Desert Isle Keeper
Friends and Lovers
They said it couldn’t be done in a romance novel. Then they said that if someone did write it, no one would read it; it wouldn’t be commercial. Who are they? Both readers and writers who posted to romance listservs on the internet saying that a heroine couldn’t have an abortion in a romance novel and also end up happily with the hero by its end. They were wrong because Eric Jerome Dickey wrote it in this novel two years ago in hardback. It is now in its 5th printing in its paperback edition.
Why am I telling you about the most important conflict in the book? Because readers who are thinking of reading this book will find this aspect central to reaching their decision. You’re either going to love it or hate it because there is an abortion and the woman is not portrayed subsequently as an evil person or unworthy of the hero’s love because of it. The woman is Shelby, a flight attendant out of Los Angeles, who has a history of picking the wrong man and especially men with a fidelity problem. That her mother died without a ring on her finger is a specter Shelby keeps inside herself always. She meets Tyrel, a wizard in the computer industry, who has also had many girlfriends and not been faithful to any of them.
Shelby and Tyrel meet through their best friends. Leonard, a successful comedian, is Tyrel’s best friend since childhood. Debra, a nurse, is the same to Shelby. Leonard and Debra marry shortly after meeting and since they were each ready to settle down, they do so without any conflict. However, their marital happiness chafes at Shelby because she wants the same but Tyrel won’t commit. He’s more in love with Shelby than he’s ever been with anyone but his wandering-eye father made a hell of role model that he’s been duplicating in his own life. He manages not to cheat on Shelby but he can’t take his commitment any further than that. Neither of them has any deep seated religious conviction in their lives so that is a factor which does not come into play. Leonard is religious but is also nonjudgmental of others.
Characterization is the key to making this novel work. Not only does it work as a love story between Tyrel-Shelby and Leonard-Debra but it also is a moving treatment of friendship in their lives. Dickey carefully creates such fully developed characters and fills in their backgrounds so well that each move a character makes feels totally authentic and understandable. Dickey does not explore biracialness in this novel as he did with Milk in My Coffee. All four characters are wholly African American. This story did not need any further conflict, however. Nonetheless, there is another shattering event that happens in the latter section of the book which has a profound effect on Shelby and Tyrel, forcing them together again after having gone their separate ways. They must find themselves first as friends to each other as well as friends for Leonard and Debra. Only after that can they find one another again as lovers.