Champagne Kisses
by Zuri Day, contemporary (2012)
Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86278-8


Champagne Kisses is the second book in Zuri Day's series about the Drake family, who owns the most fabulous vineyard in South California. These books can somewhat stand alone, but they are predictably inundated with sequel baits.

Indeed, I don't know what is going on with the Kimani line, but this is yet another book I've read that is filled with plodding, dull, and pointless scenes after scenes of our main characters interacting with secondary characters for no reason other than to tell me to buy or watch out for those secondary characters' books. Reams of information dumping bore me with the background stories or physical attractiveness of those secondary characters.

Unsurprisingly, Donovan Drake and Marissa Hayes turn out to be stock one-dimensional stereotypes. Who has time to develop these characters when there are so many dresses, places, and secondary characters to go all crazy over on the information dumping? In fact, if you want to know more about these characters - such as how they meet, et cetera - you have to read the previous book in the series. Then again, if you're like me, you won't bother, not when these characters are too underdeveloped to care about.

Basically, Donovan needs a PA because his has to undergo surgery, and the rest of his family practically shove Marissa down his throat. He doesn't like Marissa because he has issues about being betrayed and she is too beautiful, in his opinion, to be trusted. After all, she ran out on him during their date four months ago because she was upset about a guy she met, so this clearly means that she is flighty and prone to betrayal like his ex-girlfriend.

Marissa wants to have sex with Donovan because he's hot and he treats her pretty patronizingly and rudely, and in a romance heroine's book, this means true love is over the horizon. But she has serious issues about putting out, so... oh! Not that she has problems putting out, mind you, she's more prone to putting out and then wringing her hands in "Oh! What have I done? Am I a whore?" melodrama afterwards.

And that's basically the story. The conflicts are of the standard "the vagina has to be pure except when it comes to the romance hero, or else you are a whore" variety, only, in such a heavy emphasis that the story ends up being full of unfortunate implications about the Madonna/whore divide.

The chief message I get here is that the vagina can devastatingly used for good or evil. When used for evil, it can cause irreparable damage and endless childish whining as witnessed in the case of Donovan, who spends his entire time looking for excuse to accuse a woman - any woman - of being an untrustworthy harlot. When used on any guy other than one's true love, regardless or whether actual sex is involved, it can also inflict endless psychological damage on the fragile female psyche, which is what happened to Marissa here. The poor darling - it takes several painful sessions of great orgasms coupled to blistering self-doubts and recriminations before the poor dear understands that, when it comes to one's true love, putting out is a reward in itself.

Of course, it's only the vagina that is responsible for all ills in the world here. Despite the fact that Donovan shows little respect to women in general - he references his mistress as Ms Widowed, never by name, for example, and he criticizes Marissa's actually presentable clothes all the time because those clothes give him a chubby - he is not to be held accountable for the sins inflicted on him by the scary vaginas of this world. The villain that causes Marissa to suffer from the Sins of the Vagina is predictably evil, but Marissa blames herself for the things he did to her, maybe because men couldn't help themselves when they are compelled to sin by the evil vagina.

Isn't it a good thing, therefore, that Donovan is around to ensure that Marissa's vagina stays on the path of goodness by the last page?

Rating: 49


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