Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86380-8
Contemporary Romance, 2014
The plot of Theodora Taylor’s Vegas, Baby is strictly fake marriage of convenience, set in motion by a mother who insists that the hero Cole Benton marries Sunny Johnson, the showgirl granddaughter of her best friend, in three months or she will sell her shares of the company to Cole’s more irresponsible brother. Cole and Sunny haven’t even met yet when Nora makes this demand of Cole, and Cole actually goes ahead instead of committing that woman into one of those expensive retirement homes far away from civilization.
Cole decides to shut down the showgirl revue of the family casino-cum-hotel establishment in Vegas, causing Sunny to confront him about his antics. Sunny wants to get into grad school soon, you see, and being a Vegas showgirl is just one of the gigs she currently takes to make as much money as possible in order to pay for future expenses. She can’t afford to lose this job on the whim of a billionaire who seems to be acting on impulse. Or maybe cold-blooded ruthlessness, since Cole is all about the bottom line, and the showgirl revue currently only breaks even where profits are concerned. Cole agrees to reinstate the revue if she agrees to sign a contract that sees her agreeing to be his fake girlfriend and later wife. For his grandmother’s sake, naturally, although he tells her that this arrangement is necessary because Nora is at the last legs of life, Surely, nobody wants to see her go to her grave a heartbroken woman wailing about his grandson’s failure to impregnate women and provide Nora with grandchildren galore?
I know, on paper, the whole thing sounds like something a masked killer would use to stab people repeatedly with, but the actual story works like a dream, believe it or not. There is a charm here that reminds me of the best kind of magic from Jayne Ann Krentz – the kind of magic that happens when we pair a straight-laced “it’s all about the bottom line” hero with a heroine who knows just how to loosen him up. Cole is such a number-crunching hard-ass type that he’s the perfect foil for Sunny. Under other circumstances, these two may seem like rather one-dimensional, but here, the combination results in some fine chemistry.
Even the actually dumb plot seems like a charming fairy-tale premise to get these two to fall in love. It certainly helps that both characters are aware of the absurdity of the plot they are in, and Sunny gives back as good as she gets. Cole never gets to walk over her, although I think there are a few imprints of her high heels on his back now and then. That’s okay, though – Cole is a billionaire, he can withstand a few jabs at his manhood, and if he hurts, he can go cry into his dollar bills.
Yes, this story also has the characters going into contracts and such, so this is not one of those dumb Harlequin Presents fake marriage thing where a billionaire allows himself to be married to some woman without even making her sign a prenuptial agreement. Seriously, it’s a good thing that the heroines in those books tend to have the brainpower of a barnacle, or else there would be so many billionaires out there signing big checks to their ex-fake wives every month. Anyway, this story tries to a degree to make the best out of a dumb plot, and I can’t help but to be charmed in the process. There’s humor that feels so natural and hits the right buttons, some sexy smooth moments that make me think of slow grooves to the rhythm of Jay Sean or John Legend, and… really, I’m still surprised at this moment by how a book with an idiot plot manages to get to me in all the right ways.
Vegas, Baby gets an “Oh, yes!” from me. Theodora Taylor, huh? It’s nice meeting you, and I think I may just stick around to see what I’ll find next.