Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86350-1
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Forever’s Promise is a low-key romance, focusing solely on the drama. Actually, the author’s last few books are all like this, but this is the most successful one so far where I am concerned. The drama for the most part works and the issues nearly bring out the tissues. And when it comes to this broad, “nearly” is pretty good already.
The story starts off in a way that is so cringe-inducing that it almost never recovers. though. Let me explain.
First, we have the heroine, Shayla Kirkland. She used to be a hot shot corporate lady, until her brother died recently and she realized that she was never really happy with her career (backstabbing colleagues, no personal time, and various other first world trauma). Also, this career increased the gulf between her and the rest of her family. Since I’m in a good mood, I’ll just assume that this is because Shayla is an emotional dingbat who is probably not cut out for the rat race in the first place, and that this story is not serving another plate of that “career is no good for a woman, so hang up your shoes and go have a baby instead” dish that seems to show up in every other small town romance. Anyway, back to Shayla, she quits her job and moves to Gauthier, Louisiana, to be closer to her family. She owns and manages a coffee shop there.
When the story begins, she has managed to persuade her brother’s widow to let her care for her two nieces while Shayla’s sister-in-law heads out of town to attend a wedding. However, it isn’t long before the younger girl starts to throw up. Shayla rushes the girl to the ER, where our hero Dr Xavier Wright accuses her of deliberately feeding the girl dye so that Shayla has an excuse to check him out.
Xavier’s excuse is that he is tired of women faking diseases so that they can come to him and get him to put his hands on them under false pretenses, but come on now, accusing a patient’s guardian of deliberately doing that? Won’t that kind of thing open up him to lawsuits or something if he’s not careful? Xavier comes off as outlandishly dumb and unprofessional and just plain weird in an obnoxious way that I can’t help giving him the evil side eye now and then for the rest of the story. I keep waiting for random moments of stupidity to erupt from him, but fortunately, that never happens for the rest of the story. It’s only that moment, and… sigh. Why does it have to be such a silly moment?
The rest of the story is pretty good, though. There aren’t many firework displays here, just two people with good chemistry connecting. The kids can be annoying, like kids in fiction tend to be, but they aren’t intrusive or in-your-face so I’m fine with them. The romance moves in a comfortable pace, unencumbered by intrusive secondary characters. The only shame here is the short love scene. All that build up… and that is it? This book is like a hot hunk who turns out to be a twenty-second man. Honey, I’m “reaching for it” but it kind of just gives way beneath my feet before I can even straighten my arm, and I don’t think I want to try again.
Xavier’s angst is a played-out one – girlfriend of less than one year dumped him because she thought he wasn’t worth her time, being a mere ER doctor, so he would never love again… until he slowly learns to love Shayla in what I hope is longer than the length of that particular scene implies. Shayla wins the depression lottery here – her brother called her three times and she was too busy to answer any of them, and then he died. Subsequently, she becomes very hard on herself, to the point that she feels that she can’t ever be happy again because her brother is dead. A good thing about all this angst is that the author has both characters deciding to let go if the past and stop dwelling of what could have been at exactly the right time. Therefore, the angst never feels played out for too long, and when the characters claim that they are ready to love again – bye bye, issues – I can believe them.
All in all, Forever’s Promise has some overly sweet “small towns are perfect” overtones, but nowhere as unintentionally creepy as the vibes in the previous loosely related book Yours Forever. The romance is stronger here, and the angst is handled in a manner that can hit pretty hard and good. Nice.