At Long Last Love

Love Affair

A Love of Her Own

Prelude to a Kiss
by Bettye Griffin
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, G) ISBN 1-58314-139-1
Prelude to a Kiss spins off two secondary characters from Bettye Griffin's third novel, Love Affair Dsirée Mack, the heroine of that book, tried unsuccessfully to get Vivian St. James and Dr. Zachary Warner together. His schedule as an emergency room doctor made it impossible. . Besides, Zack is a very eligible bachelor who managed to elude the fix-up until Desirée returned to Colorado with her fiancé, Austin Hughes.

Meanwhile, Vivian had problems of her own. Single and 34 in New York, she had dated her share of losers. The last one was a microbiologist whom she met through mutual friends. Vivian invited him over to dinner but found he was more intent on checking out the bacteria in her bathroom than in checking her out.

"When he finally kissed her good night and left, she imagined the first thing he would do when he got to his car would be to wash out his mouth with alcohol-based mouthwash to protect himself, since he'd also graciously pointed out - during dinner, no less - that a dog's mouth is likely to have fewer germs than that of another human. The whole episode made her want to gag."

But the new year has brought new hopes - and new challenges for Vivian. Determined that this is the year she will snag Mr. Right, Vivian and her best friend formulate a plan. Starting with a New Year's open house, they are going to be wherever eligible men gathered - ski trips, summer cruises, music festivals...Like the Mounties, they are going to get their men.

Before you can say "Sarah Jessica Parker," Vivian meets Gary at the open house. Things seem to be going well between them until he hurts his arm on a coat rack. His injury may need stitches so Vivian and her best friend take him to the closest emergency room where Zack is on duty. Although he has no idea Vivian is the woman his friend tried to introduce him to, he is attracted to her. Only, she's come in with his patient, her date. The moment is lost and they secretly wish for an opportunity to see each other again.

Be careful what you wish for. In the weeks that follow, Vivian literally has men falling at her feet. After several of her dates are brought in for various emergencies, Zack dubs her his "angel of the accident prone." When she takes offense, he reminds her, "It's not like I called you the angel of death."

Bettye Griffin's fourth novel is a lighthearted look at the dating game. Mothers-from hell, dating faux pas and a series of dates for which Caller ID was invented are examined. The author has toned down the sensuality to G-level and kicked up her sense of humor by several degrees. Many of her similes, one-liners and responses are quick-witted. The result is a delightful story that has moved Griffin's writing into the next phase. The author continues to create interesting secondary characters. In previous works, the supporting cast often overshadowed the main characters. In Prelude to a Kiss, the author juggles many more characters but manages to keep much of the emphasis on Zack and Vivian.

The overall pacing is a bit slow and the safari scenes did little to advance the story. And although, this book is a spin-off, it is not necessary to read Love Affair. That said, I recommend Prelude to a Kiss and look forward to the author's next book.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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