Love's Promise
by Adrienne Ellis Reeves
(BET Books/Arabesque, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-7860-0568-8
****
Adrienne Ellis Reeves writes sweet romances set in Jamison, South Carolina. Love's Promise revisits the town and many of the characters from her earlier novels, Change of Heart and Heaven Knows and "Keepsake," a short story in the 1997 holiday anthology, Moonlight and Mistletoe. I've never met the author, but I have a feeling Adrienne Ellis Reeves is a matchmaker, a hopeless romantic. She's also a frugal writer who doesn't believe in loose ends. Each of her characters deserves a chance at happiness eventually.

Beth Jordan was introduced in Reeves' 1996 novel, Heaven Knows. She was a childhood friend of the main characters, Glennette Percy and James Ellington. She'd had a schoolgirl crush on James in high school and had hoped their friendship would evolve. It didn't.

Beth also "had been involved for the past year in an off-and-on romance with Arthur Woods who owned his own garage and limousine business." When Love's Promise begins, she has received a "Dear Beth" letter.

Art had grown frustrated by Beth's inability to make a commitment and married a woman from a nearby town. While Beth had no intention of marrying him, she was hurt that Art opted to write a letter instead of facing her with the news. Jamison is a very small town. People talk and everyone soon knows that Art has dumped Beth. However, the most stinging comments come from her own mother who tells her that she's too flighty" and will never get a man unless she changes.

When the times get tough, the tough go shopping. Beth is in the market for a new car a sporty red Saturn. But a visit to the showroom leaves her with sticker shock. She can only dream about a new car. On the way home, a car identical to the one she coveted in the dealership stops next to her at a traffic light. A great looking guy is behind the wheel. I'm hooked and begin rooting for Beth to get that car, fully loaded with all the options!

The red Saturn belongs to Cyrus Brewster. Cy was introduced briefly in "Keepsake." He was Gary Raeford's assistant in the Alumax company's human resources department. (Gary lost out to James Ellington for Glennette's attention in Heaven Knows, but was rewarded with his own story.)

Cy and Beth are thrown together when Jamison's businesses cooperate in a community service program. Although Cy is drawn to her, Beth is reluctant to get into a relationship with him. "I'd be just like Mama said, so flighty that a week after Art breaks up with me I take up with a perfect stranger." Reeves develops their relationship at a steady pace, despite the emotional undercurrent between them. They take time to get to know each other. Cy takes her for Sunday drives. "He's a smooth driver, and of course, I love the car."

But Cy has a secret from his past that threatens his relationship with Beth. Reeves deftly handles the revelation without harassing readers by dangling Cy's secret before them.

Adrienne Ellis Reeves writes sweet romances. Sex before marriage and sexual innuendoes are nonexistent. However, there are enough steamy kisses, breathless whispers and sexual tension to go around. She's even thrown in a surprising whirlwind romance.

The author's depiction of Jamison and its residents offers a glimpse of closely knit families and small town values. The characters are believable within this setting. The people in Reeves' Jamison, South Carolina ,come alive on the pages. However, the one element I found appealing in Reeves' work, subtle small-town humor, is missing from Love's Promise. It's a small nit to pick in an otherwise enjoyable read.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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