by Vanessa Miller, contemporary (2013)
Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86323-5
The Best Of All is the final book in Vanessa Miller's trilogy about three friends, and it suffers from the same issue as the previous book Better For Us: a set-up that makes no sense whatsoever. Fortunately, unlike the previous book, the nonsense doesn't drive the story, it's merely an excuse to get the two main characters together. It's a lot easier to overlook this nonsense than I expected at first, because the rest of the story is actually quite fine.
Okay, bear with me as the nonsense comes rolling. Surry McDaniel is a fashion designer making a name for herself with her trendy African couture. However, a rival tells everybody that she copied his designs shortly before the story opens, and Surry now has a PR dilemma to deal with. Now, apparently our successful heroine manages to run her business all this while without any contact with a lawyer, because the first thing she does is not to run straight to her lawyer to discuss lawsuits and what not, but to rush to our hero Ian Duncan, a political strategist, for help. She's not offering any payment for his assistance, so maybe Surry is just cheap, I don't know, but I don't think any amount of alcohol in this world can convince me that Surry's antics here make any sense.
This issue that has Surry running up and down like a headless chicken turns out to be inconsequential in the long run, so it fortunately fades into the background as the story progresses. The damage is already done by then, but at least it doesn't linger around to annoy me further.
Ian has always wanted to know Surry better, but she's always been more surly than anything else, so perhaps this is his big time chance to make his move. He has an offer to participate in a presidential campaign, however, so it's now a struggle between his big and small heads? Which one would win out in the end?
Aside from the whole debacle of a set-up, this story is a decent read. Surry starts out a rather stereotypical "hates all men, have issues about love, yawn" character, but as the story progresses, the author gives this character some depths. Surry's character makes sense, and I even find her sympathetic at times. Ian starts out like a pretty typical romance hero of the Kimani line, but he too gets some personality as the story goes on. Both characters aren't groundbreaking or particularly original - she has mommy issues, he has daddy issues - but they have some decent chemistry. Despite the author's often illogical treatment of her characters' motivations and actions, these characters have personal demons that feel real, and the way the author resolve these issues is reasonable and even mature at times.
Therefore, The Best Of All is a contradiction of sorts. It is often illogical when it comes to the overall plot and its development, but the author also shows that she can work the emotional drama well when she puts her mind to it. This is one of those books that is simultaneously flawed yet capable of delivering an emotional punch when I least expect it to.
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