by Harmony Evans, contemporary (2012)
Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86279-5
Alex Dovington is a hunky jazz musician who used to be an international superstar. Used to be, that is, because his last two albums underperformed in terms of sales, and his record label is thinking of dropping him. His PR team cobbled together a campaign that will hopefully bring him enough publicity and goodwill to get his name out there again - Alex would tour of elementary schools in Harlem and read to those kiddies.
This makes sense. We all know that elementary school kids in Harlem have plenty of spending money to buy Alex's music. This plan is so much better than, say, going on Dancing With The Stars, as that silly PR move will only increase the frequency of illegal downloading among the adult audience of that show. We all know those silly old fools that watch such shows are torrent freaks with little spending power.
There is a problem with this awesome plan: Alex can't read. Oh, he knows how to recognize important words - women and sex, for example, as a man needs to know his priorities. Unfortunately, he's not going to be able to read Barney the Dope-dealing Dinosaur to those kids anytime soon.
That is, unless Cara Williams can work her literacy magic on him. She founded and currently manages Beacon House, a literacy center for the underprivileged, but because she is a woman and therefore is born with stupid genes, that center is going to go dark unless she can earn herself the funds from teaching Alex. In just three days, she needs to teach him how to, at the very least, read something simple to keep the kids happy.
Lesson In Romance is, idiot plot aside, isn't too bad from a technical standpoint for a debut effort. The writing is clean and readable and the pacing feels right with no sagging middle or other common problems in sight. With minimal filler scenes or contrived scenes set up just to introduce sequel baits, this one is far more polished than some of the books written by more experienced authors from the Kimani line.
Unfortunately, both characters come off as not-quite-there upstairs.
Cara is just terrible when it comes to being sensible. Not only does she pull off stupid things on impulse that puts her employment in jeopardy, her secret is such that any sane person would think twice before continuing the deception. Well, maybe it's not deception as much as it is the omission of truth, but really, for someone with that particular secret, Cara comes off as either spectacularly stupid or naïve to believe that she can cozy up and sleep with Alex - out of love, of course - without getting burned. Of course she gets burned, and when it happens, I don't have much sympathy for her. She deserves everything she gets - she has it coming for being so reckless and stupid. It doesn't help that her infatuation for Alex comes off more like the creepy obsession of a deranged fan than healthy affection.
For the most part, Alex seems normal, sane... until he decides that he can't trust Cara anymore, and that's when he flies off the roof, transforms into a shrieking dragon, and chars poor Cara into crisp. Mind you, Cara deserves to be burned each time, as she happily sets herself up for it by not thinking, but his flying off the handle is always disproportionately intense and often misplaced. Any sane person should see that Cara's just a foolish and misguided twit who means well. But to Alex, she's the most untrustworthy whore of the century and he will hate her forever so she should get out - GET OUT, GET OUT, GE-EEEE-ET OUT! - of his sight. He does this every time he decides that he can't trust Cara. On the bright side, he settles down and treats her nicely again a few pages down the road, so his behavior seems more like short-lived bouts of overreaction. He still comes off as a bit crazy, however, and he'd probably throw Cara out of the house every two days.
All things considered, this is a decent debut, and since we really need some new blood in the Kimani line, it's nice to have Harmony Evans onboard. Now someone tell her to go write a better book.
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