by Nina Harrington, contemporary (2013)
Harlequin Mills & Boon, AUS$14.99, ISBN 978-1-743-06969-1
The First Crush Is The Deepest is released together with Secrets & Saris by Shoma Narayanan in a single volume edition in the Southeast Asia and Australasia.
This story is part of the series called Girls Just Want To Have Fun. I'm a bit leery of the series title, and this is, after all, a story in a category line, and somehow, those girls' idea of fun - usually alternating between being persecuted and being penetrated by surly heroes with Mommy issues - rarely coincides with mine. Still, I can be charitable, especially when I'm going to be stuck on a long train ride and I need something to read, so what's a little benefit of the doubt?
Once upon a time, Amber Dubois, upper class poor little girl, and Sam Richards, lower class big man with an intense sneer, have a thing going until several clichéd issues came into play. Her family went "Oh no, we didn't waste all that money on your music classes to see you become a pregnant child bride of the chauffeur's son" but she was, naturally, all about true love until she caught him snogging some tart on Amber's 18th birthday. You could probably guess why these two bozos were the way they were, but alas, the separation melodrama was inevitable.
That was then. Today. Amber is a pianist who is all about spreading love and peace to the downtrodden folks in India, while avoiding the limelight. Sam is a journalist who is assigned to crack open Amber's defenses and come back with an exclusive on why that woman is the way she is. When they meet again, would it be a happier love story this time around, or would be it another melodrama of tears and recrimination?
This story was published under the Kiss imprint in the USA and the Riva imprint in the UK. The only reason I can think of is that Sam isn't making enough money to make the pay grade that would qualify him a starring role in the Modern or Presents line. He certainly is disagreeable enough to take on any Greek tycoon or South American millionaire in a death match of the century.
I just adore the way he says all those lovely cutting things to Amber, even holding her privileged background against her, all because his pee-pee was once thwarted from a full immersion experience in Amber's passionate concerto. Amber can say some cutting things back too, but her words either bounce off him or make him further blame her for all kinds of nonsense in their past. There is a clear power imbalance here - she can be easily hurt by him, while he's too stupid and lacks the necessary self-awareness to be hurt - which makes the whole romance read like the whipping of a puppy.
More oddly, he embodies everything that would make Amber unhappy for so long - even his ambitions and dreams do not coincide with hers - so I can only wonder whether the author is deliberately creating the ultimate asshole experience as some form of catharsis for every reader who needs a medium to unleash all her negative feelings towards anything with a pee-pee.
Of course, this is a Sexy, er, Kiss, er, whatever romance, so a happy ending is necessary. Thus, the hero does an unbelievably fake turnaround at the last minute and suddenly professes to want the heroine forever and ever. Oh, if I only I was born yesterday so that I would weep in joy at every word and herald this book as the love story of the year. I wasn't, so this one seems like a thinly-veiled "Romance sucks so much, and I am writing this story to prove it!" tale with a fake happy ending smacked in to convince me that it is a love story all along. Digging my nose and rubbing the finger against the hero's face on the cover is never this satisfying.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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