Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86344-0
Contemporary Romance, 2014
One of a Kind is the first book in a series revolving around the Meadows family. Michelle Monkou wants to create a series with a 1980s-style soap opera flavor. Think Dallas and Knots Landing, she suggests in the foreword. Honestly, though, I don’t see any similarities here other than the presence of a meddling know-it-all and manipulative matriarch. There is a lack of incest, forced seduction, amnesia, switched babies, and hidden princesses to warrant such a comparison. Maybe in the next few books?
In here, the matriarch is Grace Meadows, who has built and commandeered the family multimillion-dollar business empire. Age is forcing her to go into retirement, and Grace has her granddaughter Dana, our heroine, in mind as her successor. Of course, she just has to hire Kent Fraser, an executive coach, to supervise and evaluate Dana to ensure that Dana is indeed suitable to be the new CEO and president of Meadows Media. Kent is keen to take the job because Meadows Media would be his client with the biggest profile to date, but Dana is not too keen on being graded like some student sitting for the finals. Hasn’t she proven herself enough to her grandmother? Also, Kent is the “sex ’em up, leave ’em quickly” type, as his parents’ divorce left him with the big crybaby syndrome, and his attraction to Dana makes it hard for him to stay professional.
One of a Kind is worth a look if you’re looking for a capable career woman who makes no apologies for her life choices. Dana demonstrates pretty well that she is capable of stepping out of her grandmother’s shadow, and the only reason she hasn’t seems to be because her grandmother is too big a control freak to really let go of the reins. That’s okay, though. While Dana often feels exasperated by her grandmother, the two of them have a realistic relationship based on love and respect. They may not be all hugs and sunshine, but they get along as well as can be. I also like that Dana has a “too busy for love, but she’s had lovers in the past – and that’s no big deal” kind of social life. In many other romance novels, this aspect of her life would leave her jaded and bitter about men, so that she can be “redeemed” by true love. No such thing here, though, and that’s a refreshing change.
Kent is a more familiar character, the player who doesn’t want to be caught because he believes that he would die if he is ever hurt by love, but the author goes some way to make him a little more than the usual stereotype too. Kent’s developing feelings for Dana come with a big dose of confusion, as the big baby doesn’t know what to do with these disturbing feelings he has for her, and I find that pretty amusing.
However, I can’t give One of a Kind a final rating higher than three oogies because the author’s narrative here is flat and mechanical. There are some occasional genuinely amusing exchanges between the two main characters, but a big bulk of the story consists of mechanical “let me tell you, he did this, he thought that… and then she did this, and felt that” kind of narrative that leaves me completely cold and distanced from the story. Despite the potential in the characters and the playful repartee in the more lighter moments of their relationship, the mechanical narrative makes it too easy for me to put the book aside for more interesting diversions. It’s such a pity.