Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86517-8
Contemporary Romance, 2017
Another romance novel-friendly event to celebrate, another Kimani duology featuring Nana Malone and some author probably picked by pulling a name out of a jar. Never Christmas without You is, of course, dished out for readers to give the publisher and the two authors some reasons to start 2018 with joy. If only reading this thing is as joyous an experience.
Nana Malone’s entry, Just for the Holidays, has a lively bounce to the narrative, the conversations flow smoothly, and the humor works. Three things that are increasingly rare in the Kimani imprint, so technically, this story is a reason to celebrate. But it has an idiot plot that the author can’t make work no matter how many times the characters keep telling me how dumb the plot is. When Justin Morrison’s beloved grandmother ends up in hospital due to low blood pressure, he feels guilty about having told a white lie to her a while back about having a girlfriend. You see, the grandmother is obsessed with Justin siring many, many, many brats, and if she realizes that her beloved grandson’s penis is not mightily discharging the seed of the Morrison dynasty into fecund wombs on a regularly basis, she’d probably go to her grave a heartbroken old bag. Hence, Justin needs to have a fake girlfriend come the holidays to placate Granny. He asks his BFF Alex Winters – a woman, so don’t get too excited – to be his fake girlfriend, and the usual shenanigans follow.
Justin and Alex are fun characters with chemistry that works, but they really deserve a better plot. The one here doesn’t work, no matter how many times the author tries to nudge me in the side and acknowledge the silliness of it all. Telling me that yes, the author is aware that the whole thing is ridiculous doesn’t negate the fact that the story remains ridiculous. I’d prefer the author do more to make the story work, but instead, Ms Malone resorts to putting in conflicts that are resolved by the very wealthy Justin basically waving his money around.
Oh, and because it is apparently mandatory for Kimani stories to portray all women who are not the heroine or the female family members of the hero and the heroine as whores, Justin tells Alex that one of the reasons that he loves her is because she doesn’t wear make-up and hair extensions, and yet still manage to look like Rihanna at any time of the day. In other words, we women are all screwed and undeserving of love because even Rihanna needs her professional stylist and what not to look the way she does. No, worse, we women are “smoke and mirrors” because we use make-up and what not. This “Let’s us settle into a loveless life of an old maid and read Kimani romances to feel better!” message is brought to you by Nana Malone and Harlequin, just in time for the holiday season, giving a new misogynistic meaning to the whole “Ho, ho, ho!” of Christmas.
Reese Ryan’s His Holiday Gift is the hero Dash Williams’s magical sperm that manages to fertilize Mikayla Mitchell’s supposedly barren womb because, as we all know, if we don’t pop out a brat, it’s a sign from the gods that what we have with our partner is never true love, and chances are, we’re the whore in our Kimani romance and our partner will eventually find his one true love after we’re killed in a car accident or something.
But first, Dash impregnated Mikayla’s stepsister. Don’t worry, Jace was like, oh my god, what a bitch, and she died. After raising the brat for a while (Jace didn’t tell Dash about that thing), she decides to let Dash know of the brat’s existence when he comes back to town. Drama ensues, all of them so contrived that the characters – especially Mikayla – appear to have the emotional maturity of a ten-year old. Mikayla knows that Jess was a slatternly bitch of the year, but she of course believed that now-dead ho when that ho told her that Dash is a terrible person. Dash comes off as shallow and one-dimensional – he only wants Mikayla now because she has grown big breasts and become thicc – and his thought process suggests that his small head is more in control of his entire life compared to the big one. The drama is due to communication breakdown, wrong assumptions, and other painful, contrived stuff that makes my head hurt.
And perhaps readers who have problems conceiving may want to avoid the epilogue, when Mikayla realizes that her so-called barren womb has been bastered by Dash’s magical sperm, and she actually says then, “We’re perfect”. The clear implication here is that a childless couple will always be imperfect. It’s not something I’d personally include in a Christmas story, as it’s very insensitive to people who have problems conceiving as well as couples who choose not to have children, but hey, maybe this is the author’s way to tell those couple to make haste and start copulating so that a magic baby can pop up by Christmas in the following year. Or something.
The first story will get three oogies from me, the second one a generous “Never this nonsense without Christmas, indeed!” one oogie, so rounding that up and taking the average, Never Christmas without You gets a two-oogie score.