Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-1-335-21654-0
Contemporary Romance, 2018
Nicole LeBlanc is a heroine with a refreshingly normal attraction to the opposite sex, healthy friendships with other women, and a general level head on her shoulders. This is great, right? Well, it depends on how well you take to Sassy McSassy heroines: this lady has a flippant one-liner for everything, regardless of context or circumstance, and as a result, it seems like nothing can ever hold her back from whipping out a snappy comeback. When she’s not being the sassiest creature in the universe, she is laughing, gasping, taking a deep breath, and generally acting like a windmill on steroids. By the time I reach the midway point of Her Unexpected Valentine, I’m more than ready to put a gag on this creature so that I can take a deep breath and calm down.
Basically, Nicole is a makeup artist and stylist who lands herself a handsome gig in Hollywood, doing her thing for a series of Valentine’s Day commercials. The creative director is our hero Kendrick Burrstone – yes, that’s his name – and he is a reformed fellow who is determined to forget that he had once done some really bad things in LA. The bulk of the story sees them falling in love, and a conflict involving blackmail rears its ugly head late in the story.
Oh boy, that blackmail. You know, I’d think Kendrick must have done something really bad in LA to warrant sweating all over his testicles over the idea of it coming out. Given the depraved things various Hollywood bigwigs have done, I’d expect at least one paraplegic grandmother, seven donkeys, and a dozen dead gerbils to be involved in the big secret. When it comes out, however, I can only roll up at my eyes at the revelation. Even Nicole is like, duh, eye roll, nothing to see here when she realizes what it is about. What does this all mean? That the author really doesn’t want any interesting conflict to show up in her story?
I don’t know what the endgame is for Her Unexpected Valentine. The author acts like the heroine is way too clever and smart for everything and everyone in this story, and doing so means that there is no tension, suspense, or anticipation as a result. It’s pretty obvious that nothing will mar the perfect bond between Nicole and her man, and therefore, nothing here stands out or demands to be noticed and remembered. It’s a pleasant, cleanly written story provided the reader can stand the relentless perkiness of the heroine, but there isn’t much that is happening in the story to make it a memorable one.