Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86462-1
Contemporary Romance, 2016
Jackson Drayson finally gets his ball and chain in Mocha Pleasures, the final book in the Seattle installment of The Draysons: Sprinkled with Love. He’s the free-loving dude that finally meets his match in Grace Nicholas, although he just has to go for the tough one: she’s manages Sweetness, the biggest competitor to Lillian’s, the upscale pâtisserie opened by him and his siblings. The bulk of the story sees him wearing down her defenses, and then it’s dysfunction-o-rama time with the rest of the family as Grace’s father plots and no woman in this story can apparently co-exist without sheer loathing for one another.
Well, on the bright side, the romance is actually pretty good when everything is blissfully and sunny. Despite initially set up to be yet another playboy hero and the ice queen-type heroine respectively, Jackson and Grace turn out to be likable, normal characters whose interactions feel both real and sweet. It is a bit of a hard sell, though, to have Jackson believe that everything will go swimmingly when he’s sleeping with the lady who runs the rival store, or that Grace has so many blinkers over her eyes when it comes to her selfish, control freak father that she doesn’t see his plotting coming from a mile away. This part of the story, designed to usher in the conflict, feels forced and out of character. Still, the characters are A-OK with me and I like that Grace doesn’t completely let Jackson walk all over her. I’m not sure that I like how the trust issues are handled – the author lays all the blame on Jackson’s trust issue on his naughty ex – but there are enough good things to like about this couple.
I can’t really warm up to this story, however, and I have placed the author’s last few releases in the backburner for the same reason: I’m burned out by the constant family dysfunction in her stories that always play out the same way: the men’s problems are all due to the evil women in their past, and women would always be bitches to one another. The author is very fond of putting even the scummiest men on a higher pedestal than her female characters, and it gets to a point where things become very predictable. Jackson has slept with so many women that I don’t think anyone can keep count anymore, but Grace is the “skank”, according to Jackson’s sister. Grace’s father causes a lot of problems, but that’s okay, he feels bad in the end so Grace loves him back again. The Drayson daddy is the nice one, while the mother is of course the vile bigoted hag. It’s the same thing – it’s the same thing with so many of the author’s stories to the point that her stories are becoming very easy to predict.
So, in the end Mocha Pleasures has a nice romance, but it’s held back by the author’s keeping to her favorite script in such a way that I feel like I’ve read this one a few times already from her. I’d like something with a little more kick, if you don’t mind.