Shades of Desire by Monica White
(One World/Ballantine Indigo Love Stories, $4.99, PG)
ISBN: 0-345-42218-X
**
Shades of Desire is the first novel by Atlanta writer Monica White. It is part of a developing trend in multicultural romances interracial love stories between African-American women and white men. Margaret Johnson-Hodge's The Real Deal and Sandra Kitt's Between Friends are the most recent releases. Both have been reviewed by The Romance Reader.

As Shades of Desire begins, Jasmine Smith is preparing to celebrate her 26th birthday with her girlfriends. At a local nightspot, she meets freelance writer Jeremy Collins. They enjoy each other's company and exchange phone numbers.

Jeremy calls the next day. Jasmine is attracted to Jeremy, but she is cautious about dating him because he is white. Her roommate is involved in an interracial relationship that is fraught with problems that are recounted throughout the novel.

Jeremy seeks to reassure Jasmine by telling her: "I don't see you as a black woman at all, but just as a woman, an infinitely desirable woman." He warns her that he is not entering into the relationship capriciously and wants to make sure she is not dating a white man as "an experience to catalogue." Jeremy acknowledges there may be problems from family, friends and others "but it's their problem not ours." Jasmine decides to give their relationship a chance.

Shades of Desire settles into the predictable plotting that often handicaps these novels. There is requisite opposition from family, friends and associates. The main characters spend more time reacting to the surprise, opposition and comments than they spend developing and strengthening their relationship. (It is this aspect of the storytelling that sets Sandra Kitt's work apart from the others. She has learned to concentrate on the basic love story between a man and a woman, race notwithstanding.)

While we are aware that Jeremy sincerely cares for Jasmine, we have no real sense of the depth of their out-of-bed, non "crisis mode" relationship. They are one-dimensional characters. White's first-personal narrative style does nothing to give the characters depth. As a result, the novel has a "Dear Diary" tone.

Predictably, in the face of opposition, Jasmine begins to have second thoughts about the relationship. What was unforeseeable was her response to it. Weeks into their relationship, after agreeing to marry Jeremy, she says she's "just not ready to be in an interracial relationship." She goes on to say "I want to marry, then maybe I should look for another man."

WHAT?

Nothing will make me fling a book across the room faster than a flighty heroine. Shades of Desire begins to ricochet off the walls at regular intervals.

"I think deep down I'm uncomfortable with Jeremy being white. Maybe I wanted him to be black. He's the perfect guy, only he's not perfect because he's white."

PING!

"Maybe I should date other men, even make love with other men."

PING!

"Let's just keep being lovers and friends."

PING!

When Jeremy issues an ultimatum: "Either we get married in January, or we stop seeing each other," Jasmine and Jeremy break up. Ten pages later, she's back at the club where she met Jeremy, dancing with a black man and wondering "what it would be like to go to bed with him."

PING!

Shades of Desire's one-dimensional characters, predictable plot, first-personal narrative and shaky heroine leave a lot to be desired. Think twice.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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