by Pamela Yaye, contemporary (2012)
Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86277-1
Evidence Of Desire... sounds like something one would find on the crime scene in an episode of CSI: Special Victims Unit, doesn't it? It is, however, a crime scene of sorts with plenty of evidence of... well, just being not up to par.
Poor Pamela Yaye. It's not going to be easy to follow Ann Christopher in the Laws Of Love series, especially since Case For Seduction is fabulous from start to finish, so I don't envy Pamela Yaye one bit. Unfortunately, Evidence Of Desire is nowhere close to being as fun as the previous book in this series. It also suffers from an overdose of patronizing insincerity and all around unbelievable antics from the main characters.
We meet Harper Hamilton, the cousin of the hero of the previous book. He's a hard-working guy who is a favorite of Jake's father, who oversees the operations of the family law firm, but recently, he's pretty miffed that Jake has completely upstaged him by the man's unexpected nuptial. Everyone and everything is about how amazing and wonderful and fabulous Jake and his wife are, so Harper is not feeling very beloved at the moment.
Journalist Alice "Azure" Ellison needs to write an article uncovering some juicy dirt on the Hamilton family, or she will lose her job. She tries to arrange a date with Harper so that she can get into his good graces, but ultimately, she can't go through the deception and confesses everything to Harper. To her shock, Harper isn't mad at all. Instead, he offers what he believes would be a nice juicy tidbit for her boss: Harper and Azure should get married. It will be a marriage of convenience, blah blah blah - same old story, as usual.
Let me start with the first main problem with this story: patronizing insincerity. Azure has self-esteem issues because her mother constantly criticizes her looks. So she walks around blinking like a dazed goldfish, constantly mouthing, "What? Me beautiful? Me lovable? Really? Really?" And yet, everyone around her describes her as if Azure was the second coming of Nefertiti to tear the weaves from Tyra Banks's head or something. Harper can only think of her in amazing superlatives when it comes to her looks, so much so that he marvels at how she was never a hot model on the runway.
While we're talking about this subject matter, since when do we have curvy and buxom hot models on the runway? They are pretty much walking wire hangers with rarely any hint of breast. But I guess comparing Azure to a lingerie model - which would be more realistic than comparing her to a runway goddess - would be too trashy for those conservative people who read this book. Lingerie is an instrument of evil, after all, leading virtuous women down the path to full-blown whoredom.
Anyway, back to Azure, the fact that everyone thinks of her as amazing and gorgeous and so freaking beautiful makes Azure's constant whining seem like an insincere attempt to fish for compliments. I don't know why Ms Yaye didn't just make Azure plump and plain - that would have actually made Azure's lack of self-esteem more realistic and believable, not to mention sympathetic. By making Azure so beautiful that Rihanna would consider self-mutilation after just looking at her, Ms Yaye instantly invalidates much of her heroine's constant whining.
The next big problem here is the author's insistence on clearing up conflicts in the easiest and quickest manner gives rise to characters that behave in often bipolar manner. Harper spends a long time cozying up to Azure and wooing her like the sweetest of gentlemen, but when Ms Yaye remembers that the romance writing handbook insisted that there should be a conflict in the later third or so of the book, she has Harper go from love to hate for the flimsiest of reasons. And, of course, once the conflict quota has been met, Harper just as quickly goes back to love. This guy creeps me out with how his moods can go from one extreme to another depending on... I don't know, the tide or the full moon, I guess.
It's not just Harper, the secondary characters exhibit this whiplash tendency too. Azure's mother, for example, apparently spent years nagging and picking away at Azure's self-esteem, but after just one confrontation where Azure turns into Oprah Winfrey, Mommy Dearest puts away her wire hangers and apologizes. Am I supposed to believe that she would turn into mother of the year after just one weak confrontation from her daughter?
There is no trace of believable character motivations, behavior, and psychology in Evidence Of Desire, and the jury is still out when it comes to the stilted efforts at humor. Topping things off is Azure's obnoxious insistence that she is butt ugly as fat even as everyone around her uniformly marvels at her amazing body and looks. There are just clichés here, with little effort done to make sure that these clichés fit together in a way that makes sense.
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