A Tempting Proposal
by Sherelle Green, contemporary (2013)
Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86309-9


Note that, in this review, I mentioned some developments in the story that may be considered spoilers. Readers who are familiar with the genre may see these developments coming from a mile away, but if you really want to err on the side of caution, it's time to stop reading.

Event planner Imani Rayne promised her late grandmother that she would purchase a lakeside estate. Apparently the dead hag, er, beloved old dear promised Rayne that Rayne would find some kind of answer there. Daman Barker has just taken over the family architecture firm when he's also down in town to purchase that same property. He promised his late father that he would purchase that property too, because the dead old dear also said that Daman would find answers and what not in that place.

The owners of that property insist that Daman and Imani spend some time working together to organize a charity fundraiser before they would decide among themselves who should buy the property. Alright, time to get the love engine moving...

The plot is not the strongest virtue when it comes to Sherelle Green's published debut. I saw it coming from a mile away, and I was hoping that I would be wrong, but no, the whole thing turns out to be one big plan to matchmake Imani and Daman. It doesn't make sense: these two spent just a bit of time together as kids, and somehow everyone knows that they are meant to be together? And they came up with this convoluted plan to get them shackled?

If I were dying, and I am a millionaire hag, I bet you I wouldn't spend my final moments plotting for my granddaughter's happiness. If she wants some zen in her life, I'd be happy to pay for a one-way ticket for her to meet some Indian guru, Tibetan monk, whatever, but otherwise, go away. But that's why I'm not a character in a romance novel.

Daman also behaves pretty creepily during the first half or so of the book. He's not an asshole or anything, but his persistence in getting a date from Imani and, later, acting like he knows what is best for her make him seem too much like those control freak guys than I'd have liked. He does get much less annoying as the story progresses, though.

There is also a mismatch of sorts. A Tempting Proposal is a mostly light-hearted comedy, but the author's style is rather ill-suited for comedy. Her idea of witty banter often lacks bite and scenes that are meant to make me chuckle only make me sigh at how poorly timed or built up they tend to be.

On the other hand, the author demonstrates an impressive affinity for more emotional scenes. There are many moments when I wonder whether she is better off writing more drama-driven romance stories, because the last third or so of this book is a very good read. Imani and Daman experience some intense soul-baring moments and emotional growth, and these moments are written in a way that often leave me feeling like I've swallowed something heavy in my throat. These scenes allow Daman and Imani to show me that they have depths, emotions, and vulnerabilities that allow them to become something more than mere stereotypes.

Oh, and for a book in this imprint, the love scenes are pretty intense. Okay, the author is too fond of going on and on about riding hard and waves crashing and other clichéd ways of saying that those two are shagging their brains out, but look, people. There's ice cubes involved and all.

Bottom line is, A Tempting Proposal is a very uneven book with a plot that doesn't work on a fundamental level. Then again, this is a debut effort, and the author demonstrates pretty memorably that she may just be impressive if she finds her style and tempo. I guess that's alright.

Rating: 71


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