Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Not Even If You Begged
Francis Ray

St. Martin's Griffin
January 2008
ISBN-10: 0312948174

Women's Fiction

Rating: 4 ½ - Exceptional
Reviewer: Patricia Woodside

Traci Evans is a young widow. She's had it with the notion of a happy marriage since hers was not a happy one to begin with, and to make matters worse, her husband died while cheating on her. Simply put, she believes all men cheat.

Professionally, Traci makes her living as a PR guru whose job it is sometimes to help those very cheaters to preserve their well-crafted business and personal images. Her less than honorable clients only underscore her point. So when she meets her neighbor's son, what's to make her think Dr. Ryan Gilmore will be any different?

Maureen Gilmore, Traci's neighbor and herself a widow, believes that she's already had the love of her life and love won't come knocking for her anymore, until she meets Simon Dunlap. Simon, a detective, does not see Maureen's age but the beautiful, accomplished, and sexy person that she is.

Traci and Maureen are both members of the Invincible Sisterhood, a group of savvy, sassy widows with a Three Musketeers-like mindset-one for all, all for one, and we know what's best. Out of love and friendship, they look out for, defend, and occasionally nudge one another toward success and happiness.

NOT EVEN IF YOU BEGGED puts a fresh spin on the older woman, younger man romance, while also exploring the notion that what we do for a living doesn't define who we are. What I enjoy most about Ms. Ray's stories is the fact that her heroes and heroines tend to be great people even while experiencing the conflicts that shake up their lives and threaten their happily ever after. Not perfect or one-dimensional folks, just really "good people". To be sure, they might be selfish at times, hard-headed, or unshakable in their less than informed beliefs but they're still folks I wouldn't mind having as friends and neighbors. I enjoy getting to know them and always hate when the story ends.

Sweet Georgia Brown
Cheryl Robinson

NAL Trade
January 2008
ISBN-10: 0451222288

Women's Fiction

Rating: 4 - Excellent
Reviewer: Patricia Woodside

Georgia Brown wants nothing more than a comfortable life with the love of her life, her husband and fledgling comedian, Marvin Brown. Except Marvin is unemployed and they, along with their young son, are living with his parents while she toils at a dead-end job to keep the family afloat.

When she uses company resources to help Marvin further his comedy career, Georgia loses her job, snapping their seemingly last thread. But then Marvin hits the big time, winning a million dollar prize on a reality show and things start looking up for the Browns.

Except that Georgia isn't enamored with the money or the things it can buy and never was. She wants to live comfortably, to be sure, but she craves the love and respect of her man. Most of all, Georgia wants to know that her life has purpose.

When Marvin's teenage daughter, from a previous relationship, announces her existence by showing up on the Brown's doorstep, Georgia gets her first inkling of what that purpose might be. With her marriage is crumbling alongside her self-respect, can Georgia find it within to welcome the girl into her home?

In SWEET GEORGIA BROWN, Cheryl Robinson has penned a tale that will be familiar to many a woman and particularly to mothers who lose sight of themselves and their own goals while taking care of the household, supporting their man, and raising their children. The story is both touching and feisty, not to mention funny, especially after Georgia begins to fight back against being trapped in a meaningless life.

I enjoyed the contemporary shout-outs, like radio personality Tom Joyner and the take on Last Comic Standing. Years from now these things might date the book but, right now they add to the entertainment value. Also, it was nice to add a reality show premise in which winning doesn't bring the characters what they expect, a reality check for anyone thinking that those shows might be a ticket to their dreams coming true.

Three Wishes
Janice Sims

Kimani Arabesque
January 2008
ISBN-10: 0373830114


Rating: 4 - Excellent
Reviewer: Patricia Woodside

Attorney Sunny Adams works for a prestigious Georgia law firm. A childhood friend seeks her out, enlisting Sunny to defend her against accusations of murdering her rap star husband. It's not the kind of case Sunny typically takes, or even wants at this point, but she can't turn down the daughter of the people who raised her after she was orphaned at a young age by her adoptive parents.

Sunny's relationships pale in comparison to her name. Her last serious relationship ended badly. She knows nothing of her birth parents until Audra Kane, a movie star and Sunny's birth mother, decides to contact her. It seems an author is about to write an expose on Audra and she feels it best to divulge the news of Sunny's parentage herself. Except she can't bring herself to face her daughter-and possibly be followed by the paparazzi-so she dispatches Jonas Blake, her stepson to meet and invite Sunny back to Los Angeles.

Jonas, a global business consultant, is between assignments. He's not sure Audra's idea is a good one but he loves his stepmother and decides to help her. Upon seeing Sunny, he is taken by her and wants to get to know her better, although Sunny is skeptical of both him and his mission. When it becomes apparent that her current case might be dangerous, Jonas remains in Georgia to protect Sunny, taking advantage of the opportunity to win her heart.

It took me a while to figure out the meaning behind the title but I eventually got it because, in the end, Audra, Sunny, and Jonas get their wishes. But so do a few other significant characters. This story is about secrets and lies, and about love and romance in many forms. Janice Sims never shies away from difficult topics and doesn't here. The murder trial holds an interesting twist that might cause readers to rethink preconceived notions. But overall, Three Wishes is a heartwarming romance, one in which the heroine gets to take the high road in the face of much conflict yet the story doesn't become overly sweet and risk being unbelievable as a result.

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