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.
The 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