Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86506-2
Contemporary Romance, 2017
It Started in Paradise is conceived to be a Romeo and Juliet kind of story – a pair of lovers from feuding families, but of course minus the suicide pact and other unpleasant stuff. Chloe Chandler’s family and Donovan Rivers’ are competing for the same businesses most of the time, so they are not exactly the sort to exchange Christmas cards anytime soon. So what happens when those two end up developing an inconvenient attraction to one another?
Right off the bat, this one just feels wrong, when Chloe’s truly awful and intrusive sister spends page after page egging Chloe to put out to Donovan. Now, I know, having secondary characters blindly insisting on and even coercing the heroine to let the hero feel her up and more is a popular short cut for authors to show me how desirable their heroes are supposed to be, but this has to be done in a way that makes sense. Here, the two families are not cozy. Jewel keeps saying that Donovan is a perfect “stranger” to get shagged by, even if that man doesn’t qualify in any way as a stranger. When that insane woman actually manipulates events to force Chloe to sit on that thing ASAP, I can only wonder whether this creature is demented or just too stupid to be aware that, maybe, maybe sleeping with a guy whose family is trying to undercut a hosting gig from under their family is not the best way to have a no-strings fling.
And Chloe is one of those heroines who act like lusting after an attractive man means that she has to act on that attraction, and even the idea of doing so threatens to make her head spin 360, so she spends all the way to the last few pages in a state of back and forth. She needs to please everybody and she hates to offend or intrude, but oh no, she can’t resist when Donovan makes her all randy and hot, so EEEEEEEE. The author has Chloe pulling out issues out of that EEEEEE-ing thing’s rear end every time the story is in danger of lacking an excuse for the heroine to do that headless chicken running all over the place thing, and in the end, I am just exhausted trying to follow Chloe as she second guesses herself, hates herself for getting that dee, blah blah blah.
Making things worse is how the story is a tough one to sit through due to author’s style. She doesn’t trust me to get her story, so she telegraphs everything. Characters will yawn and then painstakingly explain that they are sleepy so they are going to bed; they act worried, and then explain that they are worried; et cetera. This makes the story laborious to read. And then there are the awkward phrases used to describe the characters’ physical attributes, often inserted at the most bewildering moments that practically kill the momentum in any given scene.
“Humph.” El pursed her sweetheart lips. Her coral lipstick creased. Even with her skeptical glare, she was pretty with her shoulder-length hair and sharp-looking business dress.
El, Chloe’s mother, is supposed to be on the verge telling Chloe an important thing. So what does the author do? Tell me about El’s lipstick and her appearance. What’s the point? Is her appearance going to be an important plot point? Is her coral lipstick going to be found on the pee-pee of a dead man twenty pages later? No. So, again, what’s the point? And furthermore, “sweetheart lips” and “coral lipstick” – ugh. What the author ends up doing in that moment is to just distract me with unnecessary details and make me lose any urgency to find out what El is going to say. And that’s just one of the many examples of such misfires in this story. All this padding with unnecessary, flowery descriptions only makes sense if the author is being paid by the word, which I doubt is the case with this one.
And, of course, the unimaginative use of tropes. Mommies are yucky, daddies are forever… the usual nine yards with a bonus tenth yard thrown in, as if this story needs any more reason to be an even more painful read.
I don’t have a good time at all, not even a little bit, with It Started in Paradise.