Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86491-1
Contemporary Romance, 2017
People, if you are bored of stilted conversations, constant telling with little showing, overcrowding of secondary characters that exist only to star in future books, and boring love scenes that are basically slot A being fit into tab B before everyone falls asleep, perhaps Reese Ryan’s Playing with Desire is worth a look. Sure, it’s another story of very wealthy and beautiful people having angst that their money and looks can’t fix, but let’s be honest here, love is a hundred times sweeter when nobody has to worry about paying next month’s bills or losing those extra pounds in order to lower the blood sugar. And as romantic fantasies go, this one is one of the more interesting books in this line to come my way.
And just as interestingly, the plot is actually one of the most basic. Boy meets girl, they have a great time, and then those annoying feelings creep in and complicate things. Liam Westbrook is from a wealthy family that makes lots of money from their luxury resorts all over the world, and he just wants to have fun. Maya Alvarez is the goody-goody time who single mom of two who also volunteers, loves kids, the usual, and she’s just trying to let her hair down for a while. He has some mild angst, she has some too, and of course, by the end they walk off into the sunset for a happily ever after. There’s nothing new in that, but the author makes the whole thing feel vibrant, fun… even exciting and erotic.
Oh yes, that sexy thing bit. This one isn’t too explicit in the sexual shenanigans, although it is still a little hotter than the usual, typical offering in this line. I mean, I can count in one hand the number of regular authors in this line that push the heat up above lukewarm to “Oh my, is the air conditioner not working as usual?” but if this is an example of what the author usually offers, I think I can add her name to the list. While the erotic scenes are nowhere near the levels of a typical erotic romance, the erotic tension can cut like a knife, and this tension makes the more sensual moments seem even more intense and sexy as a result.
The characters are in many ways the usual cookie-cutter types, but the author manages to make them work. It’s the combination of relatable feelings, such as the confusion and nervous anticipation one feels after a night with the other person he or she is attracted to, and conversations that generate believable chemistry and rapport. Oh, and with some vulnerabilities well balanced with likable traits in both Maya and Liam, and a nice mix of humor and more serious emotional moments tossed in as well. The recipe makes for a tasty read – the funny moments work, as do the more tender as well as more serious ones.
Therefore, while I can’t say much about the plot – it’s basic and simple – I can certainly say a lot about how this book works for me. I’m taking one oogie off the final score, though, because I feel that the author could have ended the story right after the second to last sentence in the last chapter. Everything after that – the last line and the subsequent epilogue – is unnecessarily sentimental and… well, just unnecessary in every way. The author spends paragraphs after paragraphs elaborating on the moment when these two would embark on a happily ever after, and the perfect high built at the end of that second to last sentence quickly evaporates.
Still, that’s just a small matter. Playing with Desire hits all the right spots so well for the most part, so I’m all for it.