Opposites Attract is hot chocolate on a winter’s night. Smooth and comforting, this is a story warmed with family love and loyalty, sweetened with healing that comes when old secrets are revealed and truth is accepted. However, as the tale unfolds, detail-conscious readers could be distracted by uneven pacing, a few unlikely scenarios, and inconsistent details that detract from the story.
Nefertiti (known as Never) Kincaid is a success in every area of life, except perhaps for one. Despite being orphaned at an early age, she thrived in her upbringing by loving grandparents and enjoys close and happy family relationships. She worked her way up to a respected executive position within a pharmaceutical company, raised two nephews, and enjoys a comfortable life. All that is missing is love, and while she believes whole-heartedly in romantic love, she has come to accept that it will never happen for her.
There is one thunderhead on the horizon, and that is the imminent demise of Never’s department, and with it her job and those of all who work with her. Her company has merged with a larger, more powerful one, and the slow process of head-chopping has been occurring over the past few months. Now it is her department’s turn to be assessed by an independent consultant, and its future determined. Never has little doubt that she and her co-workers will all be out of work soon. After all, their company is the little fish who was swallowed by the whale.
The head-chopping consultant is Averal Ballantine, a widely known and respected business consultant and author of multiple books. Highly successful, charming, handsome, and savvy, he is admired by all who know him, but under all the smooth charm and confidence is a wounded soul that spurns family circles. No one but Riddles, a deaf friend and mentor, who was Averal’s anchor throughout his turbulent and pain-filled childhood, truly knows him, and Averal works hard to keep it that way. While Never is determined to view Averal as the enemy, she soon has to admit that he is a kind, decent man who merely does his job, and she can’t deny the magic she feels in his presence.
Although the problem of the future of Never’s job is the basis of the original conflict between Never and Averal, it fades to the background almost immediately as the real issues are revealed. Never is intelligent, clever, and hard-working, but she is also rigid and bound by her ideas of reality. She has trouble going with the flow, trouble allowing her innate creativity to flourish; she prefers to live her life out in a totally disciplined and planned fashion. Her behavior with Averal rotates between antagonistic, passionate, and maternal, with many a gentle lecture conducted through searching questions meant to correct his conclusions concerning his relationships with his parents and siblings.
Averal harbors deep-seated resentments from the past. Convinced that he was rejected by both parents and that he was the cause of their divorce following the death of his younger brother, he maintains a wall between himself and his mother, as well as his father and his father’s children from a second wife. He is also convinced that he can never have a wife and children of his own. While his resentments are certainly understandable and not uncommon, he is that type of hero to whom many readers will want to shout, “Get over it!” The depth and level of his angst seem stronger than they should be, given his age and level of personal success.
While the story premise is sound, and both Averal and Never are warm, real, and engaging characters, there are detail problems that are a constant distraction. For instance, Never adopted her two young nephews ten years earlier following the death of her sister and brother-in-law. This was soon after she graduated from college-but Never is only twenty-nine years old. That makes her nineteen when she adopted the boys, and she had already graduated with a four-year degree from Howard University. A child prodigy? When Never and Averal share their first passionate kiss, she clutches a leather folder in her arms but Averal is still able to feel every part of her body pressed against him. Good trick. Another amazing feat comes when she and Averal begin to make love in one of those car-shaped video games. It is hard to conceive of two normal-sized adult bodies even being able to squeeze into one of those, but the description of her changing positions and flipping this way and that is enough to make the most gullible skeptical. When she and Averal return from a Thanksgiving weekend at his sister’s, Never writes a thank-you note when she has been home “nearly a week.” She reminisces about how they had been nearly inseparable since returning, and the things they had done on the weekends. What weekends? They had only been home less than a week. These are just a few of the detail discrepancies and unlikely scenarios that could have been caught by a thorough copy-edit. Each one is minor, but it is enough to pull a reader out of the story.
The writing style consists of mostly short sentences that become somewhat staccato in rhythm, but this does make for fast, easy reading. On the other hand, the pacing of the story is uneven at times. An hour or two can take pages followed by days flying by in a couple of paragraphs. Near the end there are three separate love scenes, two complete and one abbreviated, that are only two to three pages apart, depleting the sense of freshness in the experiences. There are occasional lines of dialogue that are not tagged and are not clear from the context. Who said it, and why?
Those who relish reading about the good life complete with sequined gowns and lots of jewelry will enjoy some of the moments in this story. One restaurant scene in particular is elegant and romantic. There is a tiny bit of overkill here and there, such as the three engagements rings described in the course of the book. Never’s grandmother’s ring is three carats. Never’s secretary’s ring is three carats. And a third ring eventually appears and, you guessed it, it’s at least three carats.
Readers who can easily overlook errors and suspend disbelief, and who enjoy the maternal-type heroine who is ever ready to guide the hero onto a better path, will find Opposites Attract a satisfying read. Others may choose to wait for another heart-warming story that remains consistent believable.