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Foolish Heart by Felicia Mason
(Arabesque/BET, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-7860-0593-9
***
Felicia Mason's fifth novel, Foolish Heart, is a love-your-enemy story.

Sonja Pride is a very successful business consultant who knows how to hold a grudge big time. Sonja has blamed the Heart family for every evil, both real and imagined, that has occurred in her short life. A muddied Sunday dress, a rescinded scholarship and false shoplifting charges are among the sins which can be laid upon the Heart family doorstep. For twenty years, she has planned "revenge, retribution and retaliation." Someone is going to pay.

Coleman Heart, III, scion of the Heart family and current CEO of the family owned department store chain, is her prime target. However, if Sonja plans to ruin his life, she's going to have to take a number and stand in line behind a long list of family members. He took over the reins of the company just nine months earlier after his father died at his desk in the arms of his secretary. The womanizing men and manipulating women of the Heart clan would put the Borgias to shame. The Heart family business is ripe for a hostile takeover from within.

Cole Heart (I have promised not to pull out my pun pen) has no life. He is the reigning poster boy for stress management and prevention. His board of directors/relatives cut him no slack. His primary diet consists of antacids and blood pressure medication. Sonja's firm is hired to evaluate the stores and make recommendations to increase the retailer's sagging profits. Cole is devastated by the dismal report and embarks on his own clandestine (and very funny) investigation of his empire. But the empire strikes back with a vengeance. The stores are in such bad shape, the family members won't even patronize them. It's enough to give the CEO terminal case of heartburn.

Meanwhile, Sonja's carefully crafted revenge is unraveling. Up close and personal, Cole Heart is a force to be reckoned with. She's so attracted to him that her vendetta evaporates. "She wanted a piece of his hide, all right. But this time the promise of fulfillment had nothing to do with her revenge agenda, and everything to do with an intimate liaison."

And this is the weakness of this and most love-your-enemy stories. It's a no-brainer. The so-called revenge motive that formed the basis of the story is going to be resolved and the adversaries are going to make peace. While I couldn't quite get into the relationship between the main characters until the last half of the book, I found the secondary characters and the family machinations fascinating.

Felicia Mason's is one of my favorite authors. This book doesn't have the same energy, sass or sizzle of my favorites: Body and Soul and Seduction. But Mason's skill as a writer kept my attention and makes Foolish Heart worth a look.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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