Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86408-9
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Tyler Anderson wants to take over Anderson Adventures, the family video game business, but his father, the big boss of everyone, has reservations. You see, Tyler is very good at designing video games that sell like hot cakes, but that man isn’t exactly what one would call a people person. He can go for days talking only to the family members among the staff, doesn’t know and doesn’t care about staff birthdays and other special days, and such. Now, Tyler has only a few months to prove to his father that he’s capable of leading a company as well as he designs video games, and his father suggests that Tyler hire a PR firm to manage the launch of an upcoming game while he spends more time learning the art of winning over his employees’ hearts. Stepping up to the job is Iris Beharie, a marketing consultant determined to strike out on her own after slaving for one too many stinking no-good employers. You can guess the rest, surely.
The Love Game has one great thing going for it: a competent and smart heroine who can love and do her job without being wildly emotional, crazy, or prone to melodramatic but unnecessary acts of martyrdom. No neurotic issues about the opposite sex or sex itself, capable of forming healthy relationships with people other than the hero, all without the author purposefully making Iris tottering at the edge of bankruptcy or needing to finance sixteen sick siblings just to force her to be with the hero. The romance here takes place because she wants it to happen, and Iris’s behavior in times of crisis are refreshingly cool-headed and sensible. No “he doesn’t trust me – so now I die!” acts of immolation, not for her, thanks.
Unfortunately, the heroine’s competency comes at a cost: the author makes the hero seem like an imbecile at times just to allow the heroine to shine. The trouble with Tyler is that, in all honesty, he is going to be an awful CEO no matter what. He doesn’t understand the need to feed the staff when he summons them to attend a company function that is outside their job scope. He doesn’t see or care about why he needs to take even a little interest in the going-on in his staff members’ lives. There are many entry-level need-to-know basics of running a company that he is clueless about. While this is a great opportunity for the heroine to show him why he’s paying her the big bucks, it also shows me just how awful that man is as a boss. It’s no coincidence that he’s a candidate for taking over the company only because he’s the boss’s son and the company is supposed to stay within the family. There is no chance whatsoever for him to become a boss under any other circumstances.
At any rate, it’s probably not a good idea to have a romance hero who may remind readers of all the stingy, cold, and tightfisted employers they have the misfortune to work for.
The plot is also predictable to a fault. The author isn’t even trying a little to keep things suspenseful – it is obvious from the get go that the heroine’s competitor would cause trouble and the only pretty woman not related to the hero or a friend to the heroine is going to be the villain. About the second thing, the hero keeps comparing the heroine and this wench to find the wench lacking and the heroine having everything in abundance, but the thing is, the hero is finding the same faults in this other wench that are already in him. Basically, Tyler is a pot calling the kettle black, and it’s not an endearing trait. Still, I like the fact that this wench is being all mean and sneaky because she wants power and money, albeit indirectly, rather than because she is jealous of the heroine or other clichéd emotional causes romance authors usually give to female villains.
In the end, The Love Game has a great heroine, clean and easy-to-read narrative, and some good moments. But the plot is predictable and the hero can be a complete dumb-dumb at times. Also, people who knows a thing or two about the PR business would realize that what Iris proposes – her so-called great ideas – are actually basic 101 PR strategies. So, in a way, Iris is that amazing because everyone at Anderson Adventures is apparently a business dumbass. While this does not take away too much from Iris – she is capable and smart, at the end of the day – there is no avoiding the fact that Iris is basically playing against opponents who are below the average when it comes to business savvy. It’s like the Hulk armed with an uprooted telephone pole going against a team of wheelchair-bound senior citizens – even the village idiot would know which team to bet on in this instance. Anyway, this is a readable story, but it could be much better.