Arabesque, $15.00, ISBN 1-58314-616-4
Contemporary Romance, 2005
Rather pretentiously subtitled Black Men Share Romantic Tales of Love And Lust, Slow Motion is actually nothing more complicated than an omnibus edition comprising the debut efforts of Wayne Jordan and Devon Vaughn Archer for Harlequin’s Kimani line. This book serves as an introduction to the Kimani imprint of romances written by male authors. If you follow the online romance scene, you may know Wayne Jordan as the webmaster of Romance in Color, a romance novel news and reviews website devoted to African-American romances. His making a debut in publication has me intrigued enough to give this book a try.
Mr Jordan’s story is Capture the Sunrise, a rather melodramatic story dripping with too many clichés for its own good. Taurean Buchanan is our hero (don’t worry, his brothers Cancerian and Sagittaurian will get their books next) who takes some much-needed R&R away from the rest of the world in his brother’s cottage in an isolated but paradise-like location in Barbados. After a death of close family member, Taurean needs some much-needed escape from the aftermaths of that event. However, his sister-in-law has at the same time granted the use of the cottage to her friend, our heroine Alana Smyth-Connell who is trying to escape an abusive ex-husband with her daughter Melissa in tow. Alanna and Melissa literally reach the cottage during a thunderstorm and Taurean is awakened, literally and figuratively, from his slumber by the sounds of Melissa crying during the thunderstorm. I’m just glad that Mr Jordan manages to refrain himself from going further with the whole cliché ballgame, like having Melissa fall into a river and having Taurean to call a loyal dog to jump into the river and swim against the torrential rapids to save poor wee Melissa.
Conveniently enough, it’s the Crop Over Festival time in Barbados so Alanna can’t find any vacant hotel room to move herself and her daughter into. Even if Taurean wants nothing more than to be left alone, the two ladies can’t go anywhere (and Taurean probably doesn’t have the heart to book the two of them on the first first-class flight to somewhere just as nice, like, say Tahiti, I suppose). Predictably, Melissa does that eek-eek cute-cute helpless-ee-ee thing that has her getting under Taurean’s skin and arousing his protective instincts while Alanna will do her can’t-trust-hunks must-protect-daughter oh-I’m-in-trouble thing to get under Taurean’s skin and arouse a different kind of instinct in that man. Of course, Alanna’s ex-husband is waiting for a chance to get back at her. I wonder how this story will turn out.
All I can say is that I’ve read this story and encountered the main characters many times before in different stories, although I can’t say that all those stories attempt to pack so many clichés into one kitchen sink before like Mr Jordan here attempts to do. Despite some obvious debut-author roughness around the edges in Mr Jordan’s writing style, however, I do find enough of a glimmer here or a hint there in his story that, given time and experience, he could one day find his own style and incorporate more of his individual voice and creativity into his stories. But for the time being, Capture The Sunrise is too predictable for its own good. The prose can be a little too much sometimes with the melodramatic imagery and all. Sometimes, Mr Jordan’s melodramatic style works very well to give an otherwise pretty silly scene a touch of poignancy, such as the scene where Taurean watches Alanna as she sleeps on the beach one evening shortly after they’ve met. Sometimes, his style makes me want to check my blood sugar level because I’m sure I’m going into sugar shock anytime now, especially whenever Melissa is in a scene. One day, when Mr Jordan manages to come into his own as a writer, he may be someone to watch and whose works to follow.
Devin Vaughn Archer’s Dark and Dashing also suffers from the big problem that plagues Mr Jordan’s story: it’s very familiar and Mr Archer’s treatment of the same old is as uninspired as the very nature of these overused clichés. I’m not familiar at all with this author’s mystery and nonfiction works written under the name R Barri Flowers, so all I can say is that I am pretty surprised at how choppy and uneven the writing is, considering that Mr Archer is a published author with many books published in several genres. Perhaps he is just unfamiliar with the conventions of the romance genre? This could explain why he ends up committing a big boo-boo: the irrationally distrusting and near-hysterical heroine that sees me wishing that she’d get jabbed hard with an elephantine dose of sedatives.
Our heroine Conneca Sheridan is nice enough to let her seaside resort the Sheridan Seaside Inn (our heroine is pretty creative, as you can see from the name of her establishment) to be used to hold a child literary charity function where the main event is a charity auction featuring hunks on the block. Conneca doesn’t trust men, especially cute ones, for the same old reasons, but she ends up accidentally placing the highest bid for a date with hottie author Maurice Templeton. She ends up meeting Maurice for a date where he becomes bewilderingly smitten with this throwback to some 1980’s Harlequin Mills and Boon shrewish hysterical monster of a dingbat heroine. Even when Conneca goes into overreaction mode whenever Maurice wants to play, he tracks her down to her seaside resort and books a room just to be close to her. Just when Conneca starts to succumb to his attentions, his ex-wife, who is also his co-author, shows up in a display of timing that can only be attributed to an author overplaying his hand when it comes to being not-so-subtle in introducing plot contrivances in his story. I wish I can say that Conneca is rational enough to take a step back and evaluate the situation, but Conneca here doesn’t do that rational thing.
It doesn’t help that Mr Archer actually has the two main characters spending as much time apart as they are together, and those times apart see them over-analyzing their situation to the point that it seems to me that these two are falling in love with a fantasy rather than the actual person they are going to spend the rest of their lives with. Conneca is already an annoying dingbat, so the only way this story will work is to have Maurice spending more time with her, either to help her grow a clue or to beat her senseless with a shoe. The ex-wife thing only serves to wedge the characters apart even further, to the point that those two still barely know each other when they decide to smooch and make babies.
Mr Archer may be a more experienced author, but I’m afraid I would remember Mr Jordan’s story more than his at the end of the day. That isn’t saying much, unfortunately, since both stories try so hard to replicate as many romance stories that were ever written and will be written as possible to the point that the only thing new about these stories is the novelty factor of the authors of these books being men.