by Stephanie Laurens, Victoria Alexander, and Rachel Gibson

December 2000
ISBN: 0-380-81805-1
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

Is there such a thing as a perfect night? Well, these writers think so, provided it's either a) snowing, b) postponed for ten years, or c) your high school reunion! In other words, there are probably as many perfect nights as there are people, and every night can be a perfect night if you work at it!

Stephanie Laurens introduces us to The Scandalous Lord Deere in the first story. Tired of being pursued because of his reputation as a fantastic lover (poor baby), Adrian Deere heads home to Devon, only to run into a blizzard and end up on the doorstep of his first true love, Abigail Woolley. Abby has never forgotten the boy who taught her about passion, and now that he has become a man, she remembers their shared affair all too well. Rescuing him from the blizzard leads to the usual - wet clothes off, glasses of brandy, a roaring fire, and eventually the need for mutual body warmth. (We're missing out on a lot of fun, these days, since the invention of electric blankets!) Luckily Stephanie Laurens' deft skills lift this predictable plot into the realm of delightful romance, and we are immediately swept up into Abby's dangerous fascination for Adrian, and Adrian's startled realization that Abby holds a special place in his heart. They seem destined to share a lifetime of perfect nights.

In The Last Love Letter, Victoria Alexander ponders the course of love gone astray. Lady Rachael Norcross is about to meet her lost lover after an agonizing interval of ten years, during which time she thought he'd deserted her, and he thought she was dead! Jason Norcross, now the Earl of Lyndhurst, had planned to elope with Rachael, but the plan had been discovered and foiled. Jason had ended up on a ship to America with the news that his Rachael had committed suicide! Rachael, on the other hand, had been told that Jason had left her for America with some financial encouragement. All lies, of course, invented by Rachael's thoroughly unpleasant father. Moving listlessly through life, Rachael marries George Norcross, Jason's cousin, for lack of anything better to do, and it is not until her husband lies dying that she learns the truth of what happened all those years ago. Now, widowed for two years, Lady Norcross awaits the return of the new Earl, her old lover Jason. There is enormous potential here, and the characters are well-drawn and interesting, but - and it's a big but - they think too much. Many pages are spent following the thought processes of Rachael and Jason, and sad to say, they're not that interesting! The question boils down to: do they still love each other, but so much time is spent pondering the question that the reader stops caring whether they do or not about two thirds of the way through the story. I finished this one because I felt duty-bound to do so, not because I couldn't wait to see what happened.

Luckily, Rachel Gibson's Now and Forever finishes up this anthology on a bright and sparkling note. This story is dedicated to every woman who has longed to go back to her high school reunion and knock the socks off everybody who made fun of her in the past!! Brina McConnell has developed quite nicely, thank you, since graduation. The hormone fairy finally blessed Brina with breasts and although she never got much taller, she has filled out to a very feminine silhouette. And five-inch spikes do wonders for the legs! Her high school buddies pick their jaws up off the floor after seeing Brina, only to have them drop again when they see Thomas Mack! Thomas, the nerdy geek, has matured into Thomas the head of a million-dollar software company and all-around gorgeous guy who dates Victoria's Secret lingerie models! Oh, and Thomas and Brina were best buddies for many years in school until Brina dumped him for a chance to date the school quarterback! More fool she! I can't reveal any more of this wonderfully funny story - it would spoil any future readers' fun, but I can say that this is so satisfying and true to life that you'll recognize at least two characters from your own school experiences, I'm sure. It's a fabulous finish to this anthology, and coupled with Stephanie Laurens' delightful tale, allows me to heartily recommend this book - even if you cheat and skip over the middle tale! (I won't tell!)

Reviewed in October 2001 by Celia.