Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86424-9
Contemporary Romance, 2015
The cover of Kianna Alexander’s This Tender Melody looks very nice at a glance, but a second look will reveal that the person who designed it had merely pasted the couple on the stairs over the landscape of that big Southern-style house with a fake-looking lawn, without making any additional effort to make sure that the result looks less… well, pasted together. The whole “Seems alright at a glance, but upon a closer look…” feel also extends to the story. Everything seems fine at first, as long as I don’t think too hard. And when I do, things fall apart pretty quickly.
Eve Franklin has always worked hard to prove to her parents that she can step in and become the new CEO of the family business, Franklin Technologies, Incorporated. However, her father decides to nominate another person to take over instead, much to Eve’s anger. In a way, I can see where the father is coming from: the man he has in mind, Darius Winstead, has a track record of being successful in going outside the box and initiating things that would only bring in more money to the company, while Eve is more of a capable book-smart sort that has never proven herself to be anything more than a competent person who plays by the book. However, when I think more about this, I find it hard to believe that the CEO of a huge company like FTI could just nominate a new CEO without going through this whole selection process with board members and other stakeholders, and it is even harder to believe that someone who ranks as high in the upper management as Eve would remain ignorant of the effort to bring in Darius as the new CEO until the last minute. It’s like she’s being blackballed by her colleagues, so what gives?
Darius and Eve bumped into one another prior to them meeting rather awkwardly again in the boardroom when he is introduced to her as the new CEO, and Darius, after knowing that Eve is not pleased with him being CEO in her place, does the first thing that any sane person would in his shoes: he comes on to Eve. Is he mad? If Eve really wants the CEO post that badly, I can imagine that a slapping sexual harassment suit on him would be a good way to start her efforts to displace the upstart. The only way Darius can survive this scene without coming off like a rather dim-witted fellow, or worse, someone who is so used to coming on to female employees and covering his tracks, is if this story takes place in a vacuum, one in which the concept of sexual harassment doesn’t exist.
However, as Darius and Eve get closer, a jealous and power-hungry troublemaker (a male, surprisingly, considering the tendency of the books in this line to serve up one female skank ho villain after another) starts causing trouble and calling for the company to instate rules forbidding people who are working in that place from fraternizing together. So yes, problematic office sexual shenanigans are a valid concept in this story then, thus making Darius coming on to Eve the behavior of a silly fool led by the small head in his pants.
Therefore, on one hand, the author wants to ignore the potential problems of Darius and Eve getting together when it comes to the romance, but at the same time, she wants to use this as an issue when she needs some conflict in the story. Which is which, then? The author tries to have the cake and eat it too, and I get confused as a result. Things become even more confusing when Darius decides to resign when his fraternization with Eve gets too heated for the rest of the board members to take, but Eve is then allowed to step in and take over when she’s one half of the problem in the first place. I guess, at the end of the day, this is one story that is best read with the brain turned off. Things just happen, go with the flow – that kind of thing.
Take the main characters out of the messy plot, however, and they are pretty fun in their own right. In many ways, both are standard hero and heroine archetypes, with familiar baggage and all, but both of them feel and read right together. There is believable chemistry between the two of them; I do feel that they like one another well enough for the romance to work.
Then again, the pacing of the book can slow down considerably to distract me from this chemistry. In this one, the author tends to focus too much on mundane things in her narrative. For example, early on in introducing Darius to the reader, she would describe how Darius meets his buddies – they are in a jazz band together – and they play volleyball, and then he goes home, takes off his clothes and have a bath. Great. Here’s the thing: in any story or movie, the only reason to focus on someone in a bath is for people like you and me to ogle at all the skin in display. usually before a deranged killer shows up to start slashing with a knife or a lover comes in and initiates a vigorous sex scene. Here, however, instead of describing the rivulets of water flowing over hard abs and a huge pee-pee or whatever, she’s just, okay, he (a) takes a bath, then (b) goes to bed and (c) think of his issues with women before (d) nodding off. What’s the point of wasting all those words? I know how people take a bath, thank you, as I’ve done it countless times myself, so no need to tell me that the hero takes off his shirt and pants and steps into the bathroom.
The same thing happens throughout the book, especially in the first third or so – the author, for some reason, seems to think that the main characters going through daily routines would make such interesting reading that she just has to describe them in the most rote and mechanical “Did this, then that, and this, and that!” manner possible. All these dry and boring passages only cause the story to drag unnecessarily.
This Tender Melody is a flawed book – it has some serious problems that can be hard to overlook. Still, the romance has its moments, and I close this book with some good feelings. Therefore, I think I’m going to be a bit more generous with this one and give it three oogies. Probably one oogie more than it deserves, but hey, I’m the boss here.