Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86410-2
Contemporary Romance, 2015
The fact that this story is mostly set in Alaska probably explains that weird blue tint of the cover art. That, or there’s a UFO about to come and take our hero Atka Sinclair and our heroine Teresa Drake off for some fun in lobotomy.
Anyway, Teresa is part of the Drakes of Northern California who made their money from their famous vineyards. She, however, takes a leave of absence to make it as a reporter. While she envisions herself hanging out with celebrities and what not – because, I suppose, as a daughter of one of the wealthiest families in the world, she’s unable to meet those celebrities herself for a selfie – but when the story opens, her editor sends her off to Alaska to interview the son of a local guy, who is about to run for the seat of the mayor of Anchorage. Well, that guy turns out to be a married creep with a roving eye, but fortunately, she also meets a local hunk, Atka, who would be more than adequate as a distraction of the most pleasant kind. At least, until he learns that she’s here to write nice things about a guy whom he perceives as an interloper who would destroy the culture of the locals.
Now, Atka and Teresa have some pleasant chemistry here, and I like that she is a heroine who doesn’t come up with weird excuses not to date a guy when she’s single and available. There is a refreshing normalcy about Teresa that I enjoy reading about. She’s not neurotic, weird, or crazy. But then, the author decides that she needs a conflict, and… I don’t know. I’ve always wondered – do authors of these category lines spin some kind of roulette wheel and pick a conflict from an approved list or something? Because the conflict here – heroine needs to write something that the hero disapproves vehemently about – takes on the same road that follows practically every similar conflict in previous series titles in the past.
Now, I know the conflict development follows probably a path that has the “seal of approval” or something (which probably explains why it shows up so often), but here, it cripples the developing chemistry between the two. Atka turns into a short-tempered boor who can come up with some impressive mental gymnastics to explain why Teresa must be the more evil version of Delilah to his Samson. Somehow, she deliberately contrives to injure her own leg in the chance that he happens to be around, and lets him take her in and somehow, telepathically perhaps, makes him make all the moves on her to get into her bloomers. His erection is clearly her fault, part of this master plan to make him angry! He often strikes out without letting her explain, only to later go, “Wait, maybe she didn’t go all evil whore on me!” a while later. It makes Atka look like the rear end of a donkey, all this nonsense.
This is a romance which requires the heroine, a city girl at heart, to move to the Alaskan neighborhood for her happily ever after. Given that Teresa is quite the Calamity Jane in this setting, I can only wonder whether she could stand living there for more than a month without either going insane or breaking both her hips. Perhaps I could believe in the happy ending if the author has come up with a more organic conflict. In this story, Atka spends most of the time going all Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on Teresa, and she has to often wait for him to come back to his senses, so I don’t get to see any development that would convince me that these two won’t spend the honeymoon still arguing over whatever Atka comes up with in his mind on that particular day. So, no, I don’t see a long-term happy ending for these two.
Crystal Caress has a good thing going, but the author sabotaged her own story when she decided to tack on a conflict that sets back the relationship considerably. Hope she gets luckier in the conflict roulette next time.