A Royal Vow

When I Fall in Love
by Tamara Sneed
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG) ISBN 1-58314-273-8
Can a woman with a punching bag in the middle of her living room find happiness with a man who “didn’t even question the fact she had installed a punching bag in the middle of her living room”? Can a man who has dated a drop-dead gorgeous nuclear physicist find love with a woman who “pulled a gun on her date when he suddenly reached into his coat pocket to pull out a handkerchief”?

For the answers to these and other thought-provoking questions, I strongly recommend Tamara Sneed=s most recent fractured fairy tale, When I Fall in Love.

Sneed=s third romance is a spin-off of her well-received debut novel, Love Undercover. Logan Riley is a San Francisco homicide detective who has lived next door to FBI agent Sean Weston for two years. Sean and Logan are buddies who have bonded as a result of their careers in law enforcement and his perpetually empty refrigerator. Although Sean has had a crush on Logan for the duration of his tenancy, he has never consciously thought of her “that way.”

Logan has his own issues brought about by his inability to make a love connection. His relationships generally have had a shelf life of five weeks. Sean’s stepsister is getting married and the family is expecting her to bring a date. Evoking comparisons between herself and Cinderella, Sean asks Logan to go to Santa Barbara with her for the wedding.

But any resemblance between Sean’s plight and the Cinderella saga rest squarely in her mind. She disparagingly refers to her stepmother and stepsisters - Tina, Terri and Tracie - as “The Three T’s.” They are not wicked. They are just beautiful and genuinely love Sean. The Three T’s are the girly-girls that Sean will never be. As a result, she has always felt out of place in the blended Weston family. However, Sean wants Logan to help her have the fairy tale - at least until the wedding is over.

“Cinderella becomes beautiful and goes to the ball, proving her stepsisters and stepmother wrong about her. She can wear the makeup and the clothes and look just as beautiful as they do. I want that, too.”

Logan is hesitant at first, but eventually agrees to help her out. Sean may not be a girly-girl, but Logan definitely is a manly-man. One secure enough in his masculinity to play both fairy godmother and Prince Charming to Sean’s Cinderella. By the time they get to Santa Barbara, Logan has discovered that what he first thought an adverse reaction to coffee is actually a growing attraction to Sean. The two also suspect that things are not what they seem with Sean’s extended family. (C’mon, did you really think a book full of law enforcement types wouldn’t have a caper of some sort?)

When I Fall in Love is an interesting mix of “Cinderella,” “The Ugly Duckling,” National Geographic and “Annie Get Your Gun.” While there are several overt references to the fairy tale, some of my favorite scenes with Sean as ersatz Cinderella include funny episodes involving shoes.

Tamara Sneed has an offbeat sense of humor I really enjoy. Neither she nor her heroines take themselves too seriously. Like Abby Barnes of the author’s second novel, A Royal Vow, Sean is a spunky heroine who is up to the challenge of taking care of herself. Sneed is not afraid to have a little fun. Sean often displays her vulnerabilities and quirks with a little bit of goofiness. We have lived with the imagery of guns as a phallic symbols. Sean brings her own perspective to the mix when she gushes: “He had touched her as if she were more precious than his gun.”

As Logan explores his developing relationship with Sean, she gets a different take on her relationship with herself and with her family. For all her brash veneer, Sean personifies the lyrics of “When I Fall in Love,” the classic love song that shares the novel’s title. Sean and Logan are strong characters aided and abetted by a complex cast of secondary characters - many of them pistol-packin’. While the author gives Sean her wish of outward glamour, Sneed never alters the person Sean is - within or without. Logan=s love is unconditional and is not contingent upon external trappings.

When I Fall in Love marks a point in the author=s continued growth as a writer. It has earned her a spot on my “Emerging Authors List” as one to watch.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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