Harlequin MIRA, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7783-1625-1
Contemporary Romance, 2014
While the author has left ample background information for new readers to catch up, the story of Caden Granger and Shiloh Timmons actually started in the first book of this series, A Brother’s Honor. The whole series so far has a soap opera feel, so readers new to the whole thing may find A Man’s Promise like a mid-season episode. Newcomers may have to really care for the story to work up the patience to go along with this one if they haven’t been in their seats from the first day, so I’d recommend reading the previous book first.
Just to quickly recap the overall story arc, the Granger brothers’ believe in their father’s innocence despite the man being incarcerated for killing their mother. The whole mystery will slowly unravel as the series progress, although it’s pretty obvious by now that the father is innocent. Meanwhile, the Granger brothers have all bases covered: one’s a business tycoon, one’s a superstar sax player, and one’s a playboy. There’s a stereotype for everybody! This story is Caden Granger’s – he’s the Kenny G knock-off.
His story with Shiloh is basically a big miscommunication breakdown taken to epic proportions. The Grangers and the Timmons have a history – they were close until Caden’s father went to jail and Shiloh’s father decided that the family couldn’t taint themselves by associating with the Grangers. Shiloh and Caden had a thing, however, and a thing became a thing and eventually, they wanted to get married. Shiloh had an argument with her father that ended up with her kissing an oncoming car, however, and she ended up in hospital while her baby went to that place in heaven reserved for plot device fetuses that were fertilized solely to facilitate contrived dramas in romance novels. However, Shiloh’s father apparently had magic Photoshop skills, and he produced some photos of Shiloh having fun in a sunny place. Caden was all “What a whore!” and decided to cut off all contact with her. When she tried to approach him several times, to tell him about their dead plot device fetus and all, he had security toss her out of his face.
Shortly after this story opens, Shiloh’s mother explains what really went down four years ago to Caden. Caden is like, “Oh crap!” and decides to get back with Shiloh again. That seems fine on paper, but wait until you see how he gets back together again with her. First, he accuses her of not telling him about the dead fetus. She correctly reminds him of how he didn’t give her a chance to even breathe the same air as his. His glib response is one for the hall of fame.
“There has been a lot of hurt and anger on both sides. I suggest we pick up the pieces and move on. Together.”
He decides that he wants to get back with Shiloh again, so he charges ahead and tries to make that happen – Shiloh’s opinion doesn’t seem to matter at all in this.
I know, stalking in romance novels can be sexy if done right, but Caden’s behavior in this story never feels romantic to me. It’s the combination of his pushiness and his trivialization of the pain he’d put Shiloh through into a “Hey, we both made mistakes so whatever, moving on, let’s shag!” thing. She didn’t make any mistake, he did, so it rubs me off the wrong way that he tries to implicate her as having contributed to the drama between them. Caden also loses me when he tells Shiloh that what happened to his father made him a survivor so Shiloh should understand that he ain’t stopping until he has her bopping on his happy bell-hop again. She lost her baby, and subsequently spent the next four years knowing that she was being hated by the man she thought loved him – yeah, and yet he’s the survivor here and there is this unfortunate implication that she’s being unreasonable to not fall back into his arms right away. He should go chew on a rusty crowbar and get tetanus.
Unfortunately, Shiloh doesn’t let Caden do much groveling or repenting. Right away, she’s telling me that kissing him makes it seem like four years have never happened. He’s still so hot! He’s so gorgeous. And it’s so big! Girlfriend here is in love and horny, so true love is clearly going to happen, baby! Shiloh puts up a big talk about being hurt and never wanting to let Caden get to her again, but all he has to do is to wag his… finger and she’s panting for him. I find it hard to believe that anyone who went through what she had would overlook the pain he’d cause her just because he’s hot. I can understand if she just wants to have sex with him to get him out of her system, but this isn’t what is happening here. She’s telling me that she has never stopped loving him, and my reaction is, simply, “Are you kidding me?”
The romance, therefore, doesn’t have much drama or emotional intensity, as it’s basically another “alpha male steamrollering his way into her panties” affair that feels horribly glib and awkward compared to the feelings of hurt and betrayal that should be present in the story. I feel that A Man’s Promise is a wasted opportunity. The premise is ripe for lots of emotional drama and cathartic breakdowns, but the author resorts to a more formulaic approach that doesn’t fit the premise at all.
As for the rest of the plot, well. Let me put it this way. When it comes to romances with black characters, written by American authors, there are basically two reasons why bad things happen to good people: evil fathers and evil whores. In this one, it’s the evil father going “Mua-ha-ha!” all the way for the gold, and the whole subplot is as predictable as can be. The author also pads this story with many filler scenes involving secondary characters as well as scenes of people rehashing the same things over and over. All these scenes cause the already plodding pace to bog down some more.
A Man’s Promise only promises a tepid time with a story that does everything to trivialize its own premise.