by Brenda Jackson, Monica Jackson, Francis Ray, Donna Hill

January 2004
ISBN: 0-451-21090-5
Reviewer Graphic Button Signet

I’m a size eighteen. My hips are forty-eight inches wide, my waist is twenty-nine and my full bust is thirty-eight, but, honestly, readers, do you really give two-hoots about my plus-size stats?

I didn’t think so.

Well, the authors of the ode-to-voluptuous women anthology, A Whole Lotta Love, tend to think so.

I was all geared up to read this book, because I felt I could bond with the characters in all their curvaceous glory. Wrong! The authors of Love spent more time harping on the fact that these women were not the “ordinary” women of fashion magazines and runways that it left no room to tell the actual stories. The stories had me thinking, “Darn, I guess all plus-size women are insecure and self-conscious.”

The anthology begins with Donna Hill’s Over the Rainbow -- a story of a restaurant owner-turned-overnight-plus-sized-supermodel who falls head-over-heels for the lead photographer and long-time friend.

Right from the first couple of lines, Hill makes several references to Jessica’s weight – or should I say extra-weight. This immediately turned me off. It felt like a Funny Face rip-off, complete with a Parisian photo shoot. Sure, in the end our Jessica gets the man, but to be wrapped up in this woman’s constant self-doubt and hang-ups about her size drove me crazy.

I only hoped that the next story, Tempting Fate by Brenda Jackson, could salvage my already growing annoyance. It did – a little bit. Again, we meet a marriage-shy, lingerie model named Justice, who is, of course, full-figured, and who falls for a handsome photojournalist. SIDE NOTE: Not every thick sister is a plus-size model.

Unlike the previous story, Jackson didn’t place too much stock on the size issue, but neither she did take the time to develop her characters and their feelings toward one another. I would have liked to see more interaction between Justice and her cameraman, not just a quick “howyado” and a rump in the sack.

Grudgingly, I moved on to the third tale, en Wishes Come TrueMonica Jackson. Now, this was the one story that I thought I could relate to the most. It involved a singer, who carries quite a presence both physically and figuratively. Jackson crafts a wickedly funny drama of a diva, hoping to fulfill her birthday wish – to find true love.

When her old high school sweetheart and his hot-stuff doctor cousin, Jon Bynum, come back into her life, Topaz is uncertain where her heart truly belongs. Does she still carry a torch for her less-than-spectacular ex with his more-than-suspect behavior? Or have her eyes opened to the kind of love she’s always dreamed of with Jon? Jackson does a great job taking us through Topaz’s journey to make her wish come true. The only drawback to this story was its predictability and overly dramatic, ghetto clichés, such as, the flaming guy friend, the “closeted” super jock, and the gaggle of girlfriends all up in Topaz’s business. Other than that, “Wishes” cooled some of my anger and encouraged me to finish the anthology.

Which brings us to our final piece on big sisters getting some love. In Francis Ray’s Wright Woman, we encounter Stephanie Wright, a big girl making big moves in the fashion industry, but does she have what it takes to make Michael Dunbar, owner of Evergreen Landscapes, believe in love again and rid him of the notion that all sisters are gold diggers? Mr. Ray does a great job crafting an image of our two lovers without falling too heavily into the proceeding authors’ traps. He makes one reference to Ms. Wright’s size and allows you to bond with the character, not her waist size.

There was also a definite balance of character building and bonding. I found myself ending this book on a good note. However, Wright Woman still comes off a little too preachy and lovey-dovey for me. I like that kind of fluff for my historical romances, not my modern day escapades.

A Whole Lotta Love was three weeks (yes, it took me that long) of my life that I wish I could get back, but alas, I cannot. Take heed, thick sisters of the romance readership, don’t waste too much time on this book. Spend the time giving your man your whole lotta love!

Reviewed in March 2005 by Cheena.