Secrets of the Heart
by Marilyn Tyner
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG) ISBN 1-58314-105-7
Secrets of the Heart, Marilyn Tyner's fourth novel, is a story of lies, half-truths and deception.

Amanda Reynolds was raised in an emotionally abusive household by an alcoholic father. Her mother died when she was a young child. School and a part-time job have provided a refuge during her teen years.

When Amanda began to experience bouts of nausea, her father assumed that she was pregnant and that Drew Connors, her boss' son, was the father. Amanda strongly denied that she was pregnant. But, motivated by greed and his perception of the Connors' money and social position, Amanda's father demanded that Drew marry her.

Amanda had a crush on the much older Drew, but they were friends, not lovers. And, although she was not pregnant, Drew agreed to marry her so she could escape the malevolent atmosphere in her father's house. (Amanda later "gave birth" to a ruptured appendix.)

Drew and Amanda began their life together. Amanda loved him. Drew was patient and kind. But after two years, Amanda could no longer stay in a marriage of convenience with a man who did not love her and whose mother took every opportunity to belittle her. During this time, Drew had begun to realize that he had fallen in love with Amanda. She left him before he had a chance to tell her of his feelings.

Secrets of the Heart begins six years later. Drew and Amanda encounter each other at the wedding of mutual friends. It is the first time they have seen each other since she left him a note saying that she was leaving.

There have been a few changes in the six years they have been apart. Amanda has earned undergraduate and graduate degrees and works as a child psychologist. Drew has taken over the family business. But many things have not changed. Drew and Amanda still have strong feelings for each another. Drew's mother still resents Amanda and thinks she is wrong for her son. Drew and Amanda are still married because he never filed for divorce.

Marilyn Tyner has done an excellent job of pacing the reconciliation between Amanda and Drew. Neither the personal nor physical relationships are rushed. Their scenes together are very realistic. Although they still love each other, Drew and Amanda have lived separate lives for more years than they were together. They both are cautious.

Drew is strong and loving. But Amanda is still a bit insecure and continues to keep unnecessary secrets from him. It is when they emerge from their fragile cocoon that they encounter problems. Those that are not self-inflicted by Amanda come from different directions at the hands of credible secondary characters.

While my response to Secrets of the Heart is lukewarm, I still strongly recommend Step by Step, Tyner's first (and I think) best romance.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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