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Janelle Denison, Nina Bangs & MaryJanice Davidson: Men at Work

 

Crescent Blues Book Views "Slow Hands", "Color Me Wicked", "The Fixer-Upper", Berkley Sensation (Trade Paperback), ISBN 0-425-19895-2

Book: jaid black, One Dark Night
Men at Work features three novellas about men with very talented hands -- both in and out of bed.

Janelle Denison sets things in motion with "Slow Hands." Tess Monroe left Morgan Kane behind ten years ago to go to school in Atlanta. Her grandmother, who raised Tess after Tess's mother died in a car crash, wanted Tess to get out of the small town and move off to the city, get educated and marry well. Now after her grandmother's death, Tess comes back to get the rundown old house back in shape to sell while she figures out how to restart her stalled career. She hires Morgan, a skilled carpenter, to do the repair work. The steamy passion they shared so long ago flares to life again, as well as tender love. Tess comes to realize that she left to please her grandmother but never did what her heart wanted -- to stay in the small town with Morgan. And now she sees a way to remedy that problem.

In Nina Bangs' "Color Me Wicked," Sparkle Stardust likes causing trouble, specifically by supernaturally urging two incompatible people together then watching the sparks fly. Amanda Harcourt comes back to her hometown of Galveston to decorate a castle as part of a theme park, only to butt heads with a former flame, Conleth Maguire. To appeal to her New York clientele, Mandy now presents a polished neutral look, while Con still remembers the purple-wearing wicked woman with a blue butterfly tattoo on her butt.

In "The Fixer-Upper" by MaryJanice Davidson, Cathy Wyth spends her hard-earned money on a large but crumbling old house -- complete with a jerk of a neighbor, Ken, and a well-behaved ghost named Jack. Overbearing, boorish Ken can't take no for an answer, until Cathy startles him one day as he tries to fix her chandelier. His screwdriver hits a socket, and he falls off his ladder dead. Quick work from Cathy and paramedics bring him back, and Ken now seems completely different -- polite and charming. But at the same time, her ghost now sports a new, nasty attitude.

Out of the three stories, the third needs the most work. Someone missed a continuity error with Cathy's full name (Catherine at one point, Cathleen elsewhere). The revelation of Ken's sudden attitude change doesn't flow clearly, and the story comes to a screeching halt. Another five or 10 pages would've provided a better resolution than the current, far-too-easy ending. In addition, the story contains very little of the men at work theme (aside from the chandelier incident).

The remaining two stories stand on their own well enough, though the general plot basis of "Color Me Wicked" -- a troublemaking entity -- seems a bit silly (especially when Bangs also tosses in plants that thrive on sexual energy and another entity disguised as a telepathic cat).

Jen Foote

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