Comfort Of A Man
by Adrianne Byrd, contemporary (2003)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-428-5

I have a secret guilty pleasure. I don't normally partake expensive coffee from overpriced bistros, but I am addicted in a nice way to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's Black Forest ice smoothie. One sip of the rich chocolate and mocha stuff is guaranteed to deliver a nice kick in the gut with a lovely warm afterglow effect. Adrianne Byrd's Comfort Of A Man is what I would call the Black Forest ice smoothie of a romance novel - reading it makes for some lovely afterglow effects. If the set-up of the story allows for a more well-developed romance, this book would have easily been a keeper.

Brooklyn Douglas is the single mother to a difficult teenage boy. Her ex-husband cheated on her, and as Brooklyn laments, her son seems to blame her for the divorce while saving all his good moods for his father only. She is trying to get some decent money from her real estate job as well. All in all, she has no time for a man in her life, even if all her friends insist that she does. One day, however, she spots hunky Isaiah Washington, a successful businessman. You'd think that woman would love to have a sensitive, loving, rich, hunky - did I mention "rich"? - man in her life, but all Brooklyn wants is a no-strings-attached one night stand. Too bad that Isaiah isn't content with one night and sets off in hot pursuit of poor Brooklyn.

The premise isn't promising, but the book more than makes up for its tired trust issue premise. Isaiah and Brooklyn's chemistry pretty much sets the page on fire, with the added bonus of Isaiah being such a gallant hero. If what I'm looking for is a fantasy hunky and rich guy just begging for a chance with me and doing it most romantically - and okay, I could use some of that fantasy - Isaiah works like magic. Brooklyn is quite annoying when her trust issues seem to go on and on for way too long, but her relationships with her mother as well as her friends resonate with realistic close-knit affections. The relationship between Brooklyn and her son is also well-done. Ms Byrd doesn't resort to cheap stereotypes of evil mothers and evil ho's in her book, and the result is a lovely read.

I do have some issues with Isaiah apparently falling in love with Brooklyn at first sight. It's hard to buy that when Brooklyn isn't always all that warm or affectionate when she's with him. I understand that Isaiah has to behave like this for the whole plot to work, but at the same time, I often look at Brooklyn and think, "I don't get it, Isaiah, I really don't, dear."

Nonetheless, with realistic characters and a romantic courtship that is as smooth and rich as honey, Comfort Of A Man is a heartwarming read. The premise may not be the most original, but the emotions are genuine, as are the characters, and therefore this book is one delicious Black Forest iced smoothie for the hot and lazy days.

Rating: 89

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