Honestly, I don't even remember buying this book. I found it under my bed while cleaning. Looking at the title, it definitely seems like something Trash Nenia would have bought: it's reality TV-themed chick lit in anthology format, written by three different authors, only one of which I recognize, published by Love Spell in 2003. And everyone knows, Love Spell has never published a bad book (what was that? Don't look at me, I had something in my throat).
Birds of Paradise: ☆☆
This is about Adam and Hero. Adam is a private investigator masquerading as a popular but reclusive radio sex therapist while stalking the ex-wife of a popular athlete who's gone on the show. Hero is a journalist who's using the reality TV show as a means to write an exclusive behind-the-scenes article, and maybe meet a man, although because her mom was ditched by an American, that means all American men are pigs (*eyeroll*) and also, she's plus-size, so what man would look at a heifer like her? (*even bigger eyeroll*)
Honestly, for parts of this story, I was OK with it. I actually liked Adam (he has a pet kitty who ends up befriending a gecko). He's responsible for that line I quoted: "And then my nipples exploded with delight." And I was sort of okay with Hero until the big misunderstanding at the end where she insists, to the point where it begins to feel embarrassing and ridiculous, that there's no way he could possibly love her, because SHE IS PLUS-SIZED AND HIDEOUS, DAMMIT. I've read a couple books about plus-sized heroines from the early 2000s (weirdly enough, the other one was also reality TV-themed), and man, are they cringe. The woman always have body issues that border on dysmorphia and they are so shamey-- of themselves and others. It's hard to read, especially when it begins to feel like a lecture on being anti-fat and how you're not worthy of love unless a man deems you worthy because you have fantastic boobs, and then it starts to feel like a fetish.
It just made me so grateful for the plus-size rep coming out today that is actually positive. I saw some comments on one of Goodreads' articles about a book I liked and they made me realize that we still have a lot of work to do. So in that sense, I think books with rep like this are interesting in a clinical sense, in that they show that antiquated view on women's bodies that many people still internalize.
Breaking the Rules: ☆
I actually hated this one. It starts out with one of the camera guys filming the heroine while skinny dipping and basically getting off on it. He's like "lolz, it's okay, she signed away all her privacy when she signed up to be on the show anyway I'm a good guy!" And also, it's the middle of the night, and she's in an area considered out of bounds, so the implication is totally that he saw her, followed her, and set up shop to wank, so NO, Greg, you are not a good guy, you are a creep.
When there's a blackout, she screams for help, thinking she went blind from hitting her head. He saves her but basically taunts her the whole time, knowing that she's naked, but also knowing that she doesn't know he knows, mocking her, gaslighting her, and basically making a game of her fear, knowing that he has the upper hand because he has all the power in this situation.
It's totally sick-making and I hated this story. This is not cute.
Hot Shot: ☆☆☆
The only truly decent story in the collection, which surprised me, since I had never heard of this author before. Whitney was signed up to be on the show by her mother, who thinks she is a dating coward. Rand is a widower who hasn't gotten over his dead wife, but if he wants to get custody of "Teddy" and "Dolly" he has to remarry, according to his wife's will. So they meet, and sparks fly, and there are actually some pretty steamy scenes in here... only it turns out that "Teddy" is his wife's teddy bear and "Dolly" is a nude statue of his wife with enlarged boobs that he had made and kept in their bedroom to remind her how silly she'd look with big tits when she told him she wanted to get plastic surgery. "What a lucky woman," Whitney actually thinks, and I was like uhhhhhhhh.
But there are some pretty great sex scenes in here, and despite some gratuitous slut-shaming, it wasn't horrible for the early-2000s, and even though Rand clearly has some issues, after Mr. Gaslight and Mr. Lying for Fun and Profit, Rand came off looking like a real prince charming. :/
Wouldn't really recommend this anthology to anyone, though.
2 out of 5 stars