Love by Design

Real Love

Shadow of Love by Marcella Sanders
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, G) ISBN 1-58314-166-9
Shadow of Love is the story of Atlanta realtor Tracy Wilson. As the novel begins, Tracy is on a three-day vacation on St. Hope Isle. The trip provides a brief respite from her job, volunteer work at a women’s empowerment organization and occasional work at her sister’s restaurant. It also allows Tracy a chance “to soothe her spirit.”

Her time away is uneventful until she stops at an island yard sale and buys a bag of costume jewelry. Unknown to Tracy, a valuable diamond necklace is among the “trinkets” she has bought. The owner is anxious to retrieve it. But, instead of approaching Tracy directly, he follows her around the island. Later, he blackmails island businessman Evan Maxwell into helping him get the necklace back. Evan’s task is made somewhat easier when he arrives in Atlanta on business and discovers that Tracy works for his identical twin brother. On the downside, Evan is attracted to her and is distracted each time he attempts to ask her about the necklace.

For her part, Tracy is immediately attracted to Evan. It is the first time since her husband’s death in a plane crash that she has been so aware of a man. The attraction is extremely physical and all the more puzzling because Evan has a face and physique Tracy has been looking at for the past three years. “Evan was Keith’s exact image, and she’d never looked at Keith twice, not even when he was single.” Go figure. Things between them get off to a shaky start. However, it only takes a dinner, a lunch and a couple of kisses before the lovemaking begins and Tracy and Evan exchange “I love yous.” Of course, the truth about the necklace remains a barrier to their future happiness.

Although Shadow of Love is Marcella Sanders’ third novel, it reads like a rough draft written by a neophyte. Transitions between scenes are nonexistent. There are gaping holes in a plot that races in some sections and creeps along in others. In addition to loose ends in the story, there is missing information that might help the reader better understand the main characters. For example, Evan is being forced to retrieve the necklace as a result of information the villain found on the Internet. It is difficult to gauge the magnitude of the threat because the reader is never told what the damaging information is.

The chemistry between the two characters is not credible. There is no logic to their actions and reactions and petty jealousies mar the relationship. Tracy is more concerned about the threat Evan poses to her heart and about a long-distance relationship than she is about the clear and present danger he has brought into her life. Likewise, Evan continually whines about Tracy’s love for her late husband despite her efforts to allow him into her life. Secondary characters, though undeveloped, are more interesting.

Shadow of Love is clearly out of its genre. It could have been an interesting Orwellian tome about how technology - the Internet, voice mail and telephone system - can wreak havoc on a relationship. However, with its numerous grammatical, organizational and plotting errors and a typo in the cover notes, Shadow of Love is a mystery to be solved . . . “The Case of the Missing Copy Editor.”

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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