Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86448-5
Contemporary Romance, 2016
No, our heroine Janna Morgan is not a model model here, and given how authors of this line generally treat models like they are the worst examples of human beings to have ever walked the earth, this is a good thing. Janna was an international model, but when the story opens, she prefers to spend her time drumming up support to open an orphanage when she’s not helping out at the bakery. See, the author is doing double-duty to make up for Janna’s sins for being a model – our heroine is now akin to a Miss Universe contestant who is really serious when it comes to her speech.
Model Attraction pairs her back with her old flame, Austin Reynolds. When she and he meet again, he accuses her of being selfish, because she left him behind to pursue a career when they had planned all along that she would postpone her career while he pursued his own ambitions first. She was a heartless sort, clearly, because she didn’t care about the HARM (yes, he uses that word) she caused in other people (read: him). That’s a shame, because Janna would really like to be friends with him again, and maybe let him understand why she had to leave him all those years ago.
On paper, the whole thing sounds like a potentially interesting romance, if I can overlook the hero’s initial irrational outburst, because the heroine is actually a sweet lady with what seems like a level head on her shoulders. She’s earnest about reconnecting with everyone – except for the mother who gave her away when she was a baby – and there is just something about her that I can relate to.
Unfortunately, the author soon plugs in the more overused and played out plot devices that render inert much of the initial earthy, relatable vibe of the story. The whole separation turns out to be a contrived communication breakdown, and I can only roll up my eyes at how tired this development is. Why not just have the heroine gone ahead and pursued her dreams, on her own free will, all those years ago? If Janna has regrets, let it be hers to make – making it a contrivance by a third party only cheapens the whole thing.
Another annoying thing here is the author using various secondary characters who know that Austin is not being very nice to Janna, but still insist on forcing her to get together with him again by hook or by crook. With friends like this, who needs the Ebola virus?
Also, Austin transforms too quickly from Jackass Mule to Prince Charming for me to buy his act. Initially he was really angry at being ditched like that, and he was also jealous in a teeth-gritting manner each time he imagines Janna with hot guys either during a modeling gig or in social events. Perhaps it is a good thing that Janna is putting modeling aside by the end of the book – oh come on, do you expect anything else from a story in this line? – or I can see all kinds of pointless drama between him and her in the future. Interestingly enough, the whole separation being engineered by third parties could have improved his standing, but because I don’t buy his quick transformation, I can only wonder whether his passionate declaration that he probably might have – probably might have, not would have, snort – given up his own dreams to let her pursue hers all those years ago is just lip service at the heat of the moment.
The hero says a lot of nice things later in this story, right down to him wanting to let the heroine pursue her ambitions further while adapting his lifestyle to accommodate this, but once again the author doesn’t go through with this. The heroine doesn’t continue modeling, so Austin never has to prove that he can walk the talk.
Alas, at the end of the day, I can’t buy that this happily ever after is for real. The author takes some short cuts that end up sabotaging the believability of the romance. Still, if you are less cynical than me, and you can buy the hero’s turned-a-new-leaf act, you may enjoy this one far better than I ever could.