Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86247-4
Contemporary Romance, 2012
These Arms of Mine is Judy Lynn Hubbard’s first published book, from what I can gather, and unfortunately, it does indeed come off like a debut effort. The premise is ill-conceived and requires a huge suspension of disbelief, and the story is fueled by a deliberate refusal to communicate on both main characters’ part.
Derrick Chandler is a multibillionaire who, predictably enough, has woman issues up the wazoo. His previous marriage went kaput, and his affair with heroine Alesha Robinson went down the drain too. Women! Cannot trust them; just shag them and leave them… you know the song, I’m sure. When the story opens, Alesha approaches Derrick to get him to be lenient to her brother. You see, Derrick is running for a seat in the Senate, and Alesha’s brother helped himself to Derrick’s campaign funds. Oops. In the meantime, Derrick needs a wife, because apparently folks don’t want to vote for him unless he’s a family man. Since Derrick thinks that all women are untrustworthy hags, and of course the most reasonable thing to do to win the electorate over is to pretend that he’s married to Alesha, and naturally people will just buy the fact that he’s suddenly married one fine day, and there will be no repercussions when everyone and his mother learns that the marriage is a hoax, it makes absolute sense for him to blackmail the woman who betrayed him into being his wife of convenience. See? Very sensible plan. Nothing wrong about it at all.
Alesha left Derrick for dramatic reasons that involve noble self-sacrifice and such, and she’s willing to tell Derrick everything at the start of the book, but he just won’t listen. Later, when he’s ready to talk, it’s her turn to refuse to listen. This is a typical pattern of behavior displayed by these two for a long time in this story. This is a good way to prolong the internal conflict, but it’s a very artificial way that makes the hero and the heroine look like idiots.
Now, Kimani is turning into Harlequin Presents, only with black people, and it’s not unexpected to see this plot show up. I could adjust my expectations for this book the same way as I do for Harlequin Presents books, were not for one thing: Derrick is not a Greek billionaire with issues, he’s in fact aspiring to be a Senator. And Mr Senator Wannabe here shows a most charming tendency to perpetuate hoaxes on his own mother as well as other folks just to win a seat. He is also stubborn, thinks poorly of women, and shows questionable political acumen. He also won’t listen to people and he has no compunctions in blackmailing women into having sex with him. Why am I supposed to root for this guy again? By making this hero someone who is embarking a political career, Ms Hubbard turns this story from another Harlequin Presents pastiche into a SOMEONE KILL THIS THING QUICK disaster.
Still, just when this story seems set to crash into the figurative iceberg like the second coming of the Titanic, the author manages to salvage things somewhat by the later half of the book. Here, the hero starts turning into a reasonable fellow and the heroine stops being a whining martyr. They have a tender relationship that is actually pretty sweet and believable considering how badly things started off for them. There are still things that don’t work, mind you. The hero’s political aspirations, which set the plot in motion, take a backseat, which is odd considering how this is such a big deal in the beginning, and the hero, in fact, seems to do nothing but to put the heroine on a pedestal while wondering whether she can love him back like he has fallen for her all over again. On the bright side, this later half of the story has me convinced that the author may pull off some wonderful things in the future.
But that’s the uncertain future. In the present, These Arms of Mine is, sadly enough, a poorly put-together collection of Harlequin Presents tropes, these tropes mired in an implausible plot and ultimately sabotaging the sweet romantic undercurrents. Better luck next time, Ms Hubbard..