Once Upon a Holiday is an anthology consisting of three African-American holiday stories. I choose this book because it seemed like it would be a decent read.
Holiday Heat - Beverly Jenkins
Holiday Heat starts the book off with characters Eve and Leyton meeting at a masquerade party. Dressed as a warrior goddess and a Roman soldier, they both attend the party for reasons not their own. Eve is pressured into it by a cousin, while Leyton goes to add a discreet police presence. The idea of the party is that guests are randomly paired and assigned a hotel suite to share. But after meeting Leyton, Eve fixes it so that they are paired together. They spend a hot night together and go back to their separate lives. Of course, it doesn't end there. The author brings the characters back together through work, both of them investigating a fire.
Jenkins does a decent job of detailing the investigation and also putting the characters together romantically. At first, she goes too far in showing the "other side" of Eve, the tough woman in a man's world side, and she starts to become annoying. Thankfully, that doesn't last for too long. The love scenes in Jenkins' story were detailed, but not too raunchy or outrageous. I think she did her best once they both realized who they other person was and they get back together again.
Candy Christmas - Adrienne Byrd
The second story, Candy Christmas, did not live up to Holiday Heat in any way, shape, or form. I absolutely, positively did not like this story. In Byrd's story, Montel and Candace are both vying for a promotion at the same company. On the surface, the two despise each other, but a tryst in the office shows that there is chemistry between them. It is later revealed through flashbacks that they are actually married. I found that to be a ridiculous twist and completely unnecessary. Unlike Holiday Heat, the sex scenes in Candy Christmas seemed to be excessive. I felt like the author went out of her way to include what she, and some readers, might think was "exciting." I found myself rereading a few of the positions included, not because they were great, but because they were poorly explained. If I had known the tone of this story before reading it, I would've skipped it.
Chocolate Truffles - Kimberly Kaye Terry
After reading Candy Christmas, I figured the tone of the book was that the stories would get progressively worse, and I was nervous about reading this one. But I shouldn't have been. Chocolate Truffles turned out to be my favorite of the three stories.
In Chocolate Truffles, Camille and Gideon meet in an elevator after she receives a promotion and he closes a deal with her company. Instantly attracted to each other, they agree to meet for drinks at a bar in the building. Drinks and dancing lead to more and they spend the night together at Gideon's hotel room. Similar to Holiday Heat, the two characters don't know each other's full names and have no way of finding each other until they find out that they are working together. Also, like Byrd, Terry tosses a curveball by subtly revealing that the Gideon is white. I had actually picked up on this at the beginning, not as much because of how she described him, but the words she didn't use to describe him when they first meet.
I thought this one was the best of the three because it made the most use of the amount of pages to create a full story. It didn't feel rushed at all and the characters were well developed. I may have also liked it because it was a true romance, their jobs were just background noise to the story of the relationship. I'm now interested to read more of Terry's work and hoping that it's as good as this was.
Once Upon a Holiday is scheduled to be released on October 1, 2010. Advanced reader's copy provided for review by NetGalley.