Champagne Kisses

Zuri Day
October 2012, Series Romance
Harlequin Kimani, $6.25, 224 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373862784

Grade: C
Sensuality: Warm

Bette Davis said that "There comes a time in every woman's life when the only thing that helps is a glass of Champagne." I should have taken that to heart while reading this novel. While the subject matter was lovely and romantic, the story was sadly slow and pedantic. A good glass of bubbly might have made the experience of reading this book just a bit more exotic and fun.

If she didn't have bad luck with men Marissa Hayes would have no kind of luck at all. Her last boyfriend used her up and threw her away like a used tissue. Turning to her best guy friend for comfort resulted in a fiasco of massive proportions. As far as she is concerned, her boss is the only decent one left and he is on his way down the aisle with a wonderful woman. Marissa is at the engagement festivities downing delicious chocolate and champagne when she is approached by one of the handsomest men she has ever seen.

Donovan Drake is an heir to one of Southern California's most celebrated vineyards. Their establishment is first class all the way and the lovely lady he now has his eyes on looks like she fits that "first class" motto down to the bone. He invites her to have a drink elsewhere, anxious to pursue their acquaintance far away from the prying eyes of his family. When Marissa doesn't show he accepts with ill grace that they just weren't meant to be. He knows he will be seeing more of her since her boss is marrying his sister and she is invited to the celebration but he also knows it is a big event and he has every intention of avoiding further contact with Ms. Hayes.

Marissa explained to Donovan why she had to miss their rendezvous but he was clearly in no mood to forgive and forget. When they see each other at the start of the wedding festivities, things are a bit awkward. When they find themselves working together on a huge project, relations become even more strained. It is clear that they need to move beyond their conflicting feelings for each other. But how can they when every encounter brings up even more conflict?

Marissa and Donovan proceed to have a relationship made up of stops and starts, big misunderstandings, and some verbal combat thrown in to keep things interesting. I've seen - and previously enjoyed - every plot device used in this novel. Somehow, this mix just didn't engage my interest. Perhaps because many of them misfired just a tiny bit. Donovan's alpha male tendencies made him a tad overbearing at times, rather than highlighting his ability to lead and protect. Marissa's bad luck with men overemphasized Donovan's "the one" status. The problem with her ex was a bit of too much of a romance cliché. The over-the-top wealth and luxury was a bit too clichéd as well.

I really enjoyed two things about this book: the excellent handling of the role religion plays in the African American community, and the fact that the romance is sweet. Marissa as a kind of every girl capturing the eye of this American prince came across as very endearing. Donovan is rich but not spoiled and nasty about it. He was also not a player and very likable in his earnestness and sincerity. Another plus is the setting. The winery is also an opulent resort, which includes horse riding, massages, fine dining and beautiful gardens. The love story plays out in the lap of luxury.

In the end, the positives and negatives mostly balanced. Unfortunately, that balance results in an underwhelming offering. If you are just dying to read a book about the wine industry or absolutely can't get enough of Cinderella style stories this might be the book for you. Otherwise, I would assuredly skip it.

-- Maggie Boyd

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