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REVIEW: The Boss's Christmas Proposal by Allison Leigh

Dear Ms. Leigh:

037324940301lzzzzzzzSomeone emailed me and said that there was an actual Asian woman on the cover of a Harlequin series book. Of course, I figuratively ran over to the eHarlequin store and bought the book. It could have been a secret baby, amnesia, virgin widow story and I would have bought it.

This book took a different route, but it did suffer from the usage of stale character motivations which disappointed me given the opportunity the setting and culture of Japan had presented.

Kimi Taka is the pampered, socialite daughter of Mori Taka, a premier hotelier. She announces to her father and step-mother that she is leaving school and wants to be part of the TAKA-Hanson corporation. Kimi is desperate to be judged on her own merit and be an asset to the family which is stacked full of over achievers. Even her stepmother’s children are all successful. Kimi’s known mostly for her escapades on the beach and not in the boardroom.

Over her father’s objections, Kimi’s stepmother arranges to have Kimi take a job at Taka Kyoto, a new hotel opening in Japan. Greg Sherman was handpicked for the general manager position of the new hotel and if he is succesesful at Taka Kyoto, his career will have been made. He is unhappy being saddled with Kimi, knowing that he’ll have to babysit the socialite as well as oversee the final construction of the hotel and its grand opening.

Kimi’s motivations were fairly contrived, or, at best, juvenile. She quit school because she was tired of the favoritism. She tried to fail and the professors were always willing to give her a helping hand. She wanted to be judged on her own merits. It doesn’t really make sense that she would ask for a job from her father. Why wouldn’t she just apply somewhere? Further, what makes her think she won’t get favorable treatment in the work situation? These issues aren’t addressed even though she is given favorable treatment by being placed in a position that applicants without the last name Taka must have years of experience.

In fact, the entire conflict between Kimi and Greg is his belief that she needs to be treated differently and Kimi’s desire to be treated like any other employee. Beyond the fact that Greg believes Kimi to be simply one more task on his lengthy list of items to be completed/taken care of before the opening, he has an learned aversion to socialites. Early in his hotelier career, Greg fell for a spoiled rich girl at a resort who dropped him abruptly when a better offer came along. Greg perceives Kimi to be fashioned out of the same mold, no matter how hard she works.

The spurned lover turned socialite hater, Greg, and the poor little rich girl, Kimi, were too conventional in this story for me to really enjoy despite the Japanese setting. While the culture seemed to show itself at small points throughout the story, I felt that there was a real lost opportunity by exploring Kimi’s desire to be viewed as American and shunning her Japanese heritage. Given her stated position, I thought that there might be a reawakening of a love for Japan for Kimi but there was not. While I appreciate the attempts to give this book flavor beyond the ordinary European settings, it could have been used to a greater degree.

Both Greg and Kimi are likeable characters. Kimi, in particular, has that negative hotel heiress stereotype to overcome and I found her genuine and enjoyable. She did mature over the course of the book and this helped to bring up the grade of the book for me. I do appreciate Harlequin putting more minorities into their mainstream lines. C

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

14 Comments

  1. trisha
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 03:20:19

    Hey, I just read this book a couple of days ago! And, like you, the main reason I bought it was because there was an actual Asian woman on the cover.

    I was also disappointed by how little role Kyoto played in the book – the setting came across as completely generic since practically the entire story takes place in the hotel – and

    I felt that there was a real lost opportunity by exploring Kimi's desire to be viewed as American and shunning her Japanese heritage.

    Me, too. Plus, if she wanted to be seen as an American, what was up with all the hai-ing she did? And the Japanese words/phrases she used even when speaking with non-Japanese characters? It didn’t add to the Japanese-ness of the book and I thought it at odds with Kimi’s character. Also, it constantly bugged me that her name is Kimi Taka because I keep wanting to put the two names together as Kimitaka, one name, though I don’t think I can blame Allison Leigh for this one.

    But I actually finished the book in one sitting, and considering how many books I’ve started this month only to put them down ten minutes later, that’s saying something about how readable I found it despite these criticisms.

  2. Sayuri
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 05:51:47

    I’m sure Marie Donovan has a Blaze with an Asian heroine. I think it’s called ‘Her Book Of Pleasure’.

  3. jmc
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 07:55:22

    Jane, have you read any of Sujata Massey’s Rei Shimura series? It is set in the US and Japan, and has a Japanese-American protagonist. Rei’s ambivalence with her American-ness while living in Japan is a big part of the early books.

  4. Jane
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 08:30:46

    @trisha: Having nearly the entire book take place inside the hotel (except for one brief field trip) did create a surreal level of anglicization of the book within the “exotic” setting. I, too, found the book readable and read it in one sitting but as I was writing up the review, I realized that it was pretty flawed.

    Word on the “hai”ing thing, though. You would have thought that would be the first part of her culture that would have been eradicated. Nothing gives you away like the slight dip of the head and the “hai.”

    @Sayuri – I’ll have to check it out. Is it in e form?

    @JMC – I am sorry to say I have never heard of the books to which you refer. I assume that they have a slight romance to them else you wouldn’t recommend them??

  5. jmc
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 08:51:06

    @Jane, There’s a bit of romance in the Shimura series, but it tends to be bittersweet rather than promising an HEA, and the focus is on the mystery. Although love interests have appeared, usually each hanging around for several books, sometimes overlapping, the heroine has not found The One. Or had not as of book #9, Girl in a Box.

  6. Reader1
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 09:49:36

    I didn’t think this book was that great either, but I did like the book it was a sequel to: Mergers & Matrimony, the story of Kimi’s father and his wife as seen in this book. It was a romance with A) an Asian hero, something I find more rare than Asian heroines (notice how the cover of that book DOESN’T show HIS face), and B) between older characters (both were in their forties, IIRC). It was by the same author. (Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Mergers-Matrimony-Silhouette-Special-Allison/dp/0373247613/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232553102&sr=8-1)

    And I second the Marie Donovan. Good book.

  7. Reader1
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 10:32:18

  8. Wandering Chopsticks
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 11:57:24

    Have you read “Playing with Matches”? It’s an anthology with Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian romances. Except for the hero in the Chinese short story, the hero and heroines, and the authors too (?), are all ethnic. I think it actually made a difference in my enjoyment of the book because they weren’t so stereotyped.

    It’s been a while, and I remember the stories not working all that well for me in terms of romance, but pretty good for acknowledging culture while showing Asian Americans as well, as Asian Americans.

    http://www.amazon.com/Playing-Matches-Signet-Romance-Anthology/dp/0451208307/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232559977&sr=8-1

  9. Jane
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 12:02:55

    @Wandering Chopsticks I have read it and I think I have it in paper form somewhere. I can’t actually remember what I thought of it.

  10. Jayne
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 12:38:10

    I read that one. And I agree that the authors really made an effort to include lots of cultural stuff and issues that these characters were dealing with. But, TBH, the thing I really remember from it was the Harbaugh entry and the characters’ obsession with chicken yakisoba. From the way they carry on about it, it must be the food of the Gods.

  11. GrowlyCub
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 13:04:22

    The Donovan was so-so for me, particularly because the ‘mystery’ subplot was really boring.

  12. Eugene
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 18:16:41

    The Path of Dreams features a Japanese-American protagonist, and the ebook is a free download.

  13. Tae
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 22:17:07

    I love Suzanne Brockmann and I loved Into the Storm more so because of the Asian heroine. I couldn’t really relate to the character too much, but I still loved the effort. There was also that Mary Jo Putney historical, The China Bride, which I also loved. It’s nice to see some Asians in romance novels.

  14. Prologue Poll | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 07:34:48

    [...] often wondered why there is a prologue in a story. Why isn’t it Chapter One? In The Boss’s Christmas Proposal, the story opens with a prologue of the character confronting her parents and asking for a job in [...]

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