Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-1-335-21666-3
Contemporary Romance, 2018
I don’t come across the story line in It Must Be Love by Nicki Night every day. Jewel Chandler, whose job doesn’t matter because she’s working at the very successful family business so it’s not like she’s ever getting fired, is focused on her career and is taking her time to find the perfect man to settle into a relationship with. Sterling Bishop could have been that man, except that he has a daughter from a previous marriage and our heroine isn’t sure whether she’s ready to be anyone’s mother at this point in her life. That’s basically the story, except there’s more.
One, Sterling is on good terms with his ex, Raven. Sure, they married because he knocked her up, and the marriage didn’t work out, but they both adore their daughter so they settle things and treat one another like reasonable adults. No crazy, jealous, psychotic other woman drama here.
Two, there is no judgment cast on Jewel for not automatically dropping everything to be some kid’s mother. In fact, this story doesn’t punish her or cast her as someone who needs “correcting” for wanting to focus on other things in her life. Certainly, Sterling doesn’t call her a terrible woman for not immediately signing up to be his babysitter with benefits. In fact, he thinks she is perfect for him and Kylee. She just needs time and space to sort out her own feelings, you know?
Three, Sterling is a very hands-on dad. Career ranks a distant second in his life – Kylee is everything to him, so he will prioritize making time for her. Sure, it’s easy for him to do that when he’s loaded and he can flexi-time all he wants without an asshole boss yelling at him, but it’s so rare to see such a hero. It’s more common to see cold and distant single fathers being romanticized because, you know, taking care of the kid is a woman’s job or something.
So, on paper, this one is a solid winner. In reality though, the execution is tad uneven. The issue here is that the author spends a lot of time on the courtship aspect, which is standard Kimani stuff that can be read in any other books in this line, and the more interesting emotional drama develops in a rushed and unsatisfactory manner only in the late quarter or so. For a long time, this is a readable but not very memorable tale of a hot guy and a hot lady getting down to business. That’s fine, except that there is certainly something more interesting brewing here and the author doesn’t let the good stuff come to a boil well enough.
If I had my way, I’d ruthless strip away half the number of secondary characters here, as their interactions with the main characters add little to the story. Yeah, yeah, they all think that the idea of Sterling and Jewel getting it on is awesome – whatever, take a number and come back another day. I’d also start the story with these two already dating – no need to waste time on showing me how they meet because that can be shown through conversations or interior monologues later in the story. That way, there will be more room for the author to develop the emotional aspects of this story. That way, there will be a more believable build-up to Jewel’s big decision when it comes to Sterling and Kylee, and hence a more satisfying conclusion to the story.
In its current form, there is a potentially good story here, but it ends up being half-baked because the author spends way too much time making sure that this story also contains the usual boring and formulaic “main characters interact with a hundred secondary characters because yo, you all better buy those books” scenes – scenes that only get in the way of letting the core romance develop more fully. It Must Be Love is notable for trying to be something more than the usual rote Kimani fare, but it could have been so much better as well.