Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86479-9
Contemporary Romance, 2016
Kissed by Christmas is such a refreshing anomaly these days in the Kimani line, I could have kissed Jamie Pope for writing it. Maybe it’s the whole Christmas thing turning me into a softy, but this one is all about falling in love, and at the end of the day, I get the feels and they are all awesome.
It is very cold in New York City, and Hallie Roberts misses her home town in Hideaway Island. She came here to be a school teacher after being ditched by her long-time beau back home – living back there became painful as she was constantly reminded how close she’d come to walking down the altar. This place was where they first met, that kind of thing. I don’t blame her for seeking a new scenery. Here, however, she realizes that she’s lonely; she misses the people she left behind, but at the same time, she’s not sure whether she’s ready to go back. Oh dear.
And then she slips on some ice and hits her head.
Fortunately, paramedic Asa Andersen happens to be around, and he is also actually living in the same apartment block as her. While they are on their way to the hospital, she says some hilarious things to him, charming him to the point that he has to come check up on her once she’s out of the hospital. Along the way, they become friends, and soon, their mutual attraction is rather difficult to ignore. But she’s clear to him about wanting to go back to her hometown – she never told him where that is, though – while he can’t imagine a better place to live and raise the kids than in New York City.
Then she goes back to Hideaway Island, perhaps for good. He accepts his family’s invitation to visit his twin sister and her husband… also in Hideaway Island. Imagine their surprise when they bump into one another there. Is this fate’s way of giving them another chance to do things right?
That’s basically the story of this one, and it’s a love story in every sense of the phrase. Oh, there are the usual beautiful siblings, nosy family members, and such that are to be expected in a story of this sort, but the sole focus here is on Hallie and Asa. It is all about their conversations, quiet moments, shared intimacy, and such. Incredibly, the author manages to set up an intimate, charged kind of interplay between the two characters, and that’s even before they become intimate. I also love how the author takes her time, letting things simmer and boil before the clothes fly off. As a result, the love scene may not be far out explicit, but it feels really sexy and right because everything has been building up to that perfect moment. Almost said “climax” there, but that’d be too obvious and unworthy of me, I’d imagine.
For such a story to work, the wordplay, conversation construction, and pacing have to be solid, and the author delivers on all three front here. The narrative is very easy and engaging to read, and the characters act, talk, and feel just real to me. I catch my breath when Hallie unexpectedly blurts out to Asa that she could easily fall in love with him, for example, early in the story, because the whole thing – from timing from her reaction as well as his response – feels exactly like it should be. The story has a bit more conflict late in the story to keep things going a bit longer, but even then, I never get the feeling that the author is just padding things up. Everything here feels right.
The only thing here that I am docking one oogie for is the re-emergence of Hallie’s ex. I know, his appearance allows for some closure on her end, but the treatment of that one is unoriginal, and in a story where everything else feels fresh and fun, stands out like a sore thumb. It also drives home another clichéd Kimani favorite: the mom and daughter who can’t ever get along for some reason, despite everything in the story suggesting that there is no reason why they have to be like that to one another. Here, the mother insists on shoving the ex back at Hallie, despite all the nonsense he put Hallie through. She’s just like too many mothers in stories of this sort, hence she’s an overused cartoon character archetype that doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the story.
Still, it is such a delight to read Kissed by Christmas and find a story that makes the friendship and affection between the lead characters feel so magical from start to finish. Jamie Pope’s previous books for Kimani have been solid where I’m concerned, but this one has me convinced that she may just be one of my favorite authors of that line at the moment.