The Kissing Game by Marie Harte Feb 4th
I do not like this, Sam-I-Am, I do not like this in a bed or on the couch or on a train. I do not like this anywhere.
Oy! This was no bueno. I blame the blurb. It made me promises. It sold me a bill of goods and I curled up with this novel, ready to COLLECT! Hard working heroine with entrepreneurial spirit and a romantic at heart- Why, yes, tell me more. Tall, dark & handsome buttoned up, emotionally blocked hero who secretly pines after heroine-after-my-own-heart? Have you even met me? Yes! I’ll take two to go!
Rena Jackson is ready. She’s worked her tail off to open up her own hair salon, and she’s almost ready to quit her job at the dive bar. Rena’s also a diehard romantic, and she’s had her eye on bar regular Axel Heller for a while. He’s got that tall-dark-and-handsome thing going big time. Problem is, he’s got that buttoned-up Germanic ice man thing going as well. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Rena’s about ready to give up on Axel and find her own Mr. Right.
At six foot six, Axel knows he intimidates most people. He’s been crushing on the gorgeous waitress for months. But the muscled mechanic is no romantic, and his heart is buried so deep, he has no idea how to show Rena what he feels. He knows he’s way out of his depth and she’s slipping away. So, he makes one crazy, desperate play…
See! I was definitely in for some good stuff! I had my previously prepared squees pitch perfect. I was ready for all of the the heady chemistry and delicious tension one book could offer. Well, this romance reader planned and the romance gods laughed their asses off. Because babbyyyyy. No.
Aside from the fact that Axel bucked his own description in looks and deed, early on this novel felt gratuitous in a manner that made me guarded in a way that really limited my ability to connect with the characters and story. Yes it is inclusive. Yes the MCs are from different races. Yes Rena in her brown glory is flitting about in conveyed glee with alabaster Axel. Yes I celebrate (CELEBRATE!) inclusion and diversity and the multicultural aspect is also what appealed to me, but I’ve seen this book done before and done well. The Kissing Game just fell short.
There was just too much. Too much emphasis on finding ways to contextually scream that he was German and White and she was African American. Perfect example, some authors can write a variety of races into their stories, but don’t bludgeon you over the head with a litany of awkward references to drive the point home that there are a mixture of races (I’m swooning at you, Queen Nalini Singh). It is clearly a gift, and one I missed here tremendously. This novel just contained too much of the wrong components. Too much stilted conversation. Too much corny stilted conversation. Too much corny, stilted conversation that made me wonder about how reasonable and intelligent Rena really was. Again- another character who didn’t match her characterization- and it grated on my nerves!
“Okay, bozo. Look. You can be scared of a lot of things. I know I am. Spiders, a bad perm, troll dolls.”
He blinked. “You don’t like the trolls?”
“But if you want something, you’ll fight for it. So the question you have to ask yourself is this—would I rather hide my ugliness from Rena and lose her to some hunky fireman?”
She wasn’t too proud to remind him he had competition.
“Or do I want to figure out a way to deal with my issues so Rena and I can be forever valentines? Only you can figure it out. But, Axel, I’m not going to sit around and wait for you to decide for years on top of years. Get it together and get it right, or you’re going to lose the best thing in your life, Liebling. And that’s me.”
Ok- so yeah…Black girls aren’t afraid of bad perms….bad *relaxers* are the issue. “Perm” has often been misused and it always annoys me a little when people talk about Black girls and perms- when they actually mean relaxers. This is a smaller, but one of many gripes I had with various text and descriptions in this book.
I felt nothing for Axel. Romance doesn’t work for me if I’m sneering in contempt at the wussyness of a character who was built up to be the anti-wuss. I didn’t want him, didn’t want Rena to have him and didn’t care if they never became each others forever valentine *eye roll.* There was a little OM drama but even that was meh-ish and unbelievable.
The Kissing Game was the lukest of warms and felt like manufactured romance. Definitely wasn’t for me. It was neither wistful, nor wanton and the dialogue caused injury to my eye balls due to excessive rolling.
Save your eyeballs. Stop at the blurb and just pretend that it lived up to the hype. Unless contrived, luke warm rom-com is your thing.
If it is not your thing, Save. Your. Eyeballs.