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Susan Sey

REVIEW:  Kiss the Girl by Susan Sey

REVIEW: Kiss the Girl by Susan Sey

Dear Ms. Sey:

I saw someone talking about your self published effort on Twitter and immediately went to buy it. I liked your Berkley debut title, Money, Honey which was humorous and interesting contemporary romance. The look and feel of “Kiss the Girl” is certainly of traditionally published quality. Unfortunately very little about the story worked for me.

Susan Sey Kiss the GirlThe story begins with rich girl and famous humanitarian Nixie Leighton-Brace returning from Nairobi to rural Kenya with the necessary permits from the Minister of Public Health for their clinic’s standards of care to be posted in every rural hospital in Kenya.  She is also returning to break up with Dr. James Harper, son of the Senator from Virginia, who just happens to be cheating on her. She figured it out when she pulled on a pair of shorts that were James and found panties there that were not her own.  When she confronts James in full view of the cameras that follow Nixie everywhere, she is dumbfounded to find the other woman is her mother, Sloane.

Nixie has only known humanitarian work.  Her mother, a famous actress, and her father traversed the world’s most impoverished regions building homes, clinics, schools.  Upon seeing her fiancé and Sloane in mid coitus, Nixie quits the foundation and hightails it back to Washington, D.C. where the foundation’s apartment lies empty.  Nixie isn’t sure what she wants to do with herself, but she doesn’t want to be with her mother, Karl, or her fiancé.

Next door to Nixie resides Senator Larsen and once Larsen sets eyes on Nixie, she believes Nixie is just the right person for her son Erik.  Erik’s not convinced he wants to be the arm candy of some slightly socialite but he wants to use Nixie’s profile to help save the inner city clinic he runs with his best friend Mary Jane.

Karl has been her surrogate father since Nixie was eight and her biological father died.  He tries to convince Nixie to return to Kenya and when she refuses, he presents himself in D.C. with an incredible opportunity in Bumani to help abused and impoverished women. Not ready to give back to the world what everyone tells her she owes because of all that she has been given, Nixie declares she is going to help Erik and Mary Jane save their clinic and provide asthma treatment to inner city kids being made sick by the cheap paint and carpets used in government subsidized housing.  Nixie is a force to be reckoned with and soon she has set in a motion plans for a huge fundraising gala for the clinic.

Erik treats Nixie very poorly, insulting her intelligence, suggesting she won’t get her hands dirty, and treats her as if she is not a person deserving of respect.  This is based on nothing but Erik’s own assumptions about the type of person Nixie is.  Nixie, on the other hand, treats everyone as if they are interesting and valuable.  It’s one of the many gifts that Nixie has been blessed with, Erik later realizes.  Why Erik gets to act like he is superior with impunity, I do not know. I found him insufferable and unlikeable.  He was cruel to his mother. He was cruel to Nixie and frankly he was cruel to Mary Jane, particularly when he was screwing around with Nixie while trying to convince Mary Jane that they should not only date but perhaps get married.

Sloane and Mary Jane are both given story lines with Sloane’s being that she is really misunderstood and the times she has screwed her daughter’s boyfriends and lovers are for Nixie’s own good. Sloane was a bundle of mixed messages between the “i don’t feel shame” and  “shame is all I have” refrains. Mary Jane’s is slightly more interesting as she is in love with Tyrese Jones, an MBA from the hood who fell down the corporate ladder after and is now cooking the books for gangs.  Theirs was an interesting love story but one that only received a small portion of attention.

When Dr James Harper’s father, the Senator, discovers the fundraising gala, he essentially blackmails Nixie into meeting James at the gala to be publicly forgiven.  This is deemed whoring herself out by Erik.  Mind you, he’s not judging Nixie for these actions.

“Jesus, Nixie, take a look at yourself, will you?”  He frowned at her and rubbed his shoulder.  “You’re taking James Harper to the gala next week so you can forgive him, your mother can slap his face and his father can call him rehabilitated.  You’re whoring your personal life for the cause of the week while your advisor calls a press conference, just like always.  You haven’t changed.  You’ve had a change of venue, that’s all.”

She sucked in a sharp breath, hurt rolling over her in jagged waves.  “That was a cheap shot.  You think I want to make nice with James Harper?”

Erik shrugged.  “I don’t know what you want, Nixie.  I thought you came here to take back your self-respect, but you sold that to James’ daddy, didn’t you?”

“It was for a good cause,” she said slowly, an empty chill creeping into her chest.  Had Sloan felt this way when she’d stolen James? “Your cause, wasn’t it?”

He looked away and shoved both hands through that thick, wheat-colored hair.  “I’m not judging you, Nixie, okay?  You have every right to draw your own boundaries between what you owe the world and what you owe yourself.  We don’t agree on where they should be, that’s all.”

Toward the end, I am to buy into the idea that Nixie is just as corrupt morally as everyone around her, but the proper foundation is never laid. Nixie’s flaws include failing to stand up for herself but being a people pleaser isn’t on the same level as screwing your daughter’s fiancé (Sloane), using a young child for your own personal advancement (Karl), or fucking one girl while trying to get another girl to marry you (Erik). For most of the book I wished Nixie would run away with Mary Jane, the only other decent human being to pass through the pages. Alas, that is not the ending I received.

And in some strange irony, the ending to this “trying too hard” book is classic CareBear with every one married and having a happy ever after. Including Sloane. My eyebrows shot up in the standard what the fuck position and haven’t returned to their normal place on my forehead. I’ve a permanent “what you talking about Willis” expression now. D

 

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REVIEW: Money Honey by Susan Sey

REVIEW: Money Honey by Susan Sey

Money Honey by Susan SeyDear Ms. Sey:

I admit that your book intrigued me because the cover was akin to Julie James’ books and after I read the first chapter, I emailed a friend to let her know that I was hooked and had she read it too (the answer was negative).   This story is a bit of a spin off of the Thomas Crowne Affair trope – sexy thief chased by uptight law enforcement officer.   A number of people liked this in the Eve Dallas series and a number of people liked the trope in the Samantha Jellicoe series.   While Money Honey doesn’t have the same feel (more toward the Jellicoe series than the Eve Dallas series), the base conflict is similar.

Patrick O’Connor was a master thief who gave up the criminal life and became an FBI informant when his sister became entangled with the law.   (The chef sister and her casino owning husband were written like former stars of their own book and I was mildly surprised that there was no previous book telling their love story).    Liz Brynn, FBI agent, and his sister, changed his life irrevocably and O’Connor resents this a bit.   When his sister calls for help, Patrick comes immediately but maybe not just for the all good reasons:

Did he want to witness the two women who between them had turned his life upside down go after each other like a couple of feral dogs?

“Why, yes,” he said, a smile spreading over his face.   “Yes, I do.”

Patrick was trained by Jorge Villanueva and when Villanueva’s actions imperiled Mara, Patrick chose his family over Villaueva.   Villanueva has been nursing a bad, bad grudge against Patrick for years and Villanueva has come to Mara’s town to play out a fantasy revenge scenario.    Liz Brynn is trying to catch a counterfeiter that may or may not be connected to Patrick’s past.   I could easily do the math.

I think O’Connor worked well for me because we were invited inside his head and were privy to his mass of insecurities.   His bravado and intentional needling of Liz was done to create distance between himself and Liz. “The urge to smooth his shirt was unbearable, but he didn’t give in.   He shook his head at his own foolishness, sank deeper into the indolent slouch he knew she hated and stepped into her world.”     Further, for all his outward protestations of being completely insular, his actions betrayed him.    He flew across the country, played nice with the FBI – all to save his sister.

Mara, Patrick’s sister, however, shoots back at him.   “It’s not like I asked you to sacrifice yourself on the altar of my freedom, Mr. Christ Complex,” Mara said.   “It’s entirely possible that I’d have managed the situation on my own.” I appreciated Patrick’s pomposity, deliberate or no, being punctured now and again.

Liz Brynn is a fairly complex character.    She understands Patrick on some level (he’s trying re exert control over the situation by engaging her sexually because he knows that it makes her uncomfortable) but she misses the obvious childish cues that he likes her (because this is akin to the grade school version of pulling the girl’s hair or dipping her ponytails in inkwells).   She’s competent at her job but her rigidity to the law comes from a dark place in her past.   I also liked how Liz was honest with herself about her attraction to Patrick, her weakness toward his advances.

But Liz was nothing if not pragmatic.   Love didn’t last.   Everybody knew it.   If she was in love–and she was too scrupulously honest to even think about denying it–the only smart thing to do was embrace it.   Accept it.   Accelerate it toward the inevitable messy end.   And in Liz’s experience, nothing propelled a romance toward a crash-landing faster than sex.

I also appreciated that Liz wasn’t constantly one upped by Patrick.   In one significant area, Patrick was slow on the uptake whereas Liz caught on quick to the real danger.    I felt that there was a very natural build in the case which lead to a personal conflict and resolution for Liz that had both everything and nothing to do with Patrick.   (To say more would be a spoiler but I mean this to say that without the personal conflict and subsequent resolution, I wouldn’t have found the HEA as believable between the two).

Now, the suspense was a bit of a caricature and the story’s strength rests largely on the dialogue and the emotional interplay between Patrick and Liz.   The sexual heat of the story was akin to a Julie James’ novel relying on the tension versus consummation.    I enjoyed this debut novel and will definitely read the next Sey story.   B-.

Best regards,

Jane

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