Be Mine

Firm Commitments

No Greater Gift

What the Heart Knows

A Perfect Pair by Geri Guillaume
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG) ISBN 1-58314-960-0
Texas-based author Geri Guillaume writes stories about strong families. Many of her stories are about individuals within the group who work together in some sort of family enterprise. Family members are often loyal to a fault and will quickly and close ranks against incursion from without. My favorite Geri Guillaume romance is Be Mine. Released in 1999, it is a quiet story with a powerful undercurrent that has a prominent spot on my keeper shelf.

A Perfect Pair is Guillaume's sixth novel. It is the story of Jacynth Metcalf, who had a small role in “Stolen Hearts,” the author's novella in Arabesque's 2001 Valentine's anthology, Truly.

Since then, Jacie has lost the job she held for five years as an assembly line supervisor at a local factory. Her bills are mounting and she is about to be evicted from her apartment. Jacie's pride is the only thing of value she has left and she mortgages a portion of that to suck up to a distant relative for a job interview at his company.

On the morning of the interview, Murphy's law shifts into high gear. The alarm goes off late. The car she has had since her high school graduation stalls. The uninsured car is about to be hit head-on by a delivery truck when she is suddenly rear-ended by cousins Chas and Remy Thibeadaux.

The collision is a mixed blessing. The Thibeadaux truck purposely struck her car to save her from serious injury or death. However, her only mode of transportation has been totaled. More importantly, she has missed the interview. No one is available to come help her. As a resigned Jacie tells her ersatz hero: “Welcome to my nightmare.”

Jacie's surreal adventure continues when Chas takes her home and promptly offers her $3500 if she will not report the accident to his insurance company. She doubts that Chas' offer is on the up-and-up and hesitates. But he quickly assesses Jacie's situation and understands the money will keep her afloat a while longer. Her never ending supply of pride kicks in once again and, although he has left the check, she sends Chas packing. Later, a combination of pride (again) mixed with guilt and family values, forces Jacie to return the money to Chas. Accompanied by her brother and his mixed New and Old Testament precepts about “fishes and loaves,” she goes to Chas’ place of business, CT Inspections, to find him.

When Jacie arrives, she doesn't see Charles Harrison Thibeadaux. III. Charles Harrison, Sr. is Chas' irascible grandfather. He is described as a man who is not easy to look at or listen to. The elder Thibeadaux is not-so-affectionately known as “G-Paw” and he rules CT Inspections and his grandsons with an iron hand. Chas is the company’s heir apparent.

G-Paw and Jacie have a spirited encounter and she returns the money. A misunderstanding ensues and, once things have settled, Jacie is hired as CT Inspections’ first female inspector. She is “the new guy.” Jacie will be working closely with Chas and is determined to make a go of the hard work required to be a grain inspector.

The relationship between Chas and Jacie begins and develops slowly. In the interim, we learn a great deal about the grueling work involved in grain inspections. What we don't learn, is a lot about Jacie - beyond her attraction to Chas and the Metcalf family kinship. As in all Guillaume’s novels, the strength of the work is in her portrayal of the interdependence of members of the family. Jacie's mother is a wise and funny woman who knows when to hold her children close and when to back off. In many ways, the Thibeadaux family reflects another side of the equation. They are a close-knit family with their own way of expressing love and dealing with their family secrets.

Unlike Be Mine, Guillaume's understated narrative doesn't generate a lot of excitement. As a result, A Perfect Pair is a pleasant story that needs just a little more there.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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