Passion by T.T. Henderson
(One World/Ballantine Indigo Love Stories, $4.99, PG-13)
ISBN 0-345-43256-8
T.T. Henderson's first novel, Passion, is a variation on the "men-of-the-cloth-are- men" theme. Recent romances with the same theme, which have been reviewed by TRR, include Raynetta Mañees' Follow Your Heart and "The Preacher's Wife," Anna Larence's story in Arabesque's 1998 Mother's Day anthology.

The Rev. Jourdan Watters is pastor of the Zion Baptist Church in Kansas City. He is still mourning the death of his wife, Cece. Mrs. Watters' death is an unsolved homicide. The district attorney, who is up for reelection, is under increasing pressure to find the person or persons responsible for the murder.

In the midst of the personal upheaval, Passion Adams sashays into his life. And, with a name like Passion, you know she's got to be bad:

"She was sin waiting to happen. Heart-stoppingly beautiful in yellow attire, she stood in the doorway of his church sanctuary, surveying the crowd. Perhaps the slant of her eyes or the provocative way she stood -- with a hand to a well-rounded hip -- set off alarms in his head. One thing was certain. Never in his ten years of preaching had Jourdan Watters ever seen temptation wrapped in such a breathtaking package....Jourdan tried not to enjoy the smooth sway of her hips and the graceful stride of her long, shapely legs as she made her way toward the altar -- toward him.

"Have mercy," he mumbled.

What's a guy to do? Sensing he's in danger, Reverend Watters launches into a fire and brimstone sermon on Samson and Delilah – the one about the "strong man with a woman weakness." Passion is stirred. There was no doubt -- this man answered prayers she had yet to make.

While the Mañees and Larence romances also deal with faith, hypocrisy, redemption and forgiveness, Passion offers several interesting variations. Unlike the heroines in the other stories, Passion Adams has a dubious past as an exotic dancer who has associated with several unsavory characters. The parishioners expect their pastor to have compassion, not passion and a movement is begun to remove him from his ministry. The novel asks the question: Where are the real sinners?

Henderson's novel has some interesting plot twists, including psychic phenonmenon and a not-so immaculate conception. There are others I can't reveal here that make this story worth reading. While there are flaws, including the inability to keep up the expectations created in opening passages, it is a good first effort.

Passion has been reissued by One World/Ballantine. The novel, first published in 1997 by the smaller Genesis Press, is now available to more people in the standard 4" x 7" size and at half the original price.

--Gwendolyn Oborne

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