Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86243-6
Contemporary Romance, 2012
Tempted by a Carrington is a rather unusual romance novel in that, while it is part of a series, unlike most books-in-a-series, it does not stand alone well at all. I have not read any of the previous books in the series at the time of writing – the previous book was published two years before this one – so do pardon me if I miss out on a thing or two in my synopsis of this story.
When this story opens, Dallas Carrington and Lanier Watson are already in love and, I think, they even broke up for a while before this. Dallas is part of a gorgeous triplet of guys, and he’s naturally wealthy and all that, while Lanier runs an orphanage and has two or three subscriptions worth of issues. Apparently, her parents could give Ike and Tina Turner a run for their money, and these two were also addicted to one substance or the other at various instances, so Lanier lives in fear of becoming like them – a junkie and a bad partner. Everything she did in the past was to convince herself that she might have a chance to be a better person, but now that Dallas is ready to marry her, she panics. Can she bring herself to marry a wealthy, gorgeous, and single bachelor that is willing to put her on a pedestal and buy her all the pretty things in the world? What a tough decision.
As you can tell, the romance has already started long before the first page of this book, which surprises me as Kimani is a category line and they are generally pretty strict about the books following a pretty rigid format and even formula. In this case, though, difference from the norm is not a good thing as this story ends up being more of a heavy-handed “triumph over trauma porn” story than an actual love story.
The love thing is already in motion, so Dallas’s very focused rescue complex when it comes to Lanier often feels rather… creepy, for the want of a better word. He keeps saying that Lanier needs to trust him to take care of her, but it’s pretty clear that he has no similar trust in her ability to keep it together. I mean, he even secretly checks out the houses she is interested in, even before she has a chance to do so herself, for who knows what reason. Maybe he’s worried that there are Satanists waiting in the cellar to capture and sacrifice Lanier to the goat demon? He also constantly discusses with Lanier’s BFF whether the dear can move into her own place, apparently because he’s convinced that the poor dear would simply shatter without his big manly presence holding her upright in this cruel, cruel world.
It’s hard for me to see this romance as healthy when the hero constantly views and treats the heroine like a big victim that needs saving. Still, Dallas gives Lanier her space and allows her to make some decisions for herself, so he’s not that creepy like some self-proclaimed alpha males out there. He’s a suffocating presence, in my opinion, but he knows when to give Lanier her space, so he can be okay sometimes.
Lanier starts out wanting to be a stronger person. Good for her, really! And yet, she spends the rest of the story cowering from the cruel world and whimpering that she would be a horrible partner for Dallas. I know, she has a crappy childhood, but she spends the entire story whipping herself up so much, sedating her for a month would be an act of mercy. As far as I can tell, she wasn’t abused or anything like that, she just witnessed her parents being horrible people, so her self-loathing feels disproportionately and unnecessarily melodramatic. She also actively blames her parents for her dysfunction. Now, she’s right, and I’m glad she doesn’t blame herself for things that she can’t control. But merely blaming other people, without doing something – anything – to overcome her own inner demons only makes her already passive and frustratingly one-dimensional “I whine, I whine, and I whine” character even more annoying to follow.
The characters by themselves are flat. Dallas is basically a trophy penis for Lanier after whining so much about her past – he exists merely to exert his hero complex and become Lanier’s emotional tampon. Lanier’s entire personality is reduced to her issues. She’s basically walking around with a sign on her back that says, “Please don’t hold back when you dump Xanax down my mouth!”
To add to the problems in this story, the author has the heroine running around in a one-woman hysteria meltdown for too long. The girl practically breaks down a few pages before the end, and – most unrealistically – feels better again after hearing some pretty words, in time for the happy ending. I don’t see this happy ending lasting for long – Lanier doesn’t seem emotionally stable enough to be in a long-lasting relationship, and she’d probably self-destruct soon. On the bright side, Dallas could afford to put her into the most expensive loony bin in town, so she’d at least be crazy in a comfortable setting. Thus, there is at least one silver lining in all the exasperating melodrama of Tempted by a Carrington.