Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86493-5
Contemporary Romance, 2017
A Pleasing Temptation is part of the The Boudreaux Family series, but even though Kamaya Boudreaux is the last unmarried person among her siblings, I don’t see any indication here that this one is the last entry in the series. Given that the Boudreaux and the Stallions are already interbreeding, don’t be shocked if these things just keep multiplying.
Kamaya has a secret: in addition to her usual business portfolio, she is also behind several successful strip clubs for ladies, a sex toy business, an erotica publishing house, a massage parlor chain (sexy one, I’d imagine), and some vaginal rejuvenation centres. As she puts it, why not? The sex and sex-related industry rake in billions of dollars, so she may as well get a share of the pie. She keeps this side of her business to herself because her parents are passionate advocates against sexual exploitation of women, so she has no idea how they will react should they know of her side businesses.
Her newest venture is the starting of a ladies’ club called most charmingly The Wet Bar. Only, the business partner Wesley Walters has a secret too. His name may sound like an accountant’s, but years ago, he paid off his college tuition fees by dancing at Kamaya’s club. He’s since retired, and she, being the boss, understandably hadn’t met him back then, but he’s not sure whether he should ruin his respectable image by telling her… even after they embark on an affair.
Okay, the whole thing may sound like a premise more typical of an erotic romance, but this one is actually pretty tame in the sense that while there are love scenes, of course, the sex business thing is portrayed in a non-titillating, even business-like manner. I actually like this, just as I like how Kamaya’s approach to her businesses is more akin to that of a shrewd businessperson than some “Oh my god, I need to get laid, but because I have issues with men, I do this as some kind of projection of my sexual frustration!” stuff one would find in a more typical story with such a premise. No one judges Kamaya for what she does as well as for her refreshingly normal attitude towards sex.
But the last may not always be a good thing, as the author seems to have set the stage for some conflict between Kamaya and her parents, only to have everything fizzle out in the end. Her parents don’t mind much what she does at all – unrealistically so, in my opinion – so all her secrecy and worry is for nothing. Indeed, if this story has an issue, it’s a common one shared by many of the author’s recent books: a lack of compelling conflict. Like the Stallions, the Boudreaux seem incapable of conflict or even minor disagreements any more; everything each person says or does is greeted by happy laughter or eager nods of agreement. The whole thing has a rather creepy Grown-ups of the Corn feel to it, if you ask me.
Wesley’s secret is a non-conflict as well, as Kamaya discovers early on that Wesley is the legendary dancer of her club, Deuce. Wait, isn’t “deuce” supposed to mean “turd”? Anyway, she doesn’t mind, so he doesn’t mind, so we are all peachy today.
However, the romance is very well done. Both Kamaya and Wesley are the typical nice, likable types and the author really lays on thick the chemistry and sexual tension here. I wonder at some of Wesley’s more blatant come-ons earlier in the story – let’s just say that if he’s any less hot, one may view his words as a kind of sexual harassment – because it doesn’t seem smart to potentially antagonize a potential business partner who is also rich enough to sue the ass out of him, but oh well, the resulting romance is a very enjoyable kind of charming, so I guess he isn’t made of cringe after all.
Ultimately, though, I feel that by avoiding conflict in this story, the author ends up holding her story back. What could have been something more ends up just being a charming kind of fluffy fun. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but still, this story could have been so much more. As it is, the heroine could have been a mud wrestling MC on the sly, and the story still wouldn’t be too different from its current form.