Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86366-2
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Jariah Brooks is a single mom who has hoped that life would take a turn for the better after she had rid herself of that tumor called her now ex-husband. Unfortunately, she needs a job quickly, and no one seems to be biting despite the number of applications she has responded to. When her latest job interview reunites her with Nicco Morretti, the wealthy CEO of a big-named restaurant, who put the moves on her a while back, she isn’t too keen. It turns out that he too thinks that she’s not cut out to be an account manager. However, he offers her a position as his executive assistant – with a salary of $60,000 along with the usual benefits and three weeks of paid vacation.
Instead of seeing this as a bait set out by a serial workplace sexual harasser, which would have made me respect her decision more, Jariah instead gets offended that she’s being offered a job as a “glorified receptionist” and turns it down. She regrets it later when she still can’t get a job, calls herself a fool, and asks Nicco whether the post is still open. Of course it is. Despite having been burned by a sexual harassment lawsuit and getting involved in some pretty public messy “I slept with my friend/business partner’s wife… oops!” stuff in the past, Nicco never learns. He creates the post so that the hot Jariah can tend to his needs – every one of them.
Now, Seduced by the CEO has a sexual predator of a hero who only gets the pass because he’s hot and he’s loaded. That guy not only can’t keep it in his pants, he’s not even discreet. From day one, he openly lets everyone else in the office know that he’s targeting Jariah as his mambo number five (or is it five thousand?). Still, such a guy isn’t that bad if this story ends with his emasculation, er, repentance, but the author, for some reason, turns the story into a tale of how Jariah has to prove to everyone else that she’s not a whore like everyone thinks she is.
Why should Jariah go through all this trouble? The guy is town bicycle here, and if I were Jariah, he would be the one having to prove to her that he’s worthy of anything more than a shag, and even then, he’d better show her a full medical report proving that he’s free from STDs before she gives up the honey. That guy’s the one who has the reputation of sticking it to everything that moves, even if it means using his position as an employer or a wealthy man to get that. An an aside, an amusing example of Nicco’s absolute lack of self-awareness is how he declares that he doesn’t want women who only want to touch his pee-pee because of his money, when he’s the one telling every woman how rich and hot he is to get her into his bed. The fact that the author is lacking this awareness when it comes to the hero is a bit more troubling.
It’s not like Nicco is even a good catch, even if I look aside his tomcat ways. One. he’s friends with her unpleasant ex-husband. Jerks of a kind stick together, no? Two, his parents are awful wastes of carbon material. Three, marrying him automatically earns one the enmity of every woman in this story, forcing one to constantly work hard to be taken seriously. Seriously, what’s the appeal of marrying a high-maintenance guy like Nicco that comes with all this baggage? Not to mention, he speaks like Pepé Le Pew and I can only hope he smells better.
The fact that Jariah has to work to demonstrate that she’s not some kind of gold-digging whore out for Nicco has me scratching my head. If the author wants to write this kind of story, why make that kind of the guy the trophy for the heroine’s masochistic desire to prove herself? Nicco’s “reformation” is not convincing – it’s true love because other women are all whores and he knows that Jariah is the selfless and special one. Yes, very believable, and I am going to wake up tomorrow and discover that I can fit into Ariana Grande‘s hot pants.
I also wonder whether the author is paid by the number of cartoon females she includes in this story. Oh, it’s easy to look at the sheer number of hateful catty bitches in this story and say that the author must have been in a bad mood when she wrote this book. But the “nice” female characters are as just one-dimensional as the vile hags in this story. Basically, there are two types of women in this story, not counting our heroine. The good ones are her BFFs who pose no sexual competition to Jariah – these are the enablers who exist solely to push and even throw money at the heroine so that she can let her hair down and get shagged. These good women are irrationally fixated on pairing any hot guy with the heroine. It’s the “Oh, you just bumped into this guy who was just pulling a bloody knife out of a corpse of a dear old nun? Is he hot? YOU MUST SHAG HIM!” syndrome. On the other spectrum as the women who want Nicco too, and the old hags who believe that Nicco is too good for Jariah (hilarious) and she’s just going to “embarrass” him the way the other whores in his past “embarrassed” him. Let me guess, those sluts in Nicco’s past have special powers that can force him to get a chubby and stick it to them? The poor man, how can he live like that?
It is one thing to write a story of a horrifyingly slimy hero and have him change into a more ideal husband material by the last page – hey, that’s basically the premise of every other romance novel. But Seduced by the CEO shows zero awareness when it comes to its hero’s nonsense, and it labors under the bizarre premise that the heroine should prove herself worthy of having her turn on the town bicycle. Reading this book is like listening to a parent as she gushes about her genius child while the child in question is in the background hacking kittens to death with a machete. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cringe. But I do know one thing: it’s hard to pretend that the book is even a little bit good when the author has so clearly missed the point from first page to last.