Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86411-9
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Blissful Summer brings together two short stories that celebrate summertime in “exotic locations”. Naturally, “exotic” means Paris and the Bahamas – in the case of the Bahamas, it’s more specifically on a cruise ship around that area. It’s not like books in this line are set in those locations like, every other month, oh no.
Cheris Hodges kicks off the show with Make You Mine Again, which actually mostly takes place in Detroit, revolving around an upcoming wedding in Paris. I think by this point, we can officially proclaim the front and back covers of this book to be full of lies. Anyway, supermodel Jansen Douglas and Atlanta big boss Bradley Stephens were once lovers, but they broke up due to them having different directions to go when it comes to their lives and career. Now, they meet again when Bradley’s sister, who is also Jansen’s BFF, is getting hitched in a grand three-million dollar wedding in Paris. Can they find a common ground this time around?
The problem with this story is that it is so slowly paced that much of the story seems too fixated on a large cast of characters chattering about all kinds of things that do not move the story line much. The author spends a lot of time elaborating on various secondary characters’ backgrounds and such, that it is very easy to believe that she’s more concerned about luring readers to buy upcoming books of hers instead of using this story to, you know, tell a story. This tactic is great if Cheris Hodges is a telemarketer or something, but come on, I paid money for this, so give me my money’s worth at least before telling me to buy some more stuff from her.
Bradley occasionally makes me cringe because he can be such a clueless dolt. For example, he openly tells his sister that he doesn’t expect her marriage to last. Just what kind of emotional stunting did this poor guy go through when he was a kid? Still, he has his moments. Likewise, Jansen can be a pretty fun character in her own right, and I like that she likes what she does instead of moping about beauty being a curse like other supermodel heroines tend to do. It’s too bad that their story is bogged down by too many extraneous exposition and a pacing comparable to that of a sedated snail.
Lisa Marie Perry’s Unraveled is a far better story. Ona Tracy manages to “convince” the organizers of her high school glee club’s ten-year reunion that she is a great event organizer, so she was hired by them to do all the work. She will get them all on a classy cruise to the Bahamas, and she has plans in the meantime to seduce the guy she has always had a crush on: Nicholas Callaghan, the handsome guy who seems to be everything her lousy exes weren’t. Unfortunately, she learns at the very last minute that she has accidentally booked them all on The Lure instead of The Lore, and The Lure is an erotic-themed cruise ship. Still, there’s that hunky Riker Ewan on board who seems to be a pleasant distraction, but he has his own secrets, ooh.
This story is very entertaining. Ona is a confident, sassy lady who refuses to let unfortunate circumstances in life bring her down, but she finds herself reverting back to the role of the sassy token black chick in school whom all the cool kids take for granted, much to her dismay. It’s pretty clear that she has idealized Nicholas in her memories, and the real Nicholas is nowhere close to being the amazing guy she makes him out to be, but the author manages to have Ona realize this without having Ona come off too much like a fool. Ona and Riker have a good thing going: their interactions are hot, sexy, and funny.
The only thing that feels out of place here is Riker’s motivations for being on board the ship. In a longer story, the author may have more opportunities to flesh out this subplot better. In this story, the whole thing instead feels poor developed and the resolution doesn’t feel satisfying because it all boils down to an eye-rolling “I lied to you, girl, but see? My pee-pee is jutting at your direction so you know my love is 100% true” kind of justification for all the nonsense and lies. The pay-off of this story, as a result, is kind of weak. Still, the whole thing is a cute pick-me-up read on the whole, with some unexpectedly well-down character development on Ona’s part.
Unraveled is a four-oogie story, while Make You Mine Again is a two-oogie read. Average that out, and Blissful Summer is a three-oogie book.