Desert Isle Keeper
The Color of Love
A Retro Review
originally published on May 6, 1999
Could there be a more controversial topic to write about in a romance novel than this interracial romance between a white cop, Jason Horn, and an African American graphic designer, Leah Downey, who live and work in and around New York City? I doubt it but if you want to read it as written by a master of this subgenre, Sandra Kitt is the author for you. Kitt really knows how to flesh out a character which is especially important when a novel taps into people’s deep emotional and societal taboos.
That Kitt chose a cop as her hero at first mystified me because this is a professional group which has historically had a terrible time coping with racism within its ranks, especially in the big cities. Kitt makes Jason believable and even has one scene where he is horrified to discover himself acting like a racist while arresting an African American male suspect.
The book opens with Jason’s having gone on a bender because his child died in an accident. This was his school-age child with his ex-wife. Jason is wandering in a daze through Leah’s neighborhood and she thinks he is a homeless person. She brings him a cup of coffee before she leaves for work and he remembers this. Jason cleans up his act and returns to his job where he works with at-risk juveniles throughout New York City, trying to prevent them from becoming crime statistics, either as perpetrators or victims of crime. That Jason is excellent at dealing with these kids makes it believable that he may be able to open up to a softer, more emotional side of himself. His grief has also made him more vulnerable to emotion.
Jason returns to Leah’s house to thank her for the coffee once he’s been back on the job for awhile. He takes her out to a restaurant and they get along famously. They start seeing one another, thinking they are primarily just friends, but the relationship has a life of its own and begins growing into something more.
There are a host of secondary characters in this book who provide some real tension to this budding romance. Leah lives with her sister who hates the idea of Leah’s dating a white man and is downright rude to Jason every time she sees him. She moves in on the African American man Leah had been dating – a man who is livid at the very idea of Leah dating a white man. Jason’s fellow cops are even worse. His African American partner doesn’t think Jason knows what he’s getting into and wants him to end the relationship. Leah herself doesn’t think Jason knows what he’s getting into. She expects some of the racial reactions that happen to them whereas Jason does not. One white cop in his precinct hates Leah on sight and actually tries to arrest her while she’s waiting for Jason, claiming she’s a prostitute. This same cop later razzes Jason in the locker room in front of other cops. Leah’s white boss, who has a very troubled dating history, has been marvelous to Leah until she learns Leah is dating a white man. Their relationship becomes chilly and distant from that moment on. Even the kids Jason works with become more difficult to handle when they see the two of them together.
The romantic and the sexual attraction between the two leads heats up and they become very passionate lovers. Jason is a romance hero who is very easy for a reader to fall in love with herself. Both Leah and Jason have their doubts about where their relationship is going, however. Other crises occur, including one short separation, but all eventually lead to a HEA. One variable Kitt handled well was to make both of Jason’s parents dead and one of Leah’s parents dead and the other one elderly and living in Chicago. Had we had to deal with four parents, two white and two black, and their reactions to their children’s romance, it probably would have toppled the book off the believability scale as a romance.
I’ve read three other multicultural romances by Sandra Kitt and they are all top notch. Each time I read a book by Sandra Kitt, I notice I’ve done so in basically one sitting because they hold me in their thrall. The Color of Love was no exception.