Again, My Love

Everlasting Love

Midnight Dreams

Sweet Honesty

If You Want Me
by Kayla Perrin
(Harper, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-81378-5
If You Want Me is the inaugural release in Harper Collins’ new contemporary African-American romance line. It is the second chance romance of Marcus Quinn and Alice Watson.

As a shy and overweight teenager growing up in a Chicago suburb, Alice was harassed by her school mates, disregarded by her older sister and emotionally neglected by her mother. The only bright spot in Alice’s life was her best friend, Marcus Quinn. Throughout high school Alice and Marcus spent time together and shared confidences.

Marcus was handsome, athletic and popular and Alice fell in love with him. He never knew. Marcus was in love with the beautiful, mean and selfish Tanisha Barrett. When he decided to ask Tanisha to marry him after graduation, he confided in Alice who then realized she could only expect his friendship. As her relationship with her mother continued to deteriorate, Alice left town to pursue her dream of acting and to escape the painful memories in Chicago.

If You Want Me begins thirteen years later when Alice is summoned to Chicago from Los Angeles. A lot has happened since she left. If living well is the best revenge, little Alice Watson has been vindicated. She is now the popular (and extremely stunning) television and film star Desiree LaCroix. Alice, as she prefers to be called by those who knew her when, is back in Chicago because her mother has suffered a heart attack. When she arrives at the hospital, Alice finds that her mother is recovering and that her older sister resents her. Only the love of her niece sustains her through this stressful homecoming. But the surprises are just beginning. Speeding away from the hospital, Alice is stopped by Chicago policeman Marcus Quinn. He has been divorced from the not-so fair Tanisha for a number of years.

Seeing Marcus again resurrects Alice’s old feelings for him. But Marcus believes that Alice has “gone Hollywood.” He was unaware of Alice=s feelings for him and the role he played in her decision to leave. But Marcus was extremely hurt that she neither answered his letters nor came to his wedding. Alice is between projects and agrees to help out at the local community theater at the urging of her niece. It is a theater run by Marcus’ ex-wife and the children’s group includes kids of many of the people who shunned or tormented her in high school. Since Alice is staying in town for a while, she and Marcus declare a truce and renew their friendship. All goes well until someone begins threatening Alice and sabotaging her work at the theater.

If You Want Me is a fairly predictable romance that has been billed as an “Ugly Duckling” story. More accurately, it is a second chance romance about a woman who was always beautiful.

Alice Watson survived the ugliness in the people around her, but never let that ugliness change the person she was.

A major weakness in the story is Marcus Quinn. Marcus is handsome, a good cop and a good friend, but he spends a great deal of the novel without a clue. He is a somewhat wishy-washy hero whose issues often come before Alice’s needs. As a result, Marcus never really seems worthy of her. Marcus is powerfully attracted to the new and improved Alice and she wisely questions why he was never only wanted her friendship in high school. She fears that Marcus is captivated by her alter ego, Desiree LeCroix and not to the real Alice Watson. She wants to be desired for herself. He=d just said she was was beautiful, yet she cringed inside. Now that she was Desiree he could see her as beautiful, but he=d never been attracted to plain, homely Alice.

Alice is often too nice. Just once I wanted to see someone who had wronged her get their comeuppance. If you=ve ever seen 1973 television movie, “The Girl Most Likely To . . . “ the possibilities are endless. However, this is a romance, not black comedy. So Alice suffers in relative silence and forgives all comers. It makes for an unsatisfying resolution of the story. And, as a result, If You Want Me is only an acceptable second chance romance.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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