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Private Passions by Rochelle Alers
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, R) ISBN 1-58314-151-0
Private Passions is the seventh novel in Rochelle Alers’ popular Hideaway series about the powerful Diaz-Cole family. It is also the last story in the Daughters and Sisters trilogy. More important, Private Passions is the long-awaited romance between Christopher Blackwell-Delgado and Emily Teresa Kirkland - Matt Sterling and Joshua Kirkland’s kids.

But Private Passions is more than a romance. It is an interesting character study about the impact of heredity and environment.

Christopher Blackwell-Delgado was introduced as a three-year-old boy in the midst of an international custody battle between his mother, Eve Blackwell and his father, Alejandro Delgado in Hidden Agenda. Eve enlisted the help of government operative Matthew Sterling to return her son to the U.S. from Mexico. Matt and Eve married and Matt promised his new stepson that he would help him “become an honorable man.”

As an infant, Emily made her debut near the end of Vows, the story of Vanessa Blanchard and Joshua Kirkland. Her cousin Regina Cole issued an ominous warning about the new baby. “Excuse me. Miss Thang has Uncle Josh’s green eyes. Watch out world - she’s here.”

In the years since Alers’ fans have caught glimpses of Christopher and Emily. There was a brief sighting in Harvest Moon when, as teenagers, the two were caught stealing a kiss in the garden. And they made another appearance last spring in Just Before Dawn.

When Private Passions begins 35-year-old New Mexico state senator Christopher Delgado is considering a gubernatorial bid against the incumbent governor’s son. Emily is a political analyst for a Santa Fe television station with dreams of working for the network. Emily also has secret dreams of Christopher Delgado whom she’s known all her life and who has always treated her as a little sister. For his part, Christopher has a yen for Emily that is by no means brotherly. Neither Christopher nor Emily is aware of the other’s feelings.

That’s just the beginning of what they don’t know about each other. Rochelle Alers takes them - and the reader - on a journey of discovery that begins in New Mexico, but leads to Jamaica, Mexico, Florida and back. Together they learn the truth about their mutual feelings, about their parents’ earlier lives and a lot about who they really are. As their relationship is cranked up a notch, Christopher and Emily must face some harsh truths about themselves - individually and as a couple. At one point, Christopher is horrified when he notices how much Emily can be like her father, Joshua Kirkland.

I’m deliberately stingy with details so series fans can unearth elements they have been speculating about for as long as three years. The plot twists, turns and resolves story lines from other novels in the series. But readers also discover they don’t know Emily and Christopher as well as they thought they did either. These are highly charged characters.

Christopher displays the machismo of Matt Sterling and Alejandro Delgado combined. It is only his self-discipline and the influence of his mother that has prevented the short-fused Christopher from experiencing a testosterone overload. His resolve and sense of humor is tested with Emily.

On occasion, Emily is one of the most annoying heroines I have encountered in quite sometime. For starters she is headstrong, contrary, reckless and issues ultimatums at the drop of a hat. She is definitely Joshua and Vanessa Kirkland’s daughter. But her parents’ endeavors were often based on sound reasoning, while Emily is impulsive. And, unlike her best friend and Christopher’s sister, Sara, Emily lacks the ability to back up her actions. However, what she lacks in common sense, she makes up for in luck . . . and the love of a truly patient man. That said, the chemistry between the two is credible, hot and often explosive.

Private Passions is a novel in the Hideaway series. And that means it is an action-adventure romance. There are wrongs to right and a mystery to be solved. While a common thread in the second generation involves the heroes’ intense need to protect the heroines from danger (and in this case her own actions), the men go about it more subtly than the father/heroes of the first generation.

Private Passions is a fitting end to the Sisters and Daughters trilogy. I strongly recommend it. And for those who like action-adventure romances or who would like to do some background reading about the Blackwells, Delgados, Sterlings and Coles, I would also recommend Hideaway, the cornerstone of the series, as well as Hidden Agenda, Vows and Just Before Dawn.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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