will run into a romance where the two protagonists seem too immature to keep a relationship going and this is one such tale. Jamie felt marginalized in his marriage and home. His response had been to not talk to his wife and not take care of his daughter. When visitation was set up he would often bail. He kept claiming to lose the divorce paperwork so Erica would have to get him new copies. His reasoning was all this would delay the divorce. I thought all this gave her additional grounds for divorce and not seeing his child when scheduled was just cold. I didn't believe him when he claimed they meant everything to him. Erica was really no better than Jamie. She was belligerent to everyone, especially the firefighters rescuing her. She also admitted to pushing Jamie out of her life because she feared something would happen to him. Her reasoning for this was weak and she seemed to give no thought to what happened to the child if she died. She also did something just terribly TSTL while they were rescuing her that made me want to shove her back under the debris.

All that was tough for me to take but the fact that the story was primarily about the rescue didn't help either. I'm sure it would have made a fascinating TV episode of Chicago Fire but in a short story there wasn't enough room for the detailed rescue and the romance. I also found it a bit odd that Erica had a wall fall on her arm, actually pinning the arm and the injury was treated as pretty minor. This just felt unrealistic. In the end all those things added together made for a story I didn't love.

Grade: C-

Do I recommend this book? My answer is a very tentative yes. Two of the stories are just wonderful and given the low cost of the volume, they are assuredly worth what you will pay for the book.

-- Maggie Boyd

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