Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-1-335-21669-4
Contemporary Romance, 2018
Jamie Kennedy recently pulled up all roots and came back to Bay Point, San Francisco, to be with her grandmother and help the old lady run the neighborhood diner Lucy’s Bar and Grille. When the story opens, Micah Langston comes back to Bay Point at his brother’s request – the brother is the Bay Point mayor – to set up one of his famous, Society Red-branded restaurants in order to draw in more tourists. He is a love ’em and leave ’em type. She doesn’t have time for a relationship because she’s all about her grandmother to an unhealthy codependent degree. But once they hook up, she more or less becomes fixated instead on Micah to an unhealthy degree. I think our heroine has issues – she clearly needs someone to cling on to in order to feel some kind of validation about her life choices.
Still, Winning Her Heart isn’t too bad at first. While Micah’s pick up lines are super corny, he and Jamie seem alright together, and I’m gearing for these two to throw off their clothes and have sex on the floor. For added bonuses, there are no intrusive sequel baits shoving themselves at my face at the expense of the main characters’ screen time, no stilted narrative and wooden dialogues, and no crazy female friends of the heroine who exist only to scream at the heroine to take that peen into her right now or these friends would shriek in frustration.
However, after a few chapters, the story begins to feel circular. Instead of rubbing against one another, Jamie and Micah spend more time talking about various mundane things either to one another or to other secondary characters. Details, such as why Micah is back in Bay Point, are repeated to an unnecessary degree. I wish I can say that the author is prolonging my anticipation of the big kaboom, but what she’s doing here is tantamount to killing my mood outright.
Finally, they do it. Oh yes… wait, that’s it? And it’s over? Oh well, maybe they will now wring their hands over some conflict…
Yikes, the conflict. Basically, it’s this: Jamie holds it against Micah to open a restaurant in town and hence potentially creating competition for Lucy’s Bar and Grille. What year is this? It’s 2018 and ladies are still demanding special snowflake treatment because they can’t compete with a man? How embarrassing. Even before Micah shows up, Lucy’s Bar and Grille is already in financial trouble because Jamie’s grandmother is not the best person to leave the bookkeeping to. Therefore, it’s likely that the place will go under eventually, with or without Micah’s restaurant in the picture. Also, Lucy’s Bar and Grill seems to target the everyday Joe and Jane types while Micah’s restaurant is a more hipster-leaning upper class establishment, so I’m not sure whether there will be enough overlap between their typical clientele to have these two be considered to be in competition with one another.
At any rate, it reflects terribly on Jamie that she is throwing a tantrum before the restaurant is even established – she just doesn’t want even a hint of competition, and she’s going to pout and make Micah feel all guilty and bad about trying to ruin the livelihoods of her and her grandmother. It’s especially cringe-inducing that she’s blaming a potential competition for the mess her grandmother herself waded into. Your female entrepreneur of the current year, ladies and gentlemen.
In the end, the narrative is still lively enough to make Winning Her Heart stand out from the vast majority of Kimani titles of late as something that is, well, not that bad. There is enough chemistry to make the main characters sizzle in their scenes now and then. The humor works too now and then. Still, a big yikes to the conflict and its unfortunate implications, and the author could have restrained herself more when it comes to repeating her main characters’ backgrounds and motivations.