Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86365-5
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Just to Be With You, Sheryl Lister’s debut effort for the Kimani line, plays out like a familiar song and dance: elementary school teacher Janae Simms meets jazz crooner Terrence “Monte” Campbell at his concert, gets invited backstage, and eventually lets him into her life and heart. I almost said “backstage” instead of “life and heart”, but I figure that may mislead you folks into thinking that this is that kind of romance, and no, no thanks is necessary for my restraint.
It’s a simple story, and under any other circumstances, it could have worked wonders. For some reason, however, the author has to turn Janae into an over the top caricature of the humorless killjoy heroine who acts as if anything fun would simply kill her, with unfortunate results. At the start of the story, Janae is dragged to a concert of a hot and talented guy, without having to pay for the good seat she ends up planting her rear end on, and she acts like she’s a cow being dragged to the abattoir. But the moment she sees the hero, she feels a connection to him as quickly as she starts coming up with excuses as to why the two of them simply won’t live happily ever after. Janae can’t take things easy – everything is do or die – and her pessimistic attitude suggests that she’s bound for a nervous breakdown soon. Everything about her screams “crazy stalker in the making”.
The poor dear jumps quickly to conclusions, flounces when she could have just yelled at the man and cleared some communication issues in the process, and generally acts like she knows she would be dumped soon and that would be the most awful thing ever. The smallest thing could make her fly off the handle. Okay, so she has had one lousy relationship in the past, and it’s very likely that her job has left her unhinged, but here’s the thing: she doesn’t need romance. She needs stress management classes. Janae is crazy.
If just dating Monte turns her into this wildly melodramatic and paranoid creature, can you imagine how she’d be after she’s married him? He’d hit the road, meet women who would throw themselves at him. Tabloids would link him to hot women regardless of whether he’s really sleeping with them or not. And here poor Janae would be stuck in her special ed classroom, steam coming out of her ears as she imagines her man with those other women. She’d have to be committed before the year is out.
Given that Janae is already making plans for forever just because she’s dating and sleeping with Monte, poor Monte comes off as pretty cruel because the poor man just wants a good time with a beautiful woman. He doesn’t do that long-term thing. With another woman, that kind of attitude is perfectly okay, but since he’s doing this to Janae who is clearly not capable of dealing with normal relationships, the whole thing feels… I don’t know, it’s like seeing a grown-up playing basketball with a baby. The whole thing feels horribly lop-sided and I can’t help feeling sorry for the baby.
The biggest problem with Just to Be With You is the horribly mismatched couple. The author’s one-dimensional characters are all wrong for one another, and the happy ending is not believable at all as a result. For a romance novel, it never feels right from start to finish.