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By Candice Poarch:

The Essence of Love

With this Kiss

By Raynetta Maņees:

Follow Your Heart

By Viveca Carlyle:

All that Glitters
A Mother's Touch
by Candice Poarch, Raynetta Maņees and Viveca Carlysle
(Arabesque/BET, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-015-8
Arabesque/BET Books' 1999 Mother's Day collection, A Mother's Touch, is a loosely connected trio of stories about a single mother, a single grandmother, and a single-mother wannabe.

Candice Poarch's "More Than Friends," is the story of Arlene Woods. Arlene is approaching thirty. Not only is her biological clock ticking, the alarm has started to ring. Arlene is contemplating her next move in that short space between punching the snooze button and the sounding of the next alarm. She has decided to use a fertility clinic to produce the child she so desperately wants.

A funny thing happens on the way to the sperm bank. Arlene's best friend, Rick Cordell is back in town. He's an international business consultant who spends most of his time in Africa. Rick and Arlene have been close friends and confidants since childhood. When he finds out what Arlene is planning, he quickly points out some of the pitfalls in her scheme and offers himself as an alternative. What are friends for?

"More Than Friends" is an acceptable marriage-of-convenience story that takes a few unpredictable turns before reaching its conclusion.

"All The Way Home" by Raynetta Maņees is proof that a size 18 frame and impending membership in AARP are not impediments to love. This mature, full-bodied romance is the story of TV reporter Jolene Jeffries who literally gets off on the wrong foot with Ron Jamison, a construction company owner she's been sent to profile. When she sprains her foot at his construction site, Jolene learns there's a soft heart under his hard hat. Ron, a widower with two children, is smitten immediately with the "gorgeous grandmother." An old secret and a child's insecurities threaten their budding relationship. It's my favorite story in the collection and proof that love comes in all sizes and ages.

Can a girl from Cape Cod find happiness with a guy from Manhattan? That's the question posed in Viveca Carlysle's "Brianna's Garden." It's an extended summer romance between divorcee Elianna Preston and widower Nic Sterling that begins in Cape Cod. Nic and Elianna are neighbors who meet while he is making repairs on his home in order to sell it. They are brought together by her young daughter, Brianna. Nic desperately wants a child. His wife died in childbirth. He is preparing to adopt. Throughout the summer Brianna, Elianna and Nic are inseparable. Lifestyle differences, secrets and the reappearance of Brianna's father jeopardize their future together.

"A Mother's Touch" is an interesting collection of stories. Surprisingly, two stories touch upon eating disorders. The three stories are not equally weighted and the entire collection rates a three-heart average.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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