Dark Storm Rising by Chinelu Moore
(One World/Ballantine Indigo Love Stories, $4.99, PG)
ISBN 0-345-42220-1
***
You gotta love a guy like Daran Ajero.

Daran was in the grocery store one evening and another shopper parked a cart in line and then proceeded to shop. What's a guy to do? Daran pushed the cart out of line and moved ahead. When the shopper came back, he informed her that the cart was in line -- she wasn't! That was fitness coordinator Star Lassiter's first encounter with the Nigerian businessman. As a sign of protest, she gently "nudged him" in the back with her cart.

Yep, you gotta love a guy like Daran Ajero...

Star and Daran's paths cross several weeks later when she is baby-sitting at her sister's Delaware home. Daran and Star's brother-in-law Larry are old school friends from MIT. They are also neighbors. Larry and Star's younger sister, Gail have recently moved to the area. Daran has never met Gail. Seeing Star at Larry's home with the baby, he assumes she is Larry's wife. Star is still smarting from their first encounter and doesn't bother to correct him.

Sparks fly between them. Daran is horrified that he could be so attracted to his friend's wife. His horror turns to anger when he later runs into Star at a restaurant with a male friend. It seems Daran's ex-wife was unfaithful to him and he sets out protect Larry's interests. Once he learns the truth, he puts a full court press on Star.

Just as one misunderstanding is corrected, another emerges. Cordelia, a friend of the family -- an unmarried 31-year-old female Nigerian friend -- shares Daran's home while she attends graduate school. Star assumes she also shares his bed, particularly when Cordy announces she intends to marry Daran and get pregnant before her father comes from Nigeria to visit. "He'll be sure to tell me about a bunch of old men who want to marry me for their third, fourth, or fifth wife."

Star denies her attraction to Daran and refuses to go out with him. She, too, has been burned by an unfaithful lover. She is also insecure about the cultural bond that Daran and Cordelia share. While Daran's intentions are singularly focused, Star is wishy-washy. Once the truth of his relationship with Cordy is apparent, she throws up another roadblock -- cultural stereotypes. She is driving Daran and the reader to distraction. Not even a support group can help her.

One of the more appealing sidebars of the novel is the sister-circle to which Star belongs. The women meet regularly to share and support one another. During one session early in the novel, Star explains her dilemma with Daran. Members of the group listen and offer advice. Group members assumed they'd "be hearing plenty about this man in Starmaine's life." It didn't happen and a wonderful opportunity to explore the relationship and African/African-American stereotypes was lost.

Daran's pursuit of Star was so breathtakingly relentless that the story ran out of steam near the end. It was impossible to keep the pace going at that rate. Many of the basic conflicts remained unresolved. It is almost as if Star didn't come to a decision about her relationship with Daran, but merely gave in because she got tired of running.

Dark Storm Rising is among the increasing number of romances about the relationships between Africans and African-Americans. Despite its shortcomings, Daran was an incredibly strong character who shared many insights about Nigerian culture and about Nigerians living in the United States. It's worth a look.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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