by Farrah Rochon, contemporary (2013)
Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86328-0
Is it just me or did this book miss a great opportunity by not calling itself Runway Attraction? The heroine is a model, after all, and this is the third book in the The Hamiltons: Fashioned With Love series, which is set amidst a fashion industry. At any rate, Runaway Attraction it is.
This story focuses on Bailey Hamilton, whose drama was built up in the previous two books in this series. It's okay, though, this book can stand alone, should you choose to read this one without bothering with those books. Given how badly this book treats that aspect of the plot, that's probably for the best.
So, Bailey. I won't reveal her drama here, but let's just say that it is one that, today, really shouldn't cause anyone to lose sleep given how it's one of those "Oh please, everyone famous does it, darling!" moments. In this story, however, everyone who is anyone goes batcrap crazy, and the media descends in a feeding frenzy. Bailey is like, "Okay, so I was framed in such a manner that people understandably think that I'm the new whore of Babylon, as these people clearly haven't read any tabloid since 1950, but THEY ARE SO WRONG BECAUSE THEY ARE SO MEAN! WHY ARE PEOPLE SO MEAN TO POOR FAMOUS RICH PEOPLE LIKE ME?"
In other words, the portrayal of fame and everything associated with it is so stereotypical and inaccurate that it is as if the author did her research based on scathing reviews of Judith Krantz's Scruples series, written by church members.
Bailey's family wants to repair her image - everyone insists that supermodels are role models, after all - so they make her jump through some hoops that don't work too well. She'd rather lay low. Then comes our hero, Micah Jones, who is a TV documentary producer who also happens to be an interviewer as well. They met when she did an interview right before the drama happened, and both decide now that it's a win-win scenario if they do an hour-long documentary that allows her to show people the real her and tell the actual story behind her big scandal. She gets people to understand how she is just a misunderstood darling, he gets his big break. Micah also feels guilty in a way, as their last interview saw him coaxing her to reveal some details that allowed the villain to catch her unaware and set her up.
Yes, you read that right. Our heroine is going to do an intimate revealing documentary when the last time she gave a revealing interview, she got what she got. And since this is romance novel movie-making we are talking about here, Micah simply claps his hands and squeals, "Let's make a happy movie, kiddies!" and voila, we are underway without any of the cost and logistics hassle typically associated with behind the scenes of TV.
Once I get past the initial eye-rolling portrayal of the fame and fashion industry, I get a very bland romance. Micah and Bailey are wooden to the core. She's that dove with a broken wing, he's the perfect guy that understands her completely, and these two fall in love without much ado. In fact, she's soon gagging for it and he's like, "No, no, I love you too much to have hot sex with you, so let's just wait until the author reaches a decent word count in this story before we start doing it!" Instead, he helps Bailey find her inner courage so that she will want to assert herself by... doing the runway show, on her own, without a passel of bodyguards watching her back. In fact, she doesn't want protection in this story. She is an independent woman! Despite being made MIA despite her will, she will not be cowed into making it hard for a repeat performance by the villain!
Of course, given that the hero and the heroine's male family members, who could have beaten an entire cell of Middle-eastern terrorists to death with the weight of their scowl alone, are always hovering over Bailey and making sure that she doesn't even pass gas without their knowledge and approval, Bailey is never in any genuine danger. Still, this only makes her repeated bleats of independence - for the want of a better word - seem even more stupid than usual.
Worse, the revelation of the villain and the closure to Bailey's drama are ridiculous and rushed. The villain is exactly what I would expect from a hackneyed romance that doesn't even try to be a little different. Maybe I'm just a jaded reader that has read too many romance novels and know most of the authors' tricks by now, but when that drama cropped up two books ago, I snorted and told myself that the villain has better not be what I think it is. Well, lucky me, I'm right. Maybe RWA should hire me to give seminars for authors that want to get the art of cliché right, or maybe the author should have tried being even a little less predictable.
Still, predictable isn't bad if it's done well. Here, however, the suspense is treated like a piece of toilet paper that needs to be discarded quickly once it's used, while the romance is presented as a "perfect as it is, from the start" manner that allows no room for emotional progression. Add in unrealistic portrayal of the fashion and TV industries as well as the fame game, and Runaway Attraction ends up a book to run away from.
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