Be Mine is a Harlequin anthology containing three novellas. The one by Jennifer Crusie (Sizzle) is a re-release and Too Fast to Fall (by Victoria Dahl) and Alone With You (by Shannon Stacey), are new.
Since the plots are lighter than air, I shall sum them up in just one run-on sentence each, followed by a mini-review of each story:
Sizzle: Marketing Executive falls for the new guy who oversees her budget.
Too Fast to Fall: Chronic speeder falls for the cop who always pulls her over.
Alone With You: One night of sex plus lost phone number plus meeting again and working together in an isolated location equals true love.
Sizzle: Jennifer Crusie wrote Sizzle in 1994. It was her first published work of fiction and she describes it thusly: “It stinks on ice”. According to her blog, she's not very pleased about it being republished.
Well, Sizzle is not Crusie's finest work, but I wouldn't say “it stinks on ice” either. It's rushed, like the other novellas in this collection. Its sexual and workplace politics seem very strange to me, partly because we've come a long way in terms of how we think about gender and sex in the office since the mid 1990s, and partly because, frankly, I'm kind of a prude. But the ingredients that make Crusie's later work great are here – we get the witty banter, the best friend, the Chinese food, the desire for equality in a relationship, the strong willed heroine, and the guy who comes through for the heroine when the chips are down. I rather enjoyed it even though it was clearly an early, and flawed, effort. I'm just a sucker for that Crusie dialogue, and it's in perfectly fine form here even if the story overall is lacking.
If you, like me, are a devoted Crusie fan in the “I read everything she writes and she totally changed my life but I swear I'm not a stalker” kind of way, then Sizzle is an interesting book to read because you can see how she has developed as an author. If this would be your first, or even your second or third or fourth Crusie experience, then please read her other stuff first. But I liked Sizzle as long as I took it at face value – a short novella by a fledging, but promising, author.
Too Fast to Fall: Oh, man, this book is worth reading if only for the hilarious comeuppance of the Ex. It packs a surprising amount of depth into a short space but it desperately needs to be full-length. That's my literary assessment, not a dirty joke. I loved how exasperated poor Deputy Nate is when he pulls Jenny over for the sixth time. I liked Jenny, even though she's a little flaky, and I appreciated how much more sense Jenny makes as a character once her back-story kicks in. The description of Jenny's mother was very painful for me to read – Dahl does a very good job of describing what it is like to lose a loved one to addiction. I also laughed out loud at this line:
“You did something”, Grace insisted. “You look like a girl caught with her fingers in the pot. Or the cookie jar. Or whatever kind of container you'd find penises in”.
This novella is way too rushed (you may be sensing a critical theme here) but it's enjoyable while it lasts and it makes me want to read more by Victoria Dahl, which presumably makes her, and Harlequin, very happy. This story ties into her Jackson series.
Alone With You: This one was my favorite even though the plot was full of holes. It was very funny.
The pacing was less frenetic than the other two novellas although the HEA was a little extreme for the short amount of time that the two protagonists are together (it's quality time, but still). There are problems with the Big Misunderstanding – it happens, and then it seems to be resolved, and I was so pleased that it was resolved because I hate Big Misunderstandings, but then I realized that it could have been resolved way back in Chapter Two. So that was awkward.
But, much is forgiven because the two main characters, Darcy and Jake, are adorable whether alone or together. Their trivia skills are both dazzling and hilarious. They had me at the first line (“Ashgabat”). And I loved the creative method by which Jake writes a phone number down late in the story and how he keeps condoms strategically placed all over his house.
Even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I don't have much to say about it. It was flawed (mostly because of pacing and the annoyance of the Big Mis) but fun. I have some Shannon Stacey stuff in my TBR pile, and it has moved to the top, as I'm eager to see what this author can do with a full-length book.
I'm giving this collection as a whole a C+, because each novella had problems, mostly with pacing. However, although none of these was a massive literary triumph, I enjoyed the collection. I don't read much contemporary romance, but I enjoyed these. This is perfect Valentine's fluff for when you have a short attention span and only the fluffiest fluff will content you.