Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86383-9
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Martha Blue is a publicist for the family-owned NFL team the Las Vegas Slayers, but of late, her behavior is drawing some bad press and making some folks see her as a liability. She and Joaquin “Sinner” Ryder (he’s a prizefighter, so I guess it’s okay for him to have that nickname) have a history, and in this story, a friend asks Joaquin to “distract” Martha until the play-off is over. Fortunately, Joaquin doesn’t want to do that… well, okay, he does, but he’d rather do it for the right reason: he does have feelings for Martha. Unfortunately, he has so many issues that prevent him from doing anything more than having sex with Martha and then running away at the next earliest opportunity. (Running away without the sex part is, of course, too unreasonable a thing to even consider doing.) Will there be a happy ending for these two?
Just for Christmas Night sounds trite and even clichéd on paper, and in many ways, it is, which is its biggest downfall in the end. But at the same time, I am pleasantly surprised that this is not a story where the heroine atones for not being chaste and virtuous. Actually, Martha doesn’t seem like a party girl at all – she even takes in an orphan, mind you. Then given, given how the annoying family matriarch tends to paint her kids in negative hyperbole ways should they deviate even a little from the script she has for them, perhaps Martha’s reputation being exaggerated is to be expected. Martha has made some detours with men now and then that ended up with her going nowhere, but that’s okay, she is never crucified for this “sin”. In fact, I actually feel that Martha is one of the more sensible characters in this book – her thoughts and opinions on life and love are actually sensible and pragmatic in ways that I suspect even Oprah can relate to – and a big part of me sees Just for Christmas Night as a validation for Martha’s choices in life.
Instead of being some sad moping dope, Martha charges ahead in life with refreshing bravado. She tries her best to be a mother figure to an orphaned girl, and she prefers to take steps forward in life instead of wallowing in regrets. I like this. The author doesn’t make Martha purely made of sunshine, of course. Martha has plenty of issues, but she also has her strengths, so her entire personality feels balanced and real.
On the other hand, Joaquin is a teeth-gritting broken record. Yes, yes, he can’t have Martha, blah blah blah, but this only sees him stuck in a circular pattern of behavior that has me sighing and wishing that this fellow would mix things up and do something less predictable now and then before I fall into a bored stupor. The orphan gnat is also irritating, because she’s a very obvious plot device created to go wild with her angst and cause endless problems by running away and then needing to be rescued the moment she is out of sight.
But the biggest problem of this story is how the author relies on tried-and-true plot twists to force the couple together by the end of the book. Joaquin keeps running away, so the author does the worst thing she can ever do in this story: she has Martha getting knocked up shortly within the last handful of chapters in the book. That’s an overdone twist, but it’s also the worst one for this story, because now Joaquin is forced to go back to Martha in these last few chapters and I will close the book wondering how long it would be before Joaquin resents Martha for this twist in their relationship. Given that this book leaves me with so many doubts about the happy ending, it’s not very romantic, is it?