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Heaven Sent

Careless Whispers by Rochelle Alers
(One World/Ballantine Indigo Love Stories, $4.99, PG)
ISBN: 0-345-4221-X
Rochelle Alers is best known for her Hideaway series, the continuing saga of the Diaz-Cole family. (Heaven Sent, the latest novel in the series, was released in July and reviewed by The Romance Reader.)

However, some of my favorite Alers books are the category romances she created before the publication of Hideaway in 1995. My favorite is Home Sweet Home, followed by Reckless Surrender and Careless Whispers, her first novel.

Careless Whispers, has been re-released by Ballantine as part of its Indigo Love Stories imprint. Ballantine collaborated with the smaller Genesis Press to reprint eight of its titles, most of them first novels by African-American writers. The Alers book is the last in the reprint series.

Interestingly enough, this is the third time around for Careless Whispers, first published in 1988 as a Doubleday hardcover Starlight Romance, then reprinted by Genesis Press in 1996. It’s a chance for Alers’ fans to get their hands on her first novel. For others, it’s an opportunity to see how Rochelle Alers, who has a dozen books to her credit, began her romance writing career.

Careless Whispers is the story of Dyana Randolph, a 28-year-old New York magazine editor. Six years ago, her unfaithful fiancé left her standing at the altar (or actually in one of the church anterooms) on what was to have been their wedding day. Dyana left Philadelphia and moved to New York, where she landed a clerical job with Westgate Publishing. There, she came to the attention of editor-in-chief, Michael Dalton. Michael, who was recently widowed and the relationship-shyDyana became good friends...just friends. But as she worked her way up through the ranks to an editorial position, unfounded rumors of an affair between the two began.

“She and Michael had discussed their relationship many times over the past six years and decided that what they offered each other overrode the censuring attitudes of the narrow-minded who refused to believe a man in his sixties could maintain a platonic friendship with a woman in her late twenties.”

Enter Nicholas Bradshaw, an award-winning photojournalist who has been named to replace the retiring Michael Dalton as editor-in-chief. Nicholas is nine years her senior. Dyana is wary of, but very attracted to her new boss. Nicholas is also attracted to Dyana, but has emotional baggage of his own. His short-lived marriage to a model ended after her numerous affairs were discovered. When Nicholas and Dyana are forced to work together on an important assignment, they acknowledge their mutual feelings.

Can two battle-weary individuals learn to love and trust again? That’s the central theme of Careless Whispers.

Careless Whispers is an engaging novel. Although Dyana occasionally seemed a bit stiff, the main and secondary characters are well developed. It was actually fun to read a “lighter” Alers story -- one without commandoes and rescue missions!

Careless Whispers is what it is: a first novel written in 1988 that has been reprinted three times. I don’t think it is a classic, although her some of her later works surely fall into that category. But Careless Whispers is indicative of how far Alers’ talent has evolved since her first work. It is also a welcome addition to any Rochelle Alers collection for fans who were unable to get copies earlier.

For those who have never read Rochelle Alers’ novels, I’d recommend (in alphabetical order) Happily Ever After, Hideaway and Home Sweet Home. I’d also recommend her novellas: “First Fruits,” in the 1995 Christmas anthology, Holiday Cheer, and “Hearts of Gold,” (a spin-off of the first novella) in the 1997 Valentine’s Day anthology, Love Letters.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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