by Adrianne Byrd, contemporary (2012, reissue)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-373-53480-7
The Beautiful Ones was first published in 2005. Remember when this line was owned by BET and they actually had books that featured ordinary - if wealthy - heroes? Now it's all NFL players, billionaires, lawyers, and ranchers in the same five story lines over and over, sigh. This one is reissued with a new cover in conjunction with Adrianne Byrd's House Of Kings series, which are tied to the Hilton Family series, of which this book is part of. I know, you're probably confused at the moment, so let's just move on. This one can stand alone fine, so it's not like you'd need to read the other books to make sense of this one.
Ophelia Missler, Marcel Taylor, and Solomon Bassett go all the way back. They are good friends, even today. The thing is, Solomon has always carried a torch for Ophelia, but he never had the opportunity to tell her how he feels. Back then, he thought she was hung up on Marcel. When Ophelia confessed that she once had a crush on Solomon, he finally decided that he could make the move. When the story opens, it's Solomon's wedding day, and Solomon intends to spill his feelings to Ophelia. But before he can say anything, she reveals that she is going to marry Jonas Hilton. Oops. Is Solomon destined to become the bridesmaid... forever?
I have nothing against the characters in this story. They are all likable types with realistic blind spots and flaws when it comes to love. Ophelia and Solomon aren't very good at communicating with each other, but it's often a harmless sort of miscommunication, the kind that occurs when love makes fool of people. I also like how Ms Byrd constructed the story. It weaves seamlessly from the present to the past, although I feel that the author can be inconsistent when it comes to exactly how much Ophelia and Solomon were into each other in the past.
It's just that Ms Byrd tries very hard to force The Beautiful Ones to conform to the rules of the romance genre, and many things don't work as a result. Here's one example. It's pretty obvious from the start that Solomon is the one who will end up with Ophelia, and because the rules state that the heroine can also sleep with the hero in a romance novel, Ms Byrd has Ophelia telling Jonas that they will only have sex on the wedding night. Ophelia doesn't have any reason to insist on this, so this development is a very obvious plot device to ensure that Solomon's pee-pee is the only one that Ophelia will come in contact with.
When these characters pull out stunts that are often out of character or just plain out of their rear ends, just to ensure that the rules of the genre are met, the story becomes artificial as a result. Indeed, these moments pull me out of the story, and I can never forget that the author is trying very hard to hammer the story to fit the rules. The Beautiful Ones would have made more sense and flowed more organically if Ophelia and Jonas had a more believable romance instead of the current awkward "let's find excuses to look but not touch" relationship they are stuck in. Then there would be some genuine suspense as to whether Solomon can win Ophelia's affections away from Jonas.
As it is, The Beautiful Ones is a pleasant and occasionally humorous read, but it tries so hard to be a rule-abiding romance novel that it ends up crippling its own characters and robbing its story line of much of its believability.
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