Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86474-4
Contemporary Romance, 2016
Bare Pleasures is one of those stories that have a plot that can work massively against it. It is basically a romance that flourishes under deception on the hero’s part, and the reason for that deception can be a dealbreaker for some people because it is so silly.
Okay, when he was in his late teens to his twenties, Alexander Diallo rebelled against his very, very wealthy family by running off to Jamaica. Ssh, don’t tell anyone, but he was a male stripper during his sojourn there, although he catered strictly to a female clientele. No homo, in other words. Today, he is more of an establishment person, working with his family again in Miami as the hot shot computer engineer.
And then, one day, his ex-employer from Jamaica shows up. She wants him to distract her sister, who is still feeling very down after being stranded at the altar, although she doesn’t want to pimp him out like that. Talk to her, wine her up a bit, that kind of thing, but no touchy that crotchy, please. It is at this point that I have to scratch my head a bit, because the author is grasping a bit to make her premise more palatable, even if this palatability comes at the cost of making the entire premise an unrealistic one. Of all people, Margot has to pick her ex-stripper employee to charm her sister into being happy again? That doesn’t make sense. The entire thing will be more believable, I feel, if this is indeed a more sordid premise: have Margot blackmail Lex into primping out that pee-pee to make her sister happy again. Or just have him be a male escort that she hires to do that stud service with a smile thing.
Noelle Palmer, the unsuspecting sister and our heroine, is all about first world problems just like Lex. She is very rich, thanks to Margot’s efforts at putting bread at the table, but she won’t use a cent because, you know, independence and what not. I may be more impressed if she doesn’t have a cushion of money bags to fall back on. She actually meets Lex before Margot reconnects with him, and those two have an attraction. Therefore, what will she do when she realizes that the man she has fallen in love with may be set up by her sister to put that smile back on her face?
And that brings me to another thing with this story. The revelation comes out very late in the story, and hence, not enough is shown on the making up part. Therefore, I feel that the happy ending comes with some leftover trust issues that should have been worked out a bit more, and I don’t buy it completely.
Still, the chemistry between Lex and Noelle is very well done here, and to be fair to Lex, he feels beat up about his lies the more he falls for her. He isn’t a bad person, just someone with confused motivations thanks to the demands of the head scratcher of a premise. Also, the relationship between Margot and Noelle is just as well done – the two sisters aren’t lovey dovey in a Hallmark movie way, but there is believable affection between them alongside exasperation and what not – just like a real life relationship between close sisters. The author’s treatment of relationships between her various characters is easily the best thing about this story, and because a romance novel should be centered around emotions and relationships, Bare Pleasures can really score a home run in this respect.
It’s just that the entire premise, yikes, which leads to Lex doing some bewildering things. And because everyone here is filthy rich to the wazoo, they really don’t have to go through the whole song and dance. This is one story that would have worked better if Lex had been a gigolo, blackmail or a lot of money is involved to get him to agree with Margot’s plan, or something. Bare Pleasures is a nice romance built on a crappy plot, so while I do like big chunks of the story in the end, I would hesitate to recommend it without reservation to anyone else.