Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86400-3
Contemporary Romance, 2015
The guy on the cover of Michelle Monkou’s One to Love is pretty nice to look at, but the hero Jesse Santiago is described as having a “lean, angular pretty-boy face”. Given that the father is sickly and has to take to his bed most of time, I can only wonder who that sexy bloke on the cover is.
In this story, Jesse is a former professional soccer player whose injuries forced him into an early retirement. Is it just me or every other romance hero who wants to take up sports as a vocation end up getting banged up worse than an extra in a B-grade action movie? Anyway, Jesse has just recovered from occupational rehabilitation and, not having anything better to do at the moment, goes back to his hometown of Midway in New York. There, he steps in as the head contractor in the family business while his father recuperates from his illness. Unfortunately, his brother is not too keen to see him, as, in his eyes, Jesse decamped town as soon as he was able, forgot that he had a family when he was busy enjoying his success, and came back only to lie low until he could run off again.
Still, not everything in this town is about sad faces. Jesse’s first gig is to help Belinda Toussaint renovate the facilities of the Dreamweaver Riding Program, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing equine therapy to troubled children. Belinda has the usual problems faced by anyone running a non-profit entity: lack of donations, sponsors pulling out due to tightened budget, that sort of thing. Perhaps it’s fortunate that Jesse has pots and pots of money, heh.
One to Love is a quiet, comfortable story in that there are no evil women, no over the top mother drama, and no parade of sequel baits taking over the story. Belinda and Jesse are two down-to-earth, wonderfully sane and level-headed people who have a connection that feels genuine. Despite the fact that they seem like stereotypes on paper, the author allows them to be a little bit more than that. Belinda feels like an actual person with sensible attitude about men and sex, and she is pretty capable at what she does to. If she has financial woes, it’s because other people are not coughing up the funds, not because she is an incompetent dingbat. Likewise, Jesse feels like a normal guy. No over the top Madonna/whore complex, no crazy attitude about women and dating, no weird commitment issues – just a guy, albeit someone richer than most guys we’d meet in real life. These two feel like normal people falling in love naturally, and I like this.
The end result is a story where the fireworks are generated through a believable romance between two likable characters. While this one won’t get anyone gagging with excitement, it offers a more mellow and sweet kind of romance that has its share of moments.