Kimani, $6.50 , ISBN 978-0-373-86503-1
Contemporary Romance, 2017
I wasn’t enamored of Carolyn Hector’s previous offerings – and that’s me putting it nicely – so The Beauty and the CEO is a pleasant surprise. While this story isn’t anything out of the ordinary, much of it is put together very well, with a coherence and structure that were nowhere seen in the author’s previous books.
The plot isn’t anything new, as it is another familiar tale of a heroine doing her best to impress the boss, while at the same time being so hot that he can barely keep in his pants 24/7. Fortunately, the whole thing is never as creepy as it seems, although the hero Will Ravens does judge the heroine Zoe Baldwin by her appearance during their first interview (verdict: hot enough to be an unsuitable candidate, because hiring her would mean that he can’t show her that amazing baloney in his pants – his personal rule) and some readers may not like that. Me, I’m sort of okay with some of this – the judging by her looks thing is alright with me because Zoe is applying for the Creative Designs Director position at a cosmetics company. She’s bound to be judged by how she puts on makeup on herself and all that. The rest, well, I chalk it up to the author trying hard to make the hero all alpha and manly in a “He’s so hot and powerful, he doesn’t care about rules because every woman on the planet squeals in excitement when he sexually harrasses them!” oh-so-romance-novel way.
Zoe’s bold style doesn’t appeal to Will’s more conservative tastes. but working at Ravens Cosmetics, the first and most successful black-owned cosmetics company in America, has always been her dream. Therefore, she is going to prove to him that she has what it takes by helping a beauty pageant participant come out on top in an upcoming pageant. Doing so means that she is going to be in close proximity to Will considerably, and you can guess what happens next, I’m sure.
There are many unexpected good things about this story. Zoe is genuinely capable at her job, which is nice, and while Will is a another generic rich player hero in the Kimani line, he turns out to be okay after the initial “If he hires her, she would be out of bounds from his rogering!” nonsense. The chemistry is believable, the conversations and banters feel natural instead of stilted, and the pacing is solid with no obvious-seeming filler moments or too-intrusive sequel-baiting. Thus, even if the story isn’t anything new or remarkable, it is a very pleasant and even enjoyable read. Considering my reaction to the author’s previous books, I’d take that as a great thing. Furthermore, I like how the author isn’t afraid to let Zoe not steamroller any adversity in her way, and even making her setbacks part of her character arc.
On the other hand, this story also has some cringe-inducing unkind statements about women who wear makeup, women who don’t, women who are hotter than Zoe and therefore pure whore, women who aren’t as hot as Zoe and therefore pure desperation… All this cattiness won’t be so bad if it were done in a bitchy, humorous way, or if Zoe were portrayed as a self-professed fashion critic who revels in her bitchiness, but Zoe is supposed to be a nice lady. Therefore, the cattiness feels really out of place, as if it is the result of the author’s own immersion-breaking interjection of her own issues about beautiful women into her story. The author isn’t even making a good point about, say, the shallowness of the beauty industry. The take home message here is that, if you are a woman who is in any position to be in competition with the heroine, then you are either a whore or a desperate hag – no inbetween. Too hot, not hot enough – it doesn’t matter, for as long as you are not Zoe Baldwin, you’re a deficient, wanting female character.
But then again, portraying other women in a poor light to beef up the heroine’s worthiness is nothing new in the Kimani line, so it’s hard to tell whether all this cattiness is a misfire or just the author walking the party line.
Anyway, when taken as a novel in its own right, The Beauty and the CEO is a readable but rather average story. Compared to Carolyn Hector’s past offerings, however, it is a revelation. I’m now really interested to find out what her next book is going to be like.