HarperTorch, $6.50, ISBN 0-06-008929-6
Contemporary Romance, 2003
Lynn Emery’s latest offering Kiss Lonely Goodbye is a curious case of a story that starts out very good only to peter away slowly as it dips into increasingly meandering pacing until it concludes with a whimper. There are some good moments of comedy and one certainly can’t accuse the heroine Nicole Summers Benoit of being stupid. Unfortunately, the hero Marcus Reed fits the definition of “stupid” at least, on the last count, fifteen different ways.
Hosea Summers is an incorrigible old coot I’d love to know. Even after he’s buried, he insists on giving his family one last middle finger by taping his will in video which sees him he completely screwing up his greedy children’s ambitions. The biggest joke he plays on these kids is him giving his Summers Security bodyguard business firm to his niece Nicole. “Go get ’em Nicole. Have fun, kids,” Hosea just has to offer his parting words. Yeah, go get ’em, Nicole. Thing is, Nicole has no experience running any company, much less one that deals with bodyguard business. She thinks it’s boring. She doesn’t want to do this!
But if she doesn’t, nobody else can and the company will be dismantled and all those poor employees will have to apply for food stamps. She can’t have that, can she? So she decides to learn the ropes, despite what that naughty Russell, Hosea’s son, says or thinks and certainly despite what that sexy and infuriating Marcus, the VP, thinks. So there! But soon some hanky-panky business forces the cops to step into the picture. What will Nicole do now?
The book starts out great. Nicole is funny and while she may be inexperienced, she’s no windy-minded nitwit dependent on Marcus to do all the thinking for her. She’s soon learning the ropes and getting the hang of things. The secondary cast – most of them Nicole’s family – are fun and they complement Nicole’s sparkly personality nicely. But as the story progresses, I don’t know why but strange things happen. The warm friendship between women in the story soon gives way to tedious catfight rivalry between Nicole and other females, so much so that the villains are almost exclusively female, the male villains often written as nothing more than feeble-minded weakling minions of these females. If you can accept the whole “me versus them” mentality in a story, good, but me, the whole catfight/bitchfight between women thing in romance novels almost always annoy me because they only reinforce the stereotype that women can never get along at all. If I want this kind of drama, I’ll go spy on the RWA lists and discussion boards.
But the biggest problem is that Marcus makes a lot of sometimes stupid, sometimes very dishonorable, sometimes bewildering decisions in this book, and soon, all his silliness catches up with him. No, not “catches up”, make that “blows up in his face” one by one like a line of domino pieces. Unfortunately, this leads to Nicole forgiving and understanding him for as many as three times in three different chapters. It makes me wonder, how many times is Nicole expected to be as understanding and forgiving for the rest of her relationship with Marcus? Marcus did some really stupid things here that makes him somewhat hypocritical as well, but all he can say is that he loves her and that is supposed to be okay.
Kiss Lonely Goodbye isn’t too bad a read, to be honest. It’s just that it starts out very good with a great heroine and a great ensemble cast, and I really laughed out loud at old Hosea’s video. So, when this book dips into increasingly pedestrian plotting, trotting out the really lame “love means understanding him all the time” line of defense for the hero, my disappointment can only increase with steep increments proportionately with this book’s increasing decline in freshness. I am far too ready to kiss this book goodbye at the end of the day than I should be, really.