by Christine Townsend, contemporary (2004)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-475-7
Christine Townsend's debut Sweet Desire is interesting as it contains the rarely-touched upon subject of African American country music artists. The heroine Regina Lovejoy is a writer for several successful country music hits on the charts. The hero Thomas Simmons is a recruitor for the basketball team of the Renaissance University. These two are neighbors and single-parents and their sons Justin and Tres are friends. This is how those two adults know each other - when Thomas' grandmother has to fly back home when she is babysitting Tres, she leaves Tres in the care of Regina. When Regina and Thomas first interact, they have initial misconceptions about the other person being a workaholic who neglects his or her kid. It's not a good start to a good relationship, but they'll get to the happy ending eventually.
The trouble with this book is that the author doesn't succeed in making her story a successful romance. The main reason is that she tells me how the main characters lust after each other, but she doesn't actually show me why these two people will have any reason to fall in love. There's physical attraction, yes, and maybe it's somehow nicer to get married instead of hiring babysitters, but what else is there? There are the expected family members telling Regina and me that oh, Timothy and Regina are so together because these family members can somehow sense it five minutes after seeing those two together (give me a break), but there is nothing else here. There is no tender scenes between the main characters, no emotional connection, no heartfelt talks, not even a genuine discussion about their relationship. Sweet Desire instead is a story about two people that just happen to vaguely be attracted to each other going about their daily routines until conflicts in Timothy's career come in late in the story to provide some dramatic moments.
Because I can't sense any emotional connection between those two, when Timothy and Regina start playing silly games with each other, I am more exasperated than sympathetic.
The author has a lot of things to inform and share with her readers about the contribution of African Americans to the country music genre, but her idea of information dissemination is to have Regina lecturing anybody who will listen. These scenes come off like the author's voice from the lecture podium and they interrupt the flow of the story.
Sweet Desire is a pleasant read, but it could have been better if the author has shown me less of what her characters are doing and more of what they are feeling. By the end of the day, I know what her characters love to eat, listen to on the radio, or watch on TV, or other trivial matters, I also do know they vaguely love each other enough to sleep together more than once, but other than these, I know zilch about why they click in the first place. As a generic story of the lives of two neighbors, this book isn't bad, but as a romance novel, this book is a failure for the reasons I've mentioned.
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