These Boots Were Made for Strutting

Lisa Cach, Gemma Halliday and Melanie Jackson
2008, Paranormal Romance
LoveSpell, $6.99, 310 pages, Amazon ASIN 0505527588

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Varies

I selected These Boots Were Made for Strutting because I have very much enjoyed Lisa Cach's short stories in the past and had heard good stuff about Melanie Jackson. Ironically enough, of the three stories here, the Gemma Halliday contribution is the strongest.

All three stories here feature footwear acquired from a mysterious website, hiheelia.com (an actual online shoe store in case anyone is inspired by these stories to placate a shoe fetish – yes, it's a media tie-in). This footwear doesn't just look great, however, it manages to change the lives of all the heroines here for the better. But not without some unimagined consequences…

Paranormal Romance
Sensuality: Hot
Lisa Cach's story, A Rose by Any Other Name, is first. Kelsey Safire is a professional landscaper whose creative efforts are both original and environmentally friendly. Her latest job is to transform Jack Lovgren's brambly backyard into a Japanese garden. Unfortunately, the two of them meet awkwardly with him being surprised out of sleep by her efforts and confronting her in the nude. Kelsey is brilliant at her job, but socially she lacks finesse, and her efforts to smooth over the awkwardness only end up making her look borderline dumb. Which is extra humiliating because Jack is, of course, very, very hot. When a pair of shoes arrives and unexpectedly transforms her into a sexy party girl, Kelsey decides to try again with Jack, as someone else. But the suddenness and intensity of Jack's reaction have Kelsey wondering if he wants Kelsey or the woman in the shoes.

Of the three stories, this one is by far the hottest, with two love scenes and one make-out session. While Cach did make it clear that the emotions that develop between Kelsey and Jack are more than just lust, too much of this clarification was telling, not showing. In a 125-page short story, something has to be sacrificed, and if it's not going to be the panting-and-heaving, it's going to be the character development which is the case here. Jack is a pretty generic character. The reader learns little about him except that he travels a lot for his job and seems to be successful in his career. Kelsey is fleshed out a bit more, but her transformation from total geek to redhead goddess is awfully fast, even with supernatural intervention. Readers who especially like romances with disguised characters, though, may find this more enjoyable than I did. Grade: C+

Paranormal Romance
Sensuality: Warm
The second story is So I Dated an Axe Murderer by Gemma Halliday. It's not about an axe murderer, but it is about a woman who finds herself in a sudden relationship with a man whose last girlfriend died in a suspicious accident. Kya Bader is a bit of a geek with a cubicle life. One day she orders a fabulous pair of red boots because the woman wearing them in the online advertisement looks like she has the life (and the man) Kya wants. When they arrive, Kya dons them, and they take her from frumpy to fabulous in moments. Suddenly she is dancing in a club and being scoped out by a modeling agency. Strangely enough this is the same agency that handled the woman in the ad, and before Kya can blink, she's living that woman's life – modeling shoes, dating her boyfriend, and experiencing visions of drowning, at the hands of a mysterious attacker. Will Kya live and die in those fabulous red boots?

At just under 100 pages, Halliday delivers a nice love story with a suspenseful twist. And the footwear here gives the most bang for the buck – it not only makes Kya more attractive to men, it gives her a lucrative new career. The story is told in the first person, and because Kya's new boyfriend, Blake, is under suspicion of murder, his characterization gets a bit of the short shrift, but this is a fast-paced story and Blake has some hidden geekiness to temper his outer perfection. There is also one line that made me laugh out loud: Kya in danger wonders if she is going to die and decides to fight back because her death would make her cat an orphan. That kind of devotion to one's pet is something I can relate to. This is a solid short story. Grade: B

Paranormal Romance
Sensuality: Warm
The third story, Melanie Jackson's And They Danced, is the shortest and the weakest. In it Faith Fleetwood receives a pair of shoes that promise to make her dance fabulously - and therefore go a long way to winning the heart of Avel, a sexy dancer she'd like to get to know better. But Faith is warned in a dream (or is it?) not to wear the shoes more than twice, because bad things come in threes…

There's a lot here about dancing and dance competitions, but not terribly much about Avel or Faith except how they dance together. The story tries to be both romantic and suspenseful, but it doesn't quite succeed at either. It probably would have worked better as horror with the shoes more front and center, their history revealed a bit at a time. But Jackson didn't go in that direction. Grade: C

These Boots Were Made for Strutting is a serviceable anthology. Shoeaholics might be intrigued by its premise. But of three stories, the only one really worth picking the book up for is the Gemma Halliday one, and that one is only 100 pages long. Readers can decide for themselves if that's worth $6.99.

-- Rachel Potter

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