Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86242-9
Contemporary Romance, 2012
I’m not sure how to give a synopsis of AlTonya Washington’s Pleasure After Hours, which seems to be an actual standalone Kimani title (I know, how rare that is indeed), as somewhat ironically, it is structured like it’s part of an actual series.
Just like the other characters in this one, hero Mataeo North and heroine Temple Grahame already have an established relationship by the time the story opens – she’s his assistant. He may be the dynamic owner of a shipping company, but everyone knows he relies on Temple for everything from business leads to selecting his tie for an evening gala. You can argue that it makes a lot of sense for him to marry her, and that’s basically the story here: they eventually fall in love. Don’t expect any subtlety or organic emotional development here, though: secondary characters show up here mostly to gush non-stop about how perfect Mataeo and Temple are together, beating the reader in the head non-stop about how she should totally be riding first class on his cruise ship.
Why do these two take so long then to hook up? Well, there are pages to fill, you know. Hence, expect detailed descriptions and conversations on unimportant day-to-day activities of the rich and dull, as there are always places to go and people to talk to for our hero and heroine. Does the author imagine that I have nothing else more interesting to do than to follow these people as they go through boring rich people antics? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the only rich people that are fun to follow are the trashy ones that embarrass themselves on a daily basis. Here, Temple is flawless and brimming with superlatives, and she is so hot that men practically surround her to drool every time she walks into a room. That’s not a hyperbole, by the way. Mataeo is a generic rich black dude hero typical of a Kimani story – don’t ask me how he stands out from the rest, because he doesn’t. As a result, our hero and heroine are flat and uninteresting, and things get even more boring when I’m treated with scenes after scenes of other characters gushing about how awesome these two are. Learning how to say “Boring!” in 40 different languages would be a far more enjoyable activity compared to reading this thing.
While I kind of expect it from a romance novel, I should also point out some iffy treatment of women in general here. For one, Temple is so awesome and astute when it comes to running a business… and yet she remains an assistant to Mataeo instead of running her own successful company. Why is this? Of course, the real answer is that romance heroines aren’t supposed to have bigger gonads, CV, or bank accounts than romance heroes – not sexy or romantic, I suppose – but this just makes Temple come off as lacking in ambition. Also, most characters say that she is perfect for Mataeo and vice versa because of how she can be an asset to him. In other words, the woman serves the man a useful purpose, and she is rewarded by money, sex, and I guess support from the husband. Thing is, she doesn’t need Mataeo, as she is smart and talented enough to find success and financial stability on her own, so this very premise comes off as a few dozen steps backwards when it comes to the portrayal of the modern, independent woman.
Also, our hero becomes an asshole during the last few pages, insisting that Temple needs to quit her job to be his wife (read: the decorative type), in order to spare her from being the subject of people speculating that she slept her way to the top. Thing is, given how the author has built up the heroine as the most awesome thing since sliced bread, anyone who thinks that she has to sleep her way to the top is probably dumb and their opinion should be ignored with extreme prejudice. Hence, the hero doesn’t come off as reasonable here, just a chauvinist twat showing his true colors at the last minute.
Oh, and the only person who doesn’t think that Temple is all that is a creep of a man. Of course.
All in all, Pleasure After Hours is a very dull read of boring and flat characters designed to be perfect in all ways, with the added bonus of iffy relationship dynamics permeating the whole thing.