A Malibu Kind of Romance by Synithia Williams

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Heather S. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Short Contemporary Romance category.

The summary:

Rhythm of their hearts 

Slick lines and sweet nothings have zero effect on ambitious real estate developer Julie Dominick. Her love rules have thankfully saved her from dealing with messy relationship complications. But since R & B superstar Dante Wilson hired her to open his new Malibu nightclub, he’s determined to add some pleasure to their business dealings. And Julie’s strategy to protect her heart may not stand up to his seductive appeal.

Growing up in a music dynasty, Dante enjoys all the female attention that comes with his fame. For the first time, he knows what it feels like to be brushed off by someone he’s falling for. When his usual moves fall flat, he has to show Julie the real man behind all the glitz and glamour. Will it be enough to convince Julie that it’s better to break the rules rather than risk losing love’s passionate melody?

Here is Heather S.’s review:

Trigger warning for attempted assault and date rape.

Full disclosure: I wanted to love this book. I wanted to devour every single word of it in a fit of sun loving – I am so over this winter and I really wanted to escape to someplace warm and tropical adventure. I had read Synithia Williams’ Full Court Press last month and it had hit all of those marks for me so when I saw this book on the list I snapped it up hoping to duplicate that feeling.

This book was not that book.

We open with our hero Dante, who is a successful hip-hop artist. He wants to branch out a little, which causes friction with his family who owns the hip-hop empire that also produces his music (like Empire but with less violence). He has this idea for a club that will promote this new fusion music that he wants to create and all he needs is the perfect person to help iron out all the pesky details that come with creating a business.

His buddy Raymond recommends our heroine Julie for the job despite the fact that Julie lives in Florida and, not Malibu where this club will be. Raymond is convinced that Julie would be perfect. Raymond is also convinced that Julie is his “someday” person. They made a pact once where if they were both still single at the ripe old age of 30 they would get together.

Dante shrugs, calls Julie, and continues on with his partying life.

Julie has a great sounding life in Florida running a company with her best friend – a company she co-founded when the company she was working for turned out to be less than ethical. She also has had terrible experiences dating hip-hop stars and has sworn off them. Or dating clients. She has rules and isn’t afraid to follow them. It also turns out that a lot of her rules are helpfully provided for her by Raymond who is also kinda sorta grooming her to still be single when they turn 30 and he is ready to settle down.

I was struggling through the first half of this book. The Raymond subplot didn’t amuse me because I didn’t understand where Raymond got off staking a claim on Julie while still sleeping with anybody he wanted to. And then Julie is carrying around a whole lot of emotional baggage due to her past relationships, which made for some frustrating moments where I really just wanted her to take what Dante was saying at face value.

But then we have the moment where I almost stopped reading altogether.

Show Spoiler
At about the 50% point Julie has a roofie slipped into her drink by the “nice guy” that she went on a casual date with when she first arrives in Malibu. As she’s almost passed out and getting dragged out of the party Dante steps in and rescues her.

When Julie wakes up the next morning she is in a room she doesn’t recognize, wearing clothes that aren’t hers, and has no memory of how she might have ended up there. She also has a bandaid on her arm and when she takes it off discovers that there isn’t a wound.

She decides she must be safe because the room smells like Dante and helps herself to the shower before making herself a sandwich and settling down to watch an old musical. As you do.

When Dante returns he explains the events of the previous night. She listens. She has sex with him. For the first time. And likes it. A lot.

And I get that this moment is the catalyst where she feels like she can trust the hero but… how sexy can the moment be when you’ve just discovered that you threw up on that person the night before?

So they tumble into a relationship of sorts where Dante thinks that Julie is wonderful and Julie thinks that Dante is just saying sweet things before he moves on the next girl. Dante makes his music and Julie works on the club while they navigate this world.

One night, Julie is at Dante’s house with Dante’s family and his ex-girlfriend, who is there because his parents want them back together. Julie defends Dante to his parents who return the favor by letting Julie know that Dante should be and will be back together with his ex-girlfriend. This somehow turns into a situation where Dante and Julie end up having sex in the next room and Dante confesses his love for Julie. Who leaves abruptly. Because of course Julie believes that all things said right after sex are false thanks to an ex-boyfriend.

It wraps up with a song that Dante writes for Julie and a moment where he tries to win her back that goes terribly wrong. Some conflict resolution that seemed to be resolved a little too easily and Julie finds herself moving to Malibu.

This author gets a lot of things right. I enjoyed her dialogue and her sense of place. I appreciated that her characters made mistakes and owned it. I liked how for the most part people used their words for conflict resolution. I struggled with believing that this relationship was working or going to work. I also didn’t always feel that the reactions of these characters made sense and once I felt that it was hard to continue to fully immerse myself in this world.

Overall I would say read this author. But read her other books instead.

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A Malibu Kind of Romance by Synithia Williams

August 1, 2016

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