Ache For You
“I don’t want to talk to you.”
“Ah. You are a lesbian.”
– Matteo meets Kimber, Ache For You
The above quotation was the harbinger of bad things to come, like thunder before a tornado. J.T. Geissinger’s Ache for You continues her Slow Burn series of rewritten fairytales, this one a Cinderella pastiche with a narrative focusing on a fashion magnate and the designer he meets and clashes with on an international flight.
Penniless wannabe fashion designer Kimber DiSanto is on the verge of marrying Brad, her long-term on-and-off boyfriend, when he gets cold feet and backs out right at the altar. This means Kimber must say goodbye to all of the trappings Brad’s rich politician parents have been paying for. But she doesn’t mind – her idea of heaven isn’t the luxe dude ranch in Montana that Brad bought for them to live on anyway. But the local media keeps grilling her, and her newfound financial woes are compounded when she gets a message from her father’s close friend, Dominic, that her father has suffered a massive heart attack and might pass away at any moment. Though Kimber adores her father, she hasn’t seen him in five years, and quickly takes a flight to Italy.
But more woes await Kimber, who’s bumped from her flight and is left in desperate straits. A handsome man she’s been eyeing while waiting to board (and with whom she had bantered when he offensively – see above quote – tried to pick her up) offers her his first class seat – with a caveat. He wants her sketchbook in return for the ticket. Because she loves her father and doesn’t want to wait until the next morning to catch a flight, Kimber trades a full season’s worth of fashions for the first-class ticket to Italy.
Within hours of landing, she witnesses her father’s death, then learns that he had quietly remarried a witchy Marchesa on the quiet because he didn’t want to upset her. In his will, Kimber gets DiSanto Couture, her father’s failing dress shop, which she plans to sell – until she learns her own shop has gone up in a block-destroying fire while she’s gone. Working to rise from the ashes (literally) and rebuild her father’s shop into something worthwhile, she finds herself flirting with the guy from the plane again. Well, her best friend – a fashion model named Jenner – did tell her she ought to loosen up…
Matteo Moretti wants Kimber and Kimber’s dresses, but he can apparently only have one and not the other. A fashion mogul worth millions, he thinks he’s finally found a new designer – but can’t find her because she told him her name was Lorena Bobbit (yes, really). He’s ruthlessly ambitious and unused to being told no, so he manipulates his way into Kimber’s heart while being passionately aroused by her resistance. He doesn’t know that she’s his step-sister, and Kimber doesn’t know that he’s the marchesa’s son, but… I guess I don’t need to spell it out.
Kimber is incensed to learn of Matteo’s connection to the marchesa, and that he plans on displaying her designs as part of the House of Moretti’s next spring collection – which he believes he can rightfully do, since she gave him her sketchbook in trade for the plane ticket (um…). Kimber and Matteo spark and clash, but will they manage to overcome the love-hate-love pattern they’re locked in? And will Kimber forget Brad for good and manage to make a successful go of it with her father’s dress shop?
If you like a love-hate relationship that lasts… well, for a very long time, you might like Ache for You. But the book has one major Achilles heel – it is way, way way over the top, from its cartoonish moments of melodrama to its extremely ridiculous spots of humor. Its characters barely behave like human beings most of the time, instead coming off as sitcom constructs waiting for their next laugh. Example: the dialogue is littered with exclamations like “Winston Churchill’s hairy balls”!
Kimber is describable in two words: histrionically overreactive. Everything is an emergency worth screaming over or delivering mock death-threats; there is no in-between for her.
“After I tear off his limbs, I’ll set them on fire.”
– Kimber on an elderly man she was once extremely close to, eighty pages from the end of the book.
She’s extremely easy to pity, but she pities herself so much that you’ll yearn for her to put a sock in it. I liked her spine and nerve, but sometimes they came off as being nothing more than high-octane hissyfititude.
Matteo is the kind of smug ‘charmer’ alpha who presumes that Kimber’s a lesbian because she won’t react to his flirtation, and then jerks off in the men’s room thinking of her mouth, all minutes after meeting her.
“My erection has become a cliché.”
– Matteo on himself.
He manipulates hotels into putting him through to speak to her and will do anything he can to get her hands on his designs (And her boobs). He’s like every single dude who’s ever approached a woman at a bus stop with a pick-up line and then gotten really offended when she dared to put her earbuds in. Some people go for the infuriating smug, manipulative type with oily confidence; I wanted to punch him in the jaw.
“She’s not happy to see me. She’s in his arms and she’s not happy to see me…I’m going to break something, possibly his legs.”
– Our hero, as the heroine hugs her ex-fiancé.
Matteo and Kimber banter and banter, but when they fight they sound like two six year olds tussling over a ball. Sometimes it’s charming, but their attraction is far too insta-love on Matteo’s side, and barely anything more than insta-lust sight on Kimber’s. Wanna hear eighty million times about how Kimber’s snarky self makes his dong hard? ‘Cause it’s his main thought eighty percent of the time, followed by Kimber blaming various “tugs” in her womb for her behavior/arousal (she might want to get that checked out). Kimber rarely puts Matteo off his game, and we’re supposed to be cool with it. He’s ‘prince charming’ after all, even if he’s a controlling dickweasel and she likes to threaten to kill him every time he won’t give her her sketchbook back and repeats his plan to expand his line’s evening wear fashions using her designs and forces her to trade kisses and sex for their return. And then, to top it all off, he talks about his assistant’s gypsy blood and how it’s the reason he’s psychic. (I otherwise loved Antonio for calling Matteo on his shit and repeatedly embarrassing him. It’s what he deserves).
Kimber’s friendship with Jenner is definitely the novel’s highlight, even though Jenner is an over-the-top stereotype in a lot of ways, a walking erection who calls Kimber ‘darling’ nonstop. I came to like Brad but ugh, the machismo BS in the way the novel compares Matteo to Brad – especially when a revelation comes out as to why why Brad couldn’t marry Kimber – is ugly.
Compared to the sparkling charm of Melt For You and the wonderful Burn For You, Ache for You is the weakest BY FAR of the Slow Burn trilogy. When you find the relationship between the heroine and her stepmother’s dogs more compelling than anything the hero and heroine dish up together, then you’re in deep trouble. The book’s a train wreck.