Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86527-7
Contemporary Romance, 2017
If romance novels are supposed to be about escapism – which is something I don’t disagree with, by the way – then by that very definition, they are supposed to be a beautiful kind of fantasy that hits all the visceral right spots in the reader. It makes sense to have wealthy heroes, but these well-moneyed pee-pees exist for several possible reasons. The most obvious one is that they bring on the rescue fantasy, sweeping the heroine-reader into a breathtaking courtship that only billionaires can afford. That, or they exist to show middle-class readers that even billionaires get the blues like the great unwashed, and thus for a second, the great unwashed can feel a little better about having to get up at four am for a thirteen-hour shift.
Maybe there is a third reason, but I have no idea what that is, and I suspect that An Unexpected Holiday Gift is trying to deliver this mysterious reason. Heaven knows, I’m neither transported to a beautiful fantasy place nor convinced to believe even for a second that billionaires are the same as you and I.
Keylan James “KJ” Kingsley is the son of billionaire parents, but he courageously decided to break tradition and risk all by becoming an NBA professional. I dare you to find another risk-taker like this dude. At any rate, our playboy good-time dude is currently having to do community service after getting into altercation in the court, and he is placed under the TLC of charity director Mia Ramirez, who initially thinks that all privileged dudes are useless wastes of time until this one manages to get his digits on and into her. Then it’s ooh, ooh, but oh, is this meant to be, sob. And that’s basically the story. The hero spends the entire story being nice to Mia, and Mia sobbing, weeping, and generally behaving like a walking hormonal disaster because she can’t really think or do anything for herself despite claiming to be some modern, independent woman.
There is no conflict here, unless I count each time Mia starts tearing up or breaking down as some kind of conflict between the need to cringe or the need to go “Eeeuw!” The whole story is one long trip to boost Mia’s self-esteem and validate her constant waffling and craving for emotional validation. It’s not even like KJ is taking her to expensive shopping sprees in Europe or offering her some larger-than-life romantic getaways. Oh, he takes her to the doctor when she’s bleeding, so he’s not a bad guy after all! Come on, a grown-ass wealthy man taking a woman, or anybody actually, who needs medical attention to see a doctor is the bare minimum trait for a Mr Right. It’s not like KJ has sprouted angelic wings made of thousand dollar bills from his back. This story treats KJ doing basic good guy stuff to Mia as if this makes him the magic boyfriend man of the millennium, and I can only wonder how low the bar has been set.
If that man is going to a billionaire, gurl, I don’t care if he could give me multiple orgasms with the flick of his hair – those multiple orgasms better come with a big shopping allowance, some diamond rings, a big house by the sea under my name, and standing open door access to the best beauty parlors and aesthetic clinics all over the world. Otherwise, why bother? May as well settle for a teacher or an accountant. Heaven knows, they may have a more interesting story than KJ’s “has everything, temporarily benched, finds new girlfriend” arc.
At the end of the day, I can only wonder at the possible reason as to why the author will come up with a story like An Unexpected Holiday Gift, which offers no interesting conflict, no compelling characters, no dramatic romantic tension, nothing. What does it have to offer readers looking for vicarious escapism? What is the point of it all? I always assumed that it is a given that romantic fiction should be more interesting than real life, but here I am, thinking that I probably would have had a better time cleaning out my fridge instead.