Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86402-7
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Vanessa Hamilton used to be a crisis manager for politicians in the big city, and apparently the stress was so hard to bear that she often ended up sleeping with the politicians she worked for. Interesting, I guess for her it was a company Christmas party that lasted 365 days. However, her last oopsie didn’t want to marry her or anything, so she was heartbroken. She is now a floral designer in Bay Point, making pretty flowers while boiling inside over the fact that all rich, privileged men are bastards who oppress and victimize innocent victims like her. Don’t look at me – I think those evil bastards used telekinetic powers to spread her legs open. #hellwithpatriarchy #politicsarerape
Mayor Gregory Langston wants only the best for Bay Point. Therefore, he has big plans to develop the place, to bring commerce back and to keep people from moving elsewhere to find jobs. Unfortunately, the people in town – especially Vanessa – are horrified that he wants to build condos and commerce centers in their pristine island. The biggest point of contention is his plan to take down the historical carousel, which is broken down more often than not. Meanwhile, someone he thought he could trust decides to contest for his seat, and Gregory’s current lack of popularity with the Bay Point people may end up causing poor Gregory to lose his mayoral privilege.
He decides to ask Vanessa to help him manage his campaign in the upcoming election, since she’s the only one with a background that fits. Vanessa however launches into her emotional “how dare you destroy my home!” nonsense, adding in some charming baseless hyperbole about how Gregory is from money so he must naturally be a bastard with no morals, blah blah blah. And yet. Gregory still wants her to be his campaign manager – he must be truly desperate, I’d imagine – and Vanessa refuses… until someone suggests that maybe it’s better to keep one’s enemy close, and Vanessa should take up Gregory’s offer so that she can work from within to protect the people from his truly evil and despicable ways. So she marches up to Gregory and makes all kinds of demands like some kind of boss. The joke is on her, though, because she’s soon spreading them for Gregory too. But I guess this time it’s true love, so it’s different.
Winning Her Love is simultaneously horrible and subversive. It is subversive because, while the heroine is all overemotional and more than a bit irrational in condemning Gregory of all the worst sins in the world without having any evidence to back up her nonsense, she ends up coming around and supporting Gregory. The author’s portrayal of local politics is more pragmatic and real than the heroine’s initial hysterical hen behavior would suggest, but to get there, you’d need to be patient and wait until Gregory boinks some sense into Vanessa. There is a fair sense of compromise at the end of the day that would still benefit Bay Point – the author doesn’t resort to extremes; there is some price to progress, yes, but perhaps at the end of the day, it is the better good that matters.
Unfortunately, this story is also awful because it hinges on the heroine being wrong to get to the good parts. I have no problems with heroines being wrong in a reasonable manner, but here, Vanessa is wrong in a wildly overemotional and abrasive manner. It makes her look like a close-minded twit, and this part of her is hard to believe given that she is supposed to be a good crisis manager in the past. How can she be a crisis manager and yet still has that black-and-white mentality about politics? Then again, the fact that she can’t handle the heat when she mixes work with pleasure suggests that she may not be that good in the first place. Still, Vanessa doesn’t show any halfway decent political acumen here, at least before she fulfills that unfortunate trope about becoming a more pleasant and reasonable woman after she’s gotten laid by a man, so much about her doesn’t ring real. She appears for too long to be the overwrought and always-wrong foil to the more cool-headed Gregory – not a good thing to be if she’s going to be the romance heroine.
Could Winning Her Love be a great story? It could be, as there are some good elements here, such as the political aspects of the story. But this is only if the heroine had been portrayed in a more reasonable manner. Right now, Vanessa is too much of a cartoon character to be taken seriously.