Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86486-7
Contemporary Romance, 2017
Three years ago, Renee Hart and Carter Hampshire were in love, until he broke it off and she was devastated as a result. She quit everything about her own life to start anew in a different city, and today, she is the boss of her own bridal magazine, Designed for Brides. The thing is, back in those days, she was the director of the wedding magazine division of Hampshire Publications, so this makes her a competitor to the titles of her former place of employment. Still, the chances of her meeting Carter again should be minuscule, as he’s never in the Big Apple and… oh god, she’s going to be sick; he has the nerve to show up before we even hit the hundredth page.
Never mind that we are talking about the magazine business, which means all of these people would be out of a job or have their bank accounts considerably dented by 2020, All He Needs is a throwback to those old days when books in the Kimani line are not advertisements for past and future related books. The author actually keeps the reason for the separation of Carter and Renee under wraps for quite a while, for some nice element of suspense here, instead of blabbing everything in a three-paged information dump in the first few pages of the story. Conversations feel natural – like something real people would say – and secondary characters all have their place here. The hero and the heroine actually work, so their jobs matter a lot when it comes to the plot. Really, this one feels like a story, and it breaks my heart to realize that it was published in 2017. Of course.
The title is very likely a reference to trust, as the big issue standing between Carter and Renee the second time around is her inability to fully trust him with her heart after he broke it so badly in the past. Carter knows that he messed up badly all those years ago, and he is willing to try to make amends, but she just can’t open up to him until the very last few pages of this story. There’s the problem, right there: while I understand why the heroine is wary when it comes to the hero the second time around, the author spends too much time building up the conflict and allocates so few pages to actually resolving it. The happy ending feels like it’s tacked on with a thin piece of gum because the author realizes too late that she needs to wrap up everything thirty minutes ago.
Because of the prolonged trust issue on Renee’s part, it’s hard to feel the love. Because Carter’s behavior can sometimes be inconsistent in order to stoke Renee’s paranoia and insecurities, the poor fellow comes off more like a plot device than a hero in his own right sometimes.
This is all a shame because the story is well written and constructed, and in many ways Renee and Carter are believable, likable types despite their issues and flaws. There’s just too much drama and not enough love in the end. All He Needs needs another ten or twenty pages for these two to have some quiet time after all the drama.