Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86444-7
Contemporary Romance, 2016
The Bachelor and the Beauty Queen starts out in such a way that it will probably make certain readers cringe with its… shall we say, quaint old-fashioned values. Stephen Reyes, our loaded hero, accuses Lexi Pendergrass, our hot “Southern beauty” heroine, of being a bad role model that encourages teenage girls everywhere to become sluts and whores. The reason for this is because one of Lexi’s naughtier designs ends up in the hands of Stephen’s 16-year old niece. Apparently she was assaulted while wearing that sexy dress on a night out, and, naturally, it’s because that girl is wearing slutwear (holy cow, the “she asked for it because of what she was wearing” implications) and, thus, Lexi is to be blamed because she is, clearly, the queen of slutwear.
Lexi is horrified because she has no idea how the dress was sold to the girl, and besides, she is ashamed of that dress because it was a reminder of a past that she is not proud of. Yes, this is another story where any hint of sexuality in a woman that is not tightly associated with her true love wagging that sausage at her face is portrayed as something that is just wrong. But he is so hot, so hot, so hot, so she can’t help wanting to be motorboat’ed by that guy bad despite all the things he is saying at her face. I guess when the ovaries are overheating, every nasty word from the hot guy’s mouth registers as: “I will give it to you. Now. Hard. You know you want it. Yeah baby!”
Stephen is still not happy after calling Lexi all kinds of names. Her boutique is ruining the morals of young women everywhere. And since he can’t defecate on the faces of the people who tried to get it on with his pure, innocent niece who was clearly corrupted by Lexi, he will take revenge on her instead. HE WILL DESTROY HER AND HER SHOP!
If you are still with me and have not run screaming in the opposite direction, well, let me assure you that things get a little better after the bizarre events that I’ve described above. A little better – Stephen somehow transforms abruptly into a guy prone to romantic gestures and reenactments of sweet scenes from popular romantic movies once he realizes that he is hot for Lexi and she isn’t that hard to get. However, the rest of the story is still on the rachet side because the author is very liberal in using some of the most obnoxious tropes in most busted ways possible.
A big problem here is the author seems to have no clear direction of the plot she wants to put in this story, so I get what is basically short episodes of big misunderstanding or communication breakdown piled one after another. The whole thing is very annoying because it paints both main characters as rather lacking in the brainpower department.
Stephen isn’t as malicious as the first few chapters may suggest, but he just keeps getting himself into all these situations with evil skanky women that have the heroine and various secondary characters thinking that he’s doing naughty things with them. Also, he is so controlling over his three nieces, whom he has guardianship over, to the point where I actually feel sorry for the girls. I’m not surprised that the eldest is trying her best to emulate Lindsay Lohan. Such helicopter parenting style is never healthy.
Lexi is another “Oh, I’m so beautiful, it is a curse because I get groped by creepy men all the time so now I believe I can never be loved!” mad cow moron who spends a lot of time moaning and moping that people think of her as a whore when she’s actually a really good girl who is just misunderstood. The whole “the heroine is the Madonna, every beautiful woman who is in competition with the heroine is the whore” complex is off the charts here, so readers who are allergic to that kind of thing may want to fortify themselves with vitamins and alcohol before they tackle this story. Our heroine also can’t make any decision without entering hand-wringing crisis mode, so I get exhausted and annoyed following this lady after a while.
Oddly, or perhaps not as I am not a Southern belle so I may be missing the point completely, the story is very pro-beauty pageant, which means I get this contradictory notion of Stephen being OK with beauty pageants but not okay with anything else that hints of women showing skin to attract rapists and moral corruption. I have to buy this concept that a beauty pageant isn’t about objectification, but in fact, a wholesome celebration of everything nice and sunny – it can even reform wayward whores-in-training, hallelujah. Okay, I can buy all that… if the rest of the story isn’t so bent on shaming women who aren’t Lexi, who also show skin and want to get down with the hero. Something doesn’t feel right here, the whole thing feels off, but like I’ve said, maybe this is something only beauty pageant enthusiasts from the South can understand and appreciate.
Anyway, The Bachelor and the Beauty Queen has a premise that may be polarizing, but its actual biggest issue is its lazy reliance on the most obnoxious tropes to keep the whole thing going. The heroine is annoying, the hero could be smarter and less of a control freak, and the brats can just die, along with all those use-free cheerleading secondary characters that, for some reason, will insist that the heroine should keep putting out to the hero even when the heroine is feeling humiliated and hurt by what she perceives as the latest betrayal by Stephen. All in all, this one is just ugh from start to finish.