Heaven Sent by Rochelle Alers
(Arabesque, $4.99, PG) ISBN: 0-7860-0530-0
****
Heaven Sent is the fourth in Rochelle Alers' in the saga of the African-American/Cuban Cole family headed by ruthless patriarch Samuel Claridge Cole. The Cole family chronicles began in 1995 with the publication of Hideaway and continued last year with Hidden Agenda and Vows.

It has been nine years since musician-turned-business exec David Claridge Cole took over the reigns of the family-owned ColeDiz International, Ltd. His older brother Martin resigned to run for political office. (Hideaway, the first novel in the series, chronicles the story of Martin Diaz Cole and Parris Simmons-Cole.)

At 36, David is eager to give up control of ColeDiz to return to his first love music. Before Martin's abdication as head of the company, David was a percussionist for the jazz band, "Night Mood." He wants to establish his own recording company and launch new musical talent. Although he hasn't yet told his family of his plans, he is determined that his upcoming business trip to Costa Rica will be his last to South America.

The Cole family's export company owns a banana plantation in Costa Rica that soon puts him on a collision course with the country's nationalistic Interior Minister Raul Codero-Vega. Despite being married for more than 20 years to an American who has retained her U.S. citizenship, Vega hates Americans. ColeDiz and the Costa Rican government become embroiled in a trade dispute when Vega claims the American company's banana packing process has harmed turtles in the vicinity of the plantation. After he doubles the already high tariffs, David is ready to cut his company's losses and sell the plantation.

Meanwhile, Vega's son, Gabriel, has been arrested in the United States and charged with drug trafficking and the murder of a DEA agent. Despite the young Vega's promise to relinquish his passport, federal authorities denied bail, fearing he would flee the country. Vega has yet another reason to hate Americans and he decides to hold David hostage in exchange for his son.

Serena Morris-Vega flies to Costa Rica to confer with her mother and stepfather after her half-brother refuses to see her in prison. She finds her mother has taken to her bed, her stepfather is acting strangely and David Cole, the American Aguest" is in need of medical attention.

Serena was trained as a nurse in America and helps the doctor take care of David. Although they are immediately attracted to one another, the romance between David and Serena is realistically paced. It is allowed to take root and blossom

Serena is unaware David is being held captive by her stepfather. And her stepfather is unaware that he has angered the wrong American family. As is classic in this series, the Cole family quickly closes ranks to protect its own. No government intervention is necessary because there are enough special forces operatives and covert specialists among family and friends to quash revolution in a small country. Once the Coles discover David is in danger, the action-adventure Alers' fans have come to expect begins.

Rochelle Alers has carved out a niche with the Cole family chronicles. The series presents yet another dimension of African-American life through its depiction of the Black and Latino Diaz-Cole heritage. While the narrative in Heaven Sent sketches in many of the details in the three previous stories, I'd recommend that Hideaway and Vows be read at some point. Like Heaven Sent, they are full-bodied adventures and passionate love stories.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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