Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86382-2
Contemporary Romance, 2014
The story in Dara Girard’s Her Tender Touch is actually full of possibilities, I actually don’t mind the hero Jason Ward or the heroine Abby Baylor at all. The writing in this book is shockingly amateurish, however, and I can only wonder whether the author wrote this while under duress.
Jason was once a software guru overseeing an empire with his business partner. However, that partner soon sold him out and, worse, framed him so that Jason ended up in prison on top of losing everything else. Now that he is released from prison, he wants to start again, for his own sake as well as his mother, but he realizes that he lacks the social skills and people savvy to make it on his own. In the past, his partner did all the networking, you see, while Jason was the surly one of the two. His mother decides to engage the services of Abby, an image consultant, to help Jason get whatever training he needs to get ahead. Abby has been through a messy divorce before, so she isn’t too keen on getting into a relationship with Jason no matter how eager he is to see her without her clothes. Both of them bring leftover issues from their past into this relationship, so it’s a cheerful party all around.
The story by itself isn’t too bad, although it’s also a tale that is quite familiar if you know your urban contemporary romance tropes. The problem here is the author’s writing style. It all begins in the first chapter, when the author rushes through Jason’s rise and betrayal by his buddy in the space of five pages, where the only detailed focus is – sigh – Jason fending off the advances of a horny wife of a potential venture capitalist. Yes, because that is the most important thing I need to read about, everything else can be dashed off the headboard in clunky and wooden exposition. And then, the author jumps to a year later while continuing the exposition, as if she is writing a textbook instead of a work of fiction. There are haphazard jumps in time, weird pause in the wooden exposition to belabor oddly on inconsequential or throwaway moments.
The pacing is completely off as there is just too much cold and clinical information dumping especially in the first half or so of the book. Things become somewhat better by the second half, but even then, it’s either exposition marathon or the characters going through the tired old no communication, all wrong assumptions route.
I close Her Tender Touch wondering whether this book was written when the author wasn’t in a state of mind to focus. It’s really awful from a technical standpoint, almost on par with badly unedited indie books in the pre-indie boom days when it was harder or more expensive to find good freelance editors to help with the work. Maybe the editor of this book couldn’t focus too, or maybe she gave up after a while. At any rate, this book wasn’t ready for public consumption when it found itself in the printing press. It really could have used a few more rounds of revision and polish to resemble more of a professionally published work and less of an embarrassing first draft that somehow crawled its way out of the author’s drawer of shame.