Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86428-7
Contemporary Romance, 2015
The best thing about Nicki Night’s debut published story Her Chance at Love is her dedication. That one is bubbly, spontaneous, funny, and most importantly, entertaining. I don’t see the person who wrote that dedication in this story at all, it’s as if the different person who wrote it altogether – someone with a tendency for stilted and wooden dialogues, “make it up as we go along” style of plotting, and cringe-inducing female skank ho characters.
It took me a while to finish this book because I kept putting the book down several times as I tried to wade through the first 50 pages. It’s all about women throwing themselves at our hero Blake Barrington and his brothers Buy My and Book Next, and these women are portrayed by the author as desperate floozies who just want a piece of our hero. Apparently, according to the author, female lawyers who are not in the main roles in romance novels are all desperate much-used backstabbing hos who would put on too much make-up and use sex to get ahead in the job. Nicki Night is a new author, so maybe I should cut her some slack as she’s probably still in the “I must make all other women bitch-stank-treacherous slut-whores so that my heroine look so awesome in comparison” phase and hopefully she’d outgrow that phase soon. Still, it doesn’t make this book any easier to read, what with all that lazy portrayal of other beautiful women in such a demeaning way. Good villains are created and built up with love, not churned out in a “Just insert skank whore power to the nth!” way.
Cadence Payne, our beautiful heroine, is a lawyer, but don’t worry, she’s the nice one. The skank is the female rival who spreads them to get ahead. Okay, our heroine eventually spreads them herself, to Blake Barrington who ends up her client later in the story, but that’s different: she’s doing this out of… uh… friends-with-benefits way, without getting any side benefits, so yes, that’s different. Got that? Rewinding a bit, Blake likes Cadence and he falls for her pretty quickly, but she has trust issues to the wazoo and will only settle for the no-strings-attached fling thing. However, she finds herself representing him when poor Blake gets dragged into his mentor’s mess when that man was arrested for being a corrupt SOB. Will there be love at the end of all this mess?
As I’ve mentioned, there are many wooden dialogues here. In more quiet moments, characters tend to talk to one another in an unnatural “Let me explain things to you as if we are in a PSA clip show for five year old kids!” way. When the author wants some funny moments, characters end up overreacting, for example: laughing out loud while pressing their bellies at some line that is actually nowhere as funny to warrant such a reaction. In more dramatic moments, several characters can chime in one after another as if they all share the same hive mind. The end result of all of this is that these people don’t feel real at all. They speak, think, and react in a very artificial manner, and I can never once believe that these are supposed to be people I should be rooting for.
This applies to the hero and the heroine as well. This is especially problematic in the late third, when the heroine is supposedly conflicted over the hero’s presumed guilt. The author fails to elevate her writing above IKEA manual level, so Cadence’s emotional drama falls completely flat. Worse, there are moments when the author has Cadence scowling or giving Blake “cold looks”, only to have those moments narrated from Blake’s point of view. No, no, that’s pointless. I need to know what Cadence is thinking at the moment, because that’s the whole point of the conflict, no? Is telling me that Blake is so confused by Cadence’s looks more important than developing Cadence’s conflicted emotions more properly?
Also, the plot could be a little tighter and the author could have fleshed out some developments better. For example, why is Cadence is the only one who should represent Blake? She’s sleeping with him, won’t that cause problems in a trial? And given that Cadence is supposedly concerned about her reputation and credibility, why on earth would she want to represent someone she is sleeping with? Can’t she refer him to another lawyer? And on top of that, the whole case is wrapped up in a rushed and perfunctory manner, with the heroine being made partner when all I see of her is her reeling in a tizzy because the man she is sleeping with may be guilty of embezzlement. Really, this is why lawyers shouldn’t represent people they are sleeping with if they can’t compartmentalize work and sex.
Her Chance at Love is wooden and not all well put together. Let’s hope things will flow better in future books.