by Crystal Wilson-Harris, contemporary (2003)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-286-X
Crystal Wilson-Harris' Passion's Destiny is a cautionary tale when it comes to romance novels set amidst a political backdrop. I have nothing against politics in romance novels, although I may make fun of them. Unfortunately, when the hero and the heroine espouse political views more befitting a high school C-grade essay than that of a dynamic Senator and his wife, when these two people end up like the worst possible people to enter politics, that's when the story falls straight down the dumper.
Jakarta Raven is dating the New Orleans DA that wanted to press charges on her sister Savannah (find out more in the related book Love's Destiny). I know, with family members like Jakarta... anyway, she flies down to New Orleans for some sun and fun with our hero Zane Reeves. When Zane decides to run for a Senate seat, that's when problems come in. The author says that Jakarta's past (an overwrought and lurid one) and her dreadlocks cause problems for Zane's image with the electorate, but I would say that it's not Jakarta's appearance, it's the way she manages to blab stupid things at the drop of the hat.
Some of my favorites from this political Jessica Simpson includes a scene where she chides Zane, a DA, mind you, for putting African-American men behind bars. She's not talking about specific cases where a man is wrongfully jailed - she's making a blanket statement regarding all African-American men. This jaw-droppingly stupid belief of hers that a man is exempt from the law because of his skin color has me not knowing whether to laugh or to gasp in disbelief. And even better, the Ravens are opposed to Jakarta going out with Zane because he's a politician. Not because of his party allegiance or anything, but because he's a politician. There is a very self-defeating cycle going on here: if one wants to see reforms being done, shouldn't one plunge straight into politics instead of demonizing it and at the same time sprouting ridiculous rhetorics? A few of the things Jakarta says can make sense - like when she talks about the punishment for drug trafficking - but more often than not she's a PR disaster in the making.
Zane is no better. We are talking about a man that insists on talking about environmental reforms to a bunch of oil people. And he acts as if he can't believe it when he's told that these people will not support him in the elections if he tells them he's cutting off their fat purses. If this idiot cannot even use his brain and adjust to the situation, what use does he have in the Senate? Zane displays no cunning, no versatility, and definitely no adaptability. In fact, while he says he has some strong opinions on tax cuts and other reforms, he's like a sheep being herded by his campaign managers. Heck, there's nothing wrong in being a puppet to people behind the scenes - Al Gore did it and Dubya definitely is doing it - but at the same time the author insists that Zane is a dynamic young Democrat leader. Oh please. This guy is just another sheep. Say baa for the photoshoot, Zane.
The only sane person in this book, the campaign manager that advocates cunning and manipulation of the media, is demonized. This manager's a woman, naturally. At the end, apparently the "wise" and "good" advice comes from Jakarta's telling Zane to be himself. In this case though, I don't think one should follow the advice from a woman that wears short running shorts to Zane's office only to qualify for a task as difficult as licking envelopes. I don't think we can call Jakarta wise or savvy. But in the end, Zane, hardly a dynamic politician himself, marries Jakarta, the Jessica Simpson of politics, and the author has the entire electorate hail them as the new... I don't know, the new Bert and Ernie, I guess.
Because politics play a major issue in this story and because the two main characters are dumb and dumber hailed as the new brainpowers of the Democrats, Passion's Destiny is laughably off-the-track and off-target. One can argue that in today's climate when Arnold Schwarzenegger gets elected despite his most impressive item on his resume being his driving Planet Hollywood straight to the ground, this book may be more "real" than one would like to believe. Still, that's no excuse for the author's passing off counterfeits as the real deal, right?
If Ms Wilson-Harris wants to write a good political romance, she should have sat down and laid out the contents of her soapbox in a well-planned, well-expressed manner instead of just adding in very naive rhetorics that makes her come off as pretty ignorant when it comes to just how complicated the political arena can be. If Ms Wilson-Harris is hoping that Jakarta is doing a Legally Blonde Elle Woods thing here, I'm afraid she will have to just keep hoping.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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