Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86475-1
Contemporary Romance, 2016
Joi Lewis runs a security firm. Yes, it is facing financial difficulties, and the last check they received bounced, but Joi decides that she can’t press the client, a retired old lady, for the money owed to her company. Really, people, if you are in a romance novel and you want to buy some shares, stay the hell away from any company that is managed by a romance heroine. They will all flop without question and the heroine’s course of action is invariably waiting around for a wealthy guy to come in and marry her, so that she will never have to exercise her non-existent “business acumen” again.
The author tries to have Citadel Securities do an affirmative action act in Joi hiring only women to be part of the staff, but come on. The boss ran the company over the edge when it comes to the finances, so even if the company has five hundred women in its roster, it is still a failure in motion. In romance novels, women are really better off leaving business stuff to the men and stay at home to pop out the babies.
Still, our heroine aims high – she pitches for a contract for a security gig with an international bank. Never mind that her company is a walking flop-flop-flop and she seems to have two employees whose names are mentioned in this story – she gets the contract and that’s when I know that this is 100% fiction. Still, Marco Alvarez, our hero, has some doubts about Joi because, a while back, she left his friend standing at the altar. Can she be trusted, hmm?
Now, you may be thinking, ooh, maybe A Sultry Love Song, set in a banking world as it is, would soon have a bunch of money go missing and the heroine becoming a prime suspect, since her company needs money ASAP. Or maybe Marco’s mistrust of Joi would steer the story into a Harlequin Presents hate-fest thing and at least something will happen. Oh, oh, or maybe a bank heist will take place sometime in the story, and our hero and heroine would have to start shooting at people.
No, sorry. The most dramatic thing here is, perhaps, Joi and Marco making out while they are supposed to be making the rounds checking that everything is okay with the vaults. Nothing of note really happens here. This story could have been set in an apple farm, a dorito factory, or a Starbucks, with only a little adjustment, because ultimately, the setting and the main characters’ jobs don’t matter. Even Joi’s issues with the ex turn out to be a minor non-issue in the end.
On the bright side. at the core of the story is a sweet love story featuring a romantic guy and a heroine whose issues fortunately do not make her stupid. Sure, he starts out a bit of a pushy “I can’t believe a woman doesn’t put out for me just because I am within five feet of her!” sort and transforms into a much more agreeable nice guy rather abruptly and unrealistically, and poor Joi is set up at first to be another tragic cliché of a supposedly capable modern woman who is actually a flop at love and business. But as the story progresses, I get a nicely paced and pretty sweet romance with some nice quiet moments as well as conversations that ring sincere and true.
But really now, why have a story set in a banking backdrop, and drops in plot elements that hint at something bigger, more dramatic, only to deliver on none of the expectations set up by the premise? Reading this book is like finally getting to lure one’s favorite dream hunk into the bedroom, only to fall asleep while waiting for him to finish his trip to the bathroom. It’s sweet when you wake up and realize that he has covered you with a sheet before taking off, but a big part of you will always hate the fact that you fell asleep before good things could happen. A Sultry Love Song is like that. Sure, it’s sweet, but after all that mounting anticipation, it’s either the big one, baby, or bust.