Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86354-9
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Hunter Russell, our hero, gets a call at 3 am. No, nobody died – his grandmother Eleanor (Miss E to you) has just won a casino in a card game. Miss E practically demands that Hunter head right over to the casino, Casa de Mariposa in Reno, and oversees with the renovation of the place. He’s an architect, you see, so his skills would come in useful and Miss E is determined to make this casino work. He ends up meeting Lydia Montgomery, Miss E’s companion who also happens to be a partner in this casino venture. Lydia is a widow with a daughter, Maya. She is very wealthy, thanks to her late husband, and she invests in this casino with dear Miss E as her first step in being an independent woman after a lifetime of playing the dutiful daughter and later a loyal wife to a much older man.
Hunter falls in love with her, her daughter Maya adores him, but alas, love may have to be put on hold a bit as Lydia’s stepsons are suing for the custody of Maya and the former owner’s daughter is not too pleased that the casino has new owners.
There are a number of things to love about Love Takes All: the narrative is engaging, and I actually find it hard to put this book down at first because the characters are all very likable without coming off as too cute or too perfect. Even the daughter is adorable instead of creepy, and considering how I generally feel about children in romance novels, that’s actually a good thing. Lydia is smart and sensible, Hunter is nice and sweet, and even Miss E is likable instead of overbearing. The attraction and banter between Lydia and Hunter feel natural and fun too.
So what ends up going wrong – at least, wrong enough to miss the mark, since there is nothing really wrong in a bad way here?
The book starts focusing more on the external machinations of mean people instead of developing the romance. This isn’t a good thing because the bad guys are evil with no redeeming features whatsoever, so they are more like cartoon characters than anything else, and are therefore hard to take seriously. I like that the heroine takes some steps on her own to protect herself and her daughter from these goons, but she becomes increasingly reliant on Hunter as the story progresses. At one point, Lydia actually says that she’s so grateful that Hunter is helping her become more independent. I don’t know, there seems to be something in that situation that I find rather contradictory. Why have the heroine declare that she wants to do things on her own while letting the hero take the reins eventually? This makes the heroine seem more talk than walk, and I don’t know whether this is intentional on the author’s part.
Also, the author starts hitting on a pet dislike of mine: unnecessary portrayal of other women as sluts just to make the heroine look good. The bad guys are already like cartoon characters with no redeeming features, so to have the females be slutty as well is just overkill. Not to mention, such lazy way of making other women look bad always ends up giving this impression that sex is invariably immoral or evil for women unless such women somehow manage to solve the complicated calculus of lust and attraction to ensure that the only penis they come in contact with is attached to their one true love.
Love Takes All is a book that starts out in all the right ways, making me feel certain that I’m really going to enjoy this one, only to make me sigh in disappointment by the time I reach the last page due to the decisions the author chose to make in this story. In many ways, I do like it. It’s just that there are things here that stick out at me and make me go, “Eh…” That’s okay, though. This book is readable enough for one that also contains some of my biggest pet peeves, so I guess I can agree to disagree with the author.