Admission of Love by Niobia Bryant
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG-13), ISBN 1-58314-164-2
***
Admission of Love is an interesting debut novel by Niobia Bryant. It is the story of international supermodel Chloe Bolton who has decided to give up life on the runway after eighteen years in the spotlight. Chloe has chosen to spend her retirement - at the age of 33 - in the small town of Holtsville, South Carolina.

Holtsville, with a population of about 3,000, is a far cry from New York or Paris. But, Chloe has ties to the town where her grandparents lived and where her mother grew up. Although she has never lived there, Chloe is building a modest home on the 12-acres she inherited from her mother. Jamison Contractors, Inc., a local firm, is in charge of construction. The company is run by identical twin brothers, Devon and Deshawn Jamison.

Deshawn is fun-loving and easy going. Of course, it would have been too easy for Chloe to be attracted to him. No, she is attracted to Devon Jamison, the dark, brooding brother with a chip on his shoulder the size of Mt. Rushmore. Even before their volatile meeting, Devon already had Chloe pegged as a shallow mannequin and worse. After all, she’s a city-girl just like the one who broke his heart years ago and he continues to make the comparisons ad nauseam.

Devon figures all he has to do is stay away from Chloe until work is completed on her house. That should be easy to do. Right? Wrong. Lillian Jamison, the family’s no-nonsense matriarch, won’t hear of her best friend’s granddaughter staying at a hotel in Charleston. “Nana Lil” invites Chloe to stay with them until the job is finished. Chloe’s bedroom is right above Devon’s and they share a bathroom. Devon has a hissy fit.

What Devon can’t see is the forest for the trees. He can’t see Chloe for who she really is. He can’t see that he’s hopelessly attracted to Chloe. And he can’t see that Alicia, his best friend and office assistant, has had the hots for him for quite a while and could explode with it at any moment.

The author’s use of humor and folksiness are good. Flashbacks crop up when you least expect them and slow down the rhythm of the read.

The strength of Bryant’s work is in her depiction of the fashion industry and in her characterizations. Anika Fox and Nana Lil Jamison steal almost every scene they are in. But Bryant’s crafting of Chloe Bolton is particularly effective. Chloe is beautiful and down-to-earth. However, Bryant is not afraid to show her flaws, insecurities and her temper. While Chloe doesn’t flaunt her looks, her ego is piqued when Devon attempts to ignore her. Her challenge to and seduction of Devon are a joy to watch.

Chloe’s transition to life in Holtsville is realistic. It is not a drastic alteration of who she is and who she has been. Her inner beauty, personality and “home training” work together well in the small Southern town. Chloe likes being close to her roots, but still enjoys the creature comforts like clothes and a top-of-the line SUV her successful career has afforded her. And Charleston and Hilton Head aren’t that far away from the fictional town of Holtsville for her to share a day of pampering with Nana Lil..

Devon, while also well defined, is another case in point. He is, as Chloe describes him, “moody and argumentative, high-minded, arrogant and . . . and . . . and fine!” The first four often grated on my nerves as his relationship with Chloe continued to ping-pong back and forth. When Chloe has to go to New York for two weeks, Devon goes ballistic. He pouts and whines, overracts, follows her to New York and issues ultimatums. Eventually, he pulls himself together, just before the HEA.

The ending hints at a possible spin-off involving two strong secondary characters -- Anika and Deshawn. Niobia Bryant is off to a good start with Admission of Love. It is a very strong three-heart read. I have added Niobia Bryant to my Emerging Authors List and will be looking forward to the author’s next book.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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