Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86412-6
Contemporary Romance, 2015
This review is going to have some major spoilers. You see, the author pulls off a few stunts late in the story that kill an otherwise perfectly fine story, and there is no point using spoiler bars as I’d have to cover the entire review in them. Therefore, if you want to read this book without getting spoiled, you know what to do. Plenty of other things to see and read on this website, people!
Okay, with the PSA out of the way, let’s get down to business. Love’s Gamble is a fake marriage story, although this one is actually a pretty fun one. It even makes sense, as the whole thing is hero Max Benton’s way to giving the finger to his brother Cole. You see, the two brothers used to be involved in the family hotel business, until Cole – the sensible and practical one – decides to expand the business into the more middle-class market and, all of a sudden, Max being “brand ambassador” (meaning, he gets to be paid to live the playboy life) is no longer a feasible part of the business model. Max sells his shares off to prevent Cole from getting his hands on those shares and then goes MIA. Really, he doesn’t call or write – no one knows where Max went to.
Until now. Prudence Washington would be a full-fledged private investigator once she gets her license. In the time being, she manages to track down and gain entry into Max’s circle to deliver Cole’s message to him. She and Max have a history of sorts: he came on to her twice and she rejected him each time. When Max reads his brother’s message and learns that Cole intends to hold Max’s funds hostage until Max gets married, he offers Prudence a generous sum of money if she’d be his quickie wife over the next few days. They can divorce once he gets his money. This is never about love or anything, just Max intending to get his money based on technicality and to show his brother the biggest middle finger ever. However, he doesn’t mind making the marriage real – at least, real enough in the bedroom.
Now, the story can be a bit… problematic, let’s just say, for some readers because Max practically forces Prudence to agree to be the flirty, agreeable lady that she was when she was drunk, so that he could get into her bloomers. But very late in the story, and I am talking about “a few dozen pages until the very end” kind of late, the author reveals that Max has engineered the whole thing from the start, including pulling off a stunt that forces Prudence to accept his deal of being his fake wife. Therefore, in just one swoop, the author removes any chance of justification that maybe, maybe, Prudence wasn’t forced into this whole thing and even putting out to Max. There is no “maybe” here – like Cole says bluntly, Max basically forces Prudence to unknowingly get into a situation where he holds all the strings, and him, knowing very well he has all the power, still has no problems putting the pressure on her to sleep with him. The whole thing is pretty disgusting, if you ask me.
And, unfortunately, instead of redeeming Max, she decides to have the villain abruptly show up to act like a rabid hyena so that Max and Cole can come to the rescue. In other words, this is another story where the hero gets to have all his sins, even the abhorrent ones, excused or whitewashed because he saves the day. More unfortunately, Max has shown some character growth all the way to that point, when he then regresses back to his immature playboy ways. Oh, it is really love on his part because the first thing he does after being slapped by Prudence for being a vile twat is to arrange for a threesome with two ladies. Oh, but he can’t muster the interest to play with those ladies, so yes, it really is love. I don’t know – when erectile dysfunction is the only thing binding the hero to the heroine and whatever passes for his conscience, the whole relationship is not going to last past the honeymoon.
Love’s Gamble could work if the author had sprung the revelation that Max pimped Prudence out to himself considerably earlier in the story, so that she could work at getting Max to redeem himself in a convincing manner. Alas, she instead for some reason decides to have the villain cackle and behave like a cartoon douchebag in the denouement. Max ends up smelling like a decomposing carcass instead of roses, and Prudence appears to be the biggest fool in town for taking him back.
It’s a shame. Up to the point when the penny drops and Max reveals his inner bag of fecal material, these two have great chemistry and rapport. The banter is snappy and fun, and the humor is top notch. As I’ve said, by prioritizing cartoon villain being crazy instead of redeeming Max properly, she ends up killing any goodwill I feel for this story – all in the space of a handful of pages! If this book had been a crummy read up to that point, I’d probably just roll up my eyes and dismiss this book as another ineptly written tale. But the book had been solid all up to that point, so I am now heartbroken instead.