REVIEW: Just Fooling Around by Kathleen O’Reilly and Julie Kenner
This one Blaze holds four very short stories which take place on April 1. While the authors take turns telling the slightly interwoven stories and their voices mesh well, O’Reilly’s Devon story was my favorite. Because the stories are so brief, there is very little time to explore true conflicts. The collection is just a fun and quick read but it is
The Franklin’s are cursed. Every April Fool’s Day, they suffer the effects of their curse which usually results in bodily injury. Each one of the siblings have treated the curse differently. Cam chooses to laugh in the face of the curse, resulting in annual treks to the Emergency room. Darby chooses to believe the curse doesn’t exist. Devon hunkers down and hides from the world while Reg seeks to break the curse. None of them have relationships because to be in a relationship means to risk the safety and well being of a loved one. While I enjoyed this collection of shorts, I did ask myself why the cursed siblings just didn’t spend April Fool’s away from said loved ones as the danger presented only around the first day of April.
Much of the conflict is the same. Most of the siblings choose not to get involved because they worry about their own longevity. The O’Reilly stories are marked by fun dialogue but focus primarily on the sexual culmination of the couples. The Kenner books take on a slightly more serious mein and Reg’s story, the ending, has a little additional suspense to it as Reg and his former love, Anne, search for an amulet to break the curse. Interestingly, in all the stories, the woman is really the first to either make a sexual overture or an emotional one. Thematically, I felt that this helped to create a cohesive collection as well. Overall, I would rate the collection a B. This isn’t going to make you ponder life’s questions far into the night but it’s a great way to spend an evening entertaining oneself.
Cam’s Catastrophe by Kathleen O’Reilly
Cam Franklin chooses to address the family curse by engaging the curse. Every April Fool’s Day he is off doing something dangerous like hang gliding, motorcross, boating races. The end of each April Fool’s Day brings Cam to the emergency room of Dr. Jenna Ferrar. Professional ethics aside, Jenna has a hard time not inventing treatment for fake injuries that would require some nudity on the part of Cam. When Cam has problems with paying for his medical treatment, Jenna intercedes.
“I thought a hospital was a place for mercy and charity, a patient-centered haven nurturing the physical well-being of the wounded and infirm.”
“Nah. You’ve got us confused with those hospitals on TV. In real life, it’s all about preventative care. If the customer service is hell, maybe people will stay away. We keep hoping, but no such luck. Speaking of ineffective diagnosis, what are you in for this year?”
While Cam has always been attracted to Jenna, she’s not the type for him because his type is the 3 dates and done. He knows that one of these April Fool’s Days, he won’t be coming home at all. One year later, on the eve of April 1st, Jenna takes matters into her own hands and tries to convince Cam that curse or no, they belong together.
The brevity of the story allows for little character development. You rely on the passage of time to create believability in the permanency of the ending.
Darcy’s Dark Day by Julie Kenner
Darcy is the youngest sister. She is in New York City to visit her brother Cam on April 1. She doesn’t believe in curses. Cam is injured consistently on April 1 because he is always engaging in dangerous activities. Darcy is a mathematician. Everything “in the world could be reduced to simple mathematics.”
Superstitions and curses had no place in such an orderly universe, and because Darcy knew that-‘even if her siblings didn’t-‘she’d decided to study what she already knew was true.
Cam, however, knows the curse exists and asks his best friend, Evan Olsen, to watch over Darcy. Cam is out for the count due to his annual April 1 injury, this time the result of a sprained ankle. Evan and Darcy, unbeknowst to each other, have held secret crushes. Evan won’t make a move on his best friend’s sister but Darcy sees this as an opportunity to take a chance and fulfill her fantasies. When Evan repeatedly saves her from various mishaps, Darcy dubs him her hero, harkening back to a childhood incident when Evan purportedly saved Cam. Evan is no hero though and worries that Darcy’s affections are built upon an illusory creation.
Devon’s Dilemma by Kathleen O’Reilly
Devon Franklin’s method of dealing with the curse lies in precaution and preventative measures. She lives inNorth Dakota, in the flattest part of the state where nothing ever happens. Despite the inactivity in the town of Maxbass, ND, Devon still lives in a sturdy “modified nuclear bunker” with “double-paned, tornado-proofed, hurricane-secure windows” and “a state-of-the-art monitor and surveillance system.”
When a stranger knocks on her door, she is loathe to allow him in. Chance Cooper was out drinking with the boys when one of them took his joke, a ball and chain, for the groom and attached it to Chance. He is far away from anywhere, it’s starting to rain, and he’d just like to use Devon’s phone, ma’am. I thought that you did a great job here of using dialogue to create a big differentiation between Chance and Devon. Chance is a talker and Devon isn’t. Chance has a clear southern aspect to his cadence. Devon’s is more abrupt, clipped.
“Do you have a car?” he asked.
“No,” she lied because she never drove on April 1. Ever. Even if the insurance company allowed it, she wouldn’t.
“What about the Ford that’s parked in the garage?”
“I don’t have a Ford in the garage,” she lied.
Chance pointed to the keys that hung on the hook next to the door, and the big keyring labelled “FORD”.
“That sure does look like car keys to me, hanging right there next to the door, exactly where any person with a lick of brains would put them. My ex-girlfriend, she was always losing her keys, and I told her that she should rig up something like that so she wouldn’t forget. We broke up because I just couldn’t handle dating a bubblehead. You don’t look like a bubblehead. Now, I understand that you wouldn’t want to go out in this weather. Hell, neither would I, but that would leave me here, dripping all over your very clean living room, coating this newly waxed floor with water and muddy ooze, and you don’t look like a woman who’s comfortable with ooze.”
“I wouldn’t have to be comfortable with the ooze if you sat outside all night,” she explained.
“Or alternatively, why don’t you drive me home?” he asked, in that sweetly, coaxing voice as if she were some brainless female that would roll over and play “America’s Next Ho” at his command.
It was a testament to his physical appeal that both possibilities were not out of the question.
I really liked the Devon and Chance dynamic. The hot sex that the two engage in which includes usage of the security cameras, doesn’t hurt either. I really wish this couple had been subject of a longer book. I would have liked to have spent more time with both of them.
Reg’s Rescue by Julie Kenner
The story of Reg and Anne was a bit more poignant than the previous three although Devon’s story is still my favorite. Reg and Anne had fallen in love and looked all over for a way to break the curse. When Reg and Anne had gotten injured on an April 1 event, Reg broke away from Anne. He couldn’t stand to be the cause of her injuries, let alone her possible death. He continued to search for an antidote or cure for the curse but eventually gave up. When Anne heard this, she was devastated. Reg’s abandonment of the search meant that there was truly no more hope for the two of them.
Circumstances bring Reg and Anne together again and Reg has to come to grips with the fact that the curse will never be broken but that not having Anne in his life maybe worse.
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