A Reason to Love
This is not the first multicultural romance I’ve read, nor will it be the last, though it is the first I’ve read by a person of color and geared toward that audience. It was interesting from a cultural perspective, and as always, good writing and a good story transcends any cultural or ethnic boundary.
Dr. Onika Hamilton is in desperate need of a vacation when she travels to New Jersey to visit her best friend, Kim. Niki, as she’s called, is a pediatrician who has lost her third patient in six months. She is frustrated and burnt out because she feels she could’ve saved these children if her hands hadn’t been tied by HMO’s unwilling to try something new.
On her fist night out she meets Cary Thomas, a landscape designer. They are immediately attracted to one another, but Niki doesn’t want emotional entanglements and tries to ignore Cary. Later that night Kim gets a call about a family emergency and has to leave town. She leaves Niki in charge of her dating business, Coffee Mates. When Cary, who is redesigning Kim’s yard, shows up for work the next day Niki assumes he’s a client and signs him up for the service. Cary uses it as a chance to get to know the remote Niki better. Niki finds herself loosening up for the first time in years and enjoying life. The only problem is her life back in San Francisco keeps interfering. Someone is trying to destroy her professional credibility and her sense of peace. After she learns her apartment has been trashed she hurries back home and Cary follows. Unfortunately both have busy lives on separate coasts. Can a relationship last under such a strain?
Normally I wouldn’t like a character like Niki. She’s very remote and kind of a snob. She assumes because Cary is digging in the dirt he’s no more than a mere gardener and doesn’t tell him she’s a doctor because her ex only wanted her for her money and the prestige of her career. Yet Gamble-King imbues Niki with such an air of desolation and emptiness, one can’t help but feel sorry for her. I found myself rooting for her and Cary because she deserved a little happiness.
Cary, for his part is a very likable guy. A single father and successful businessman, Cary like Niki is bi-racial. He does not try to pass for white, people just assume he is. Even though he doesn’t say much about it and is very confident and comfortable in his own skin, it is clear that he has had problems fitting into either culture. It’s the strength and patience he gains from this battle to fit in that he brings to his relationship with Niki. He teaches her to accept the good things life has to offer, so she can handle the bad stuff that fate throws her way.
I did have a few problems with this story. I was uncomfortable with Niki’s continued deception about her career. At first it was understandable she wanted Cary to like her for who she is and not what she does. But when she treats Cary’s son for a sprained ankle she should’ve given him her credentials so that he knew she wasn’t just giving out second hand advice. The real problem, though, was the communication issue these two had. Even in this day and age with pagers, voice mail, and email, Cary and Niki couldn’t seem to exchange messages. When she leaves for San Francisco Cary has to hear second-hand from Kim, and when he has to leave for New Jersey because of a family crisis he writes a note on the back of a sack in her kitchen and only calls twice leaving no message on her machine. The problems caused by these miscommunications seem contrived and pull the reader out of the story.
Overall, A Reason to Love is a strong story with likable and interesting characters. Though there are some contrivances to detract, I recommend it to those looking for a good contemporary romance.