Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86438-6
Contemporary Romance, 2016
I can only wonder whether there had been some kind of secret meeting among Kimani authors, one in which everyone agrees that modeling ranks down there in the list of acceptable and respectable occupations, in the same level as drug dealers and pornographers. This is because Surrender at Sunset is the… oh, I’ve lost count, but it’s the latest in so, so many books in this line in which models are depicted as insincere, ambitious, opportunist skanks who just want the hero for the money or the publicity he brings along with his, uh, everything else. The obvious exception is when the heroine is a model, and even then, the heroine would announce to all that she doesn’t diet, put on too much make-up, or subject herself to cosmetic surgery. I’d think a hot and sexy woman who doesn’t have to diet or exercise to look the way she does would be even more hateful to the average reader, when compared than a woman who puts in some work to be happy and confident with her appearance, but that’s why I’m here and not in charge of this line.
Sorry, I have to get that out of my chest. Despite the eye-rolling barbs at models being the downfall of humanity, this one is actually a ridiculously fun story. Jamie Pope isn’t a new author, by the way, she also writes as Ginger Jamison and Sugar Jamison.
The plot isn’t anything amazing on paper. Baseball superstar Carlos Bradley’s blaze of glory was cut short by an injury that was worsened by his efforts to take short cuts in the healing process to get back to playing ASAP. He now broods in his luxurious mansion in Hideaway Island, just off the coast of Florida, tended only by a cleaner and a groundskeeper. His sister would like to use the place to hold her upcoming wedding, however, and he dotes on his family, so he manages to find time from his perpetual sulking to call in a designer to spiff up the place into an appropriate degree of glory.
Virginia Andersen is a bohemian kind of lady – she fancies art and the men who dabble in it, much to the despair of her more straight-laced parents. Virginia’s mother, especially, is the kind of lady who will offer the most demoralizing “advice” and “suggestions” in the name of concern, and Virginia has decided to show them that she can make it out there on her own as a creative entrepreneur. Her design agency is not exactly soaring out of the gates, however, so when a baseball legend like Carlos calls her and tells her that he’d like to hire her, she understandably assumes that she’s being set up by her twin brother. She says some rather… uh, inappropriate things about his taut behind and sex life, while asking for a chauffeur to take her to Hideaway Island and a champagne basket to greet her upon her arrival. Imagine her surprise when a chauffeur shows up at the designated time the next morning…
Yes, Surrender at Sunset is another “sad dour guy getting cheered up by a Miss Sunshine type” story, and it is set in a big house too. But the story turns out to a charming, whimsical tale, thanks to the chemistry between two characters who turn out to be more likable than I expected.
Virginia is sassy, but instead of the irritating kind of “sassy”, she is the fun sort. I find myself grinning along with her as she just runs her mouth. Somehow, our heroine is more likable, even human, in the way she does things. While the author tries to whitewash Virginia’s love life a bit – I suppose there are still readers out there at this day and age that make the sign of the cross when they come across a heroine with a love life prior to meeting the hero – the fact that the heroine does have one, and isn’t sorry about it or is made to suffer for it is all the more refreshing to come across. Even her relationship with her parents, especially her mother – which on paper seems like another tired rehash of an overused trope – feels more real than played out, as the mother’s behavior often comes across as something a mother with no self-awareness can inflict on her children. Virginia’s parents aren’t cartoon evil, they are just… god, so bloody annoying. I’m sure many folks can relate to that, heh.
Like Virginia. Carlos may seem like another tired old cliché at first, but he soon turns out to be a charming. Sure, he can be a bit childish at times, but for some reason, that only adds to how adorable he can be. It’s quite scary how easily the author can manipulate my feelings with her way with words and chuckle-inducing sense of humor, I tell you. He has solid chemistry with Virginia, I adore the two of them together. It takes a while for him to sort out his feelings, but when that guy falls, he falls really hard. I also like how he may have had an exciting love life, let’s just say, prior to meeting the heroine, but he harbors very little misogyny or Madonna/Whore complex. I like how his falling for Virginia is something that comes naturally, rather than a result of Virginia not being like “those skanks” or other weird complex on his part.
I suppose, in the hands of another author. I’d find the last third or so of this book a bit rushed, as conflict after conflict pop up in consecutive succession. But here, I just go along because I’m all about seeing these two get a happily ever after. A part of me still wonders whether this two can last, since she doesn’t seem to like the limelight that she’d be thrust into just by being Carlos’s girlfriend, but a bigger part of me is telling me, “Oh, just go along! You adore these two!”
Oh, I’ll just go along. Surrender at Sunset is too adorable for words, and I’m quite dismayed when I reach the last page and realize that I’d have to read something else next.