has also reviewed:

Man of the House

As Gloria Greene:

Love Unveiled

 
Heart of Stone by Doris Johnson
(Arabesque/BET, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-025-5
***
Heart of Stone is the story of Sydney Cox and Adam Stone. The title refers not only to the hero's last name, but also to the invisible protective shields the main characters have constructed around their emotions.

Sydney is a wine expert and good friend. After working a full day on her own job, she agrees to substitute as a cleaning woman for her best friend, an aspiring New York actress. While she is cleaning offices in a Manhattan office building, Sydney takes a break to test several fine wines for her own job as sommelier for a swank hotel restaurant. The combination of too many hours and too little sleep, take its toll and Sydney falls asleep. She is brusquely awakened by security expert Adam Stone who mistakenly thinks Sydney drank herself into a stupor.

Their relationship not only begins with a big mistake, Sydney has unwittingly foiled a drug sting operation Adam set up in the company. Several weeks later, Adam discovers the truth and pursues her in earnest. Both are cautious -- despite their strong mutual attraction -- for very different reasons.

Adam is afraid to get involved because of the danger associated with his line of work. Sydney is just afraid. Adam's fears seem to be more realistic when danger emerges in the form of an old vendetta against him.

The novel starts slowly and by the time Adam and Sydney got together, I was ambivalent about their relationship. The same impenetrable barriers the main characters have erected to protect their emotions serve to isolate them from the reader.

The secondary characters don't provide any information to the mix. The male characters only tend to serve as handy targets for Adam's jealousy.

The danger posed to the couple gives the novel real interest. It is what makes the difference between a two-heart and three-heart rating for Heart of Stone. Readers are hard-pressed to figure out whodunit and where the culprit would strike next. However, I couldn't understand how a group of international security experts could overlook the obvious clues before them.

The heroine remained an enigma throughout the novel. Despite her cold fish persona, there isn't a male in the novel who isn't barreled over by her looks. There are many, many loose ends. For example, I never fully understood how and why Sydney had heard Adam's voice in her dreams long before they met.

The cold characters and loose ends finally did it for me. When all is said and done. Heart of Stone has feet of clay.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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