Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86504-8
Contemporary Romance, 2017
When I read the synopsis at the back cover of Tempo of Love – reporter heroine wanting a scoop from the hero – cynical old me immediately think, “Oh, let’s see, she goes undercover, gets under his covers, they fall in love, she screws up and he discovers that she is a journalist, he kicks her out, she resigns to prove her integrity, and they live happily ever after.” What? That’s how every other romance story with this premise ends up being!
I’m happy to report that I am wrong about the heroine getting undercover. Nona Gregory is upfront from the get go that she wants the scoop from architect Ken Yamada. The rest, well… but hey, I’d take what I can get!
Ken is a reclusive, oh so mysterious architect that recently bought the Grand Pearl, a historic building that was once the only black theater during the segregation era in Charlotte, North Carolina, so understandably Nona’s editor wants an article on whom this person is and what his intentions with that building are. Ken has good plans, by the way, so don’t worry about the place being converted into a mall or something. But his family has some skeletons in the closet, skeletons that he’d prefer to keep in there if he has his way, so initially he isn’t keen to talk about anything more than just his job and his ambitions to Nona. But those two eventually become closer, he shares his story with her with the condition that it’d just be between them, and you know she’d mess up and those “top secret” things will end up in print eventually. Oops!
Now, one thing I have to hand to Kianna Alexander is that the entire story, while not exactly original, is handled in an intelligent manner. These characters talk as easily that they steam up the bedroom, so when the inevitable denouement shows up, it is resolved in a mature manner instead of people screaming at one another or the heroine dramatically making a martyr out of herself to make a point. Both the hero and the heroine appear to be rational adults who are not afraid of admitting that they may have screwed up and they would need to get advice from other people on how to make things right. I like that. It bodes well for the believability of the happy ending.
Unfortunately, I find myself wincing as I come across numerous conversations that are clearly just exposition dump, with characters elaborating on things that they should all know already. For example, early on Ken will talk about his plans to his personal assistant. Come on, she’s been employed by him for a while now, and I’m told that she’s very reliable and he can count on her. Am I supposed to believe that he has never shared with her what he wants to do with the Grand Pearl all this while? The author could have saved all that information for his conversation with Nona – that would make more sense. Sure, I’d have to wait a while for the information, but what’s the harm in waiting? It is fine if I learn of things gradually as I turn the pages – there is no rule saying that everything has to be laid out for me within the first few chapters. Many other scenes are like this: long-time friends talking about things that they should know by heart by now, Nona explaining to her editor how she works (come on), et cetera. There are enough scenes of this sort to make this story a pretty bumpy ride. They make the story seem artificial and fake, as if the characters are just pretending to be BFFs, family members, or colleagues and they really hadn’t met prior to page one.
Oh, and I find it amusing that the author has Ken about not wanting to be an Asian stereotype only to have him do that Kendo thing. Not that I am offended, mind you, I’m just tickled by how, despite everything, Asian guys still has to have a hobby that involves some kind of martial prowess. If we want to break stereotypes completely, and we want Ken to have a hobby that allows him to flex those sexy muscles, how about, oh, parkour or something?
On the other hand, while they aren’t too explicit, the sex scenes are pretty hot. That doggy style thing in the office, especially. Who says Asian men can’t be sexy?
Anyway, Tempo of Love could have been a solid, smart take on an admittedly well-trod story line if the author hadn’t relied so much on cringeworthy exposition dump conversations that end up making everyone involved in those scenes look awkward. A shame, really. Maybe next time?