Always And Forever
by Farrah Rochon, contemporary (2013)
Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86289-4

There is nothing really awful about Farrah Rochon's Always And Forever. It is, in fact, one of the few Kimani book these days that actually feel like a story instead of commercials for sequel baits pasted to mundane journal entries of some utterly boring people. There's good flow, solid pacing, and secondary characters that aren't too intrusive. It's just that, during the first few dozen pages, I find myself wondering whether the heroine Phylicia "Phil" Phillips is out of her mind, and I'm troubled by how, by the last page of this page, I can't confidently say that she isn't.

Okay, Phil. Like many heroines in romance novels, she is set to be a complete failure so that the millionaire hero Jamal Johnson can swoop in for that romantic rescue fantasy. The thing is, Phil's failure comes off as utterly deserved, part of the natural selection process to weed out the morons from the gene pool.

You see, she comes with the now-so-obligatory accessory every poverty-stricken dumbass heroine can't do without - the senile mother who needs to stay in a special home that costs a lot. Phil is, I quote, paying about a thousand bucks each month to keep the senile mother happy. At the same time, she's practically bankrupt, always dreading the thought of getting that phone call from her creditors, because, as a flipper, she went into business with her ex-boyfriend. She supplied the money while he... er, supervised, I guess. I'm sure you can tell what would happen next in this sad story.

When the real estate market crashed, Phil found herself high and dry, and not only financially - the boyfriend bailed on her too, so now Phil is genuinely screwed. But that doesn't stop her from attempting to buy back her family home! Yes, a big home that she can't afford to maintain even if she manages to buy it back, all in the name of family. Given that the only person who would give her a medal for her sacrifice is now senile, I don't know what Phil is thinking. She could be working to piece back her finances, anything, but no, she's cashing all her chips to buy some long-vacant house that will not be cheap to repair and maintain.

When Jamal buys the house and, with his buddies, attempts to renovate it and start a bed and breakfast from it, Phil is not happy at all. Personally, I think Jamal has actually saved that imbecile from further ruining herself financially, but still, his buying the house kind of ruins his best efforts to explore her fine rear end with his hands. I'm not joking - he spends considerable time waxing lyrical about her tush, not that I have anything against that. I always admire a guy who knows what he wants in a woman. At any rate, Jamal's efforts to fix things himself aren't working out, since he's better being an architect than a construction worker, so he decides to hire Phil to help him out with the place.

Jamal is a nice guy. He's not the most original character around - in fact, he is pretty much a Just Another Rich Guy type of hero - but still, he's nice where it counts and he's also generous with the money. What's not to like? He has some daddy issues, which he eventually resolves in a pretty mature and reasonable manner.

On the other hand, there is Phil, who demonstrates as much business acumen as a beaten-up garbage bin. She is also pretty silly, especially when it comes to blaming the guy who legally purchased the very house she was forced to sell for, you know, buying the house. It is also embarrassing to see her acting up and wailing that she cannot bear to work on the house - after she has agreed to take the gig - because everything should remain the way it was in her old home or she will go eek-eek-eek and has to be consoled by her client. A client who is nice enough to tell her to leave those rooms alone. Seriously, watching this creature in action is embarrassing because Phil can't behave like a rational and professional person here. She's like some whiny child who needs someone to help her get her act together.

Therefore, it is hard for me to root for her to get a happy ending, not when the happy ending means that Jamal will just come in and bail her out of the mess she has made without her having to do anything right to deserve that. It also doesn't help matters that the author has Phil going bipolar on me in the second half of the story. While Phil can be a wretched nitwit when it comes to her own life, she suddenly demonstrates an eerie ability to understand Jamal's pain and offer solace. It's as if Phil was possessed by a ghost or something, because the change from silly bint to hot loving momma is too abrupt - it's like Phil has two different personalities living inside her head.

So yes, I admit that there is a cozy chemistry between Jamal and Phil here, and Jamal is a decent hero that treats the heroine very nicely. At the same time, the heroine is a hot mess and the plot revolves mostly around the hero fixing her hot mess while she offers him some TLC. It's hard to get fully into this story when the heroine is designed to be stupid, whiny, and incompetent from the start just to get the love juices flowing. I'm cranky - I can't condone such ineptness being rewarded with a happy ending involving bags and bags of money, not without the inept twit being subjected to a few rounds with the cattle prod at the very least.

Rating: 63

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