Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86357-0
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Harmony Evans’s Loving Laney closes the multi-author series The Browards in Montana, although there is always a possibility that there will be a spin-off in California, Georgia, or whatever some time in the future. This is actually the best written of the lot. The double standards and misogyny in the previous two books are still present here, but at least they do feel like an organic part of the story, unlike the previous two books where the authors seem to be going through the motions – slut shaming, check; cosmetic-use shaming; check, double standards, check. Therefore, Loving Laney is merely a story with core values that may or may not go down well with the reader, rather than an awkwardly written story going out of its way to cater to a certain demographics with a certain mindset in the most lumbering manner possible.
Unfortunately, this is also a story where the conflict hinges on one half of the couple going from one extreme end to another when it comes to mood swings as she – it’s the heroine who’s doing the swinging here – takes pretty much the entire book deciding whether or not to trust the hero. Trust issues seem to be a common theme in all three books in this series, but in this particular story, there is a baby involved, so the heroine Laney Broward often comes off as selfish and even horrifyingly self absorbed, and the baby seems like a mere pawn in her quest to prove to the world that she is the most neurotic cow in the land.
Laney has recently won a gold medal in the Olympics equestrian event, so I guess that makes her “world-class athlete”. Personally, I believe we should give the medals to the horses, since they do most of the work, but that’s probably just me. Anyway, Laney has to be very careful with her reputation, because a single indiscretion is all it takes to ruin her career forever. This is why, after disapproving of her friends’ open lusting after horse breeder Austin Johns in a party, she finds herself dancing with him and he’s so hot that she can’t control herself and, therefore, spreads out like the smoothest peanut butter all over him. On the first meeting. Yes, she’s really holding on to that gates-shut-tight reputation alright.
Realizing that people may now mistake her for all those harlots her brothers unhappily consorted with before they found their pure and selfless saints to breed on, Laney spends most of the time publicly expressing her regret and disgust over the fact that she liked a hot guy and went to bed with him like only an immoral harlot would. Worse, despite the fact that they supposedly used protection, she is now pregnant. After four months of gestating the plot device, she realizes that the bump would show and she can’t hide her baby of shame any longer. Alas, before she can come clean to her family, the tabloids pick up on her leaving her gynecologist and speculate openly on her reason for visiting that place.
Austin comes knocking at her door. He wants to be a part of the baby’s life, and if the baby is proven to be his, he’s willing to work out something with her. He likes her, maybe they can even have a go at establishing an actual relationship. He’s handsome, loaded, and seems reasonable in this instance. He doesn’t have a drinking habit, doesn’t gamble, doesn’t beat his girlfriends. So what’s the problem here?
Lainey doesn’t want him to have anything to do with her baby. At all. That’s basically the plot for the bulk of this story. The hero has to find ways to get to her and convince her to let him into her life. This kind of premise can work, but only if the heroine has valid reasons to keep putting up a wall – reasons that don’t make her seem like a moody child throwing a temper tantrum. In this story, however, Lainey’s reasons change depending on the chapter. Sometimes she insists that she wants to be fully independent with no man in her life, even as she at the same time wails that she has no idea how to raise a child on her own. Sometimes she wails that she regrets sleeping with Austin so… I don’t know, being a single mother is some kind of penance for her indiscretion? At other moments, she can’t be with Austin because she thinks that he doesn’t love her. Or that he’s a newcomer and she can’t trust him not to sneak up to her family and somehow sell off their properties from under their noses. Not once does the emotional needs of the baby factor in her oscillating moods, therefore making Lainey seem like a spoiled and selfish brat stomping her foot because there is a surprise baby on the way and her family think that she’s some kind of whore.
Speaking of that, this story has the same kind of unfortunate implications that is present in previous books, specifically in how the sexuality of women is portrayed versus that of men. Lainey’s success forces her onto some kind of moral pedestal, to an unrealistic point where having a relationship with Austin can apparently threaten her career and cause her medal to be pulled back from her. Instead of hiring lawyers or something to fight back the rumors, Lainey just acts hysterical and has to rely on the big strong men in her family to think for her. However, her successful brothers can swing their pee-pees whichever direction they want, and these guys even want to pimp their widower grandfather out to lovely ladies because that man has been alone for a long time. And yet, Lainey can’t sleep with anyone without everyone (including herself) judging and second guessing her moral. Also, the men in this story talk about how so many women in this world just want money and fame – so shallow and greedy, how disgusting – so it is so hard to find a good woman to marry.
I don’t know why we need this “every woman out there is so morally bankrupt” thing in this entire series. The stories would have been just fine without all this nonsense. Worse, the men that are doing the judging of women are the town bicycles themselves, who have no problems sleeping with women and then condemning those women for being so morally loose as to sleep with these men. And these books are written by women! Based on concepts conceived by female editors!
Anyway, back to Loving Lainey. It’s basically a story of a childish sourpuss who likes to imagine herself to be morally superior when she puts out on barely an hour into meeting a guy, deliberately subjecting herself to double standards and rules that even the hero doesn’t believe in, without any concern about the well being of the baby she is carrying. This book has basically every unpleasant trope and plot device to make me wonder why I read these books sometimes. All that’s missing to make the experience sweeter is a herpes infection.