Well. When you’ve been reviewing romances for a few years, you start to think you’ve seen it all – the best of the best, and the worst of the worst. Happily, every time I become a little blasé, something will happen to surprise me. First Kiss is deplorable enough to shock even a veteran reviewer. With characters no one would like and a plot that’s unbelievable in its inanity, this books completely lacks any appeal.
Kiki Sonntag is a former Miss Texas, and runner-up in the 1995 Miss America pageant. That was basically the pinnacle of her life; at 32 she’s a has-been soap opera actress who frequently borrows money from mommy and daddy to support her designer clothes habit. She has a close circle of friends who she can depend on in times of crisis, all of whom have names, lifestyles, and morals that are startlingly similar to her own. Suzi-Suzi is a second rate model in the midst of an affair with another woman’s husband. Danni is a stripper with a heart of gold, who only strips because she can’t find another venue that will allow her to continue her important work of choreographing Bon Jovi songs. One day, Kiki and friends are shopping for Stella McCartney clothes when she overhears one of Manhattan’s it couples, Tom and Kirsten Brock, talking in a private room. She’s the only one of her circle brave enough to walk back there and try to strike up a conversation, so she does it. She talks to both of them, and feels almost chummy. Just as the conversation closes, the charm falls off of her Juicy Couture bracelet and lands right between Tom’s legs. Kiki bends to pick it up, and a photographer catches the moment on film.
The next morning Kiki awakens to find herself cast as New York’s new villainess. The photo is on the front page of the papers, and it looks like Kiki is giving Tom a blowjob. She is branded a homewrecker, her agent dumps her, and they won’t even let her shop in Stella McCartney anymore. Disheartened, she takes refuge in Affair, Manhattan’s swankest hotel for adulterers. While she’s trying to brazen it out in the lobby, she strikes up a conversation with Fabrizio “Fab” Tomba, the unbelievably hot guy who owns the hotel. Although she acts like a bitch at first, eventually she softens up and tells him the whole sordid story. He takes pity on her and establishes her in “the mistress hideaway” so she can lay low. She hopes the publicity will die down in awhile, and meanwhile, maybe she can have sex with Fab, since he’s so, well, fab.
So Fab and Kiki spar a little, screw a little, and hang out a little. Kiki makes a new friend who’s a stripper (because one stripper friend apparently was not enough). Meanwhile, Kiki contemplates writing a book about her life, wherein she can offer pearls of wisdom to young girls everywhere. She also fires off e-mails to a friend about her brother’s upcoming wedding. None of the e-mails have anything at all to do with the plot, but apparently they connect with other books in the Bridesmaid Chronicles series. Her relationship with Fab seems destined to go nowhere, since he’s a notorious playboy, but as Kiki is on the verge of leaving the hotel, she overhears Fab declaring his undying love for her, and all’s well that ends well.
As bad as this plot summary sounds, I assure you the reality is even worse. There are so many things wrong with this book that it’s hard to know where to start, but the heroine is as good a place as any. It’s really hard to convey her vapidity in mere words, but the best I can do is to say that she makes Paris Hilton look interesting – deep even – by comparison. It’s hard to imagine any romance reader relating to her. As a confirmed fashion junkie and faithful reader of Lucky magazine, I should have been able to understand her on some level. But this woman has no morals and no character – and no personality beyond that of a greedy, name-dropping consumer. She laughs off her first marriage to a rich old guy, AKA her “starter husband.” She married him because he was rich, but was too stupid to realize that the pre-nup she was signing guaranteed that he’d keep his money. What an idiot. She intends to have a chapter on starter husbands in her book, because after all, every girl has one, right? She has other “wisdom” to impart, but none of it is worth listening to.
As much as I disliked her, I disliked Fab even more. He’s presented as your average nice guy who just happens to have dated a string of strippers, starlets, and reality TV contestants. He treats Kiki nicely and seems to find something deep in her that no one else (including the reader) could ever hope to see. But (and this is a huge but) the guy owns a hotel that caters to celebrates adultery. The author talks about that as if it’s actually funny. No one in the book seems to find anything wrong with what he does. Now granted, people have no trouble finding places to cheat on each other, even in areas that lack specific hotels dedicated to that purpose. But the fact that the hero would create and market a hotel based on this concept makes him completely morally bankrupt. I’m all for moral ambiguity in a hero, but there’s no ambiguity here at all – just an outright lack of morals to begin with. If I were Kiki, I might be a little worried about Fab’s faithfulness, considering his occupation, but then we already know Kiki’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.
Oddly enough, the author shows the capability of being funny now and then. Kiki makes a humorous comparison between her troublesome Juicy bracelet and Marsha Brady’s fateful charm bracelet in the Brady Bunch (remember that episode where they build the house of cards?). Kiki also makes a funny remark about Fab’s handwriting, which she calls more sophisticated than “the chicken scratch you got from most guys who only seemed to be able to scribble BUY BEER on a piece of scrap paper and tack it to the refrigerator.” That kind of humor might work well with better characters. Unfortunately, Adams is just as likely to make completely offensive and inappropriate jokes. My jaw really dropped when Kiki had difficulty choosing an outfit one morning, and compared the challenge of picking an outfit to Meryl Streep’s dilemma in Sophie’s Choice.
When Kylie Adams first started writing, it was fairly widely known that “she” was really a he, a man with a female cartoon alter-ego, complete with fake bio. Adams continues that fiction here, but I don’t really know why he bothers. Anyone reading his love scenes could guess his gender immediately. Fab’s bizarre descriptions of Kiki’s “spectacular tits” read like a letter to Penthouse. I also know few female authors who feel the need to make give all their female characters names that make them sound like strippers. In this book, only Danni and Tiffany Lynn actually strip for money, but names like Kiki and Suzi-Suzi conjure up vivid images of poles, g-strings, and sweaty twenty-dollar bills. And what kind of name is Fab, anyway? Please.
Apart from a handful of funny lines, this book has absolutely nothing to recommend it. Not only am I hard-put to imagine a single romance reader enjoying it, I’m having trouble believing that any publisher would print it in the first place. Connie Mason and Cassie Edwards – authors frequently maligned by online readers – are a step up from First Kiss. If that doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what does.