Admission of Love

Three Times a Lady by Niobia Bryant
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-165-0
Mama Mia!

The Banks children are on a mission. Literally.

Jordan Banks is a bachelor who has found space in his heart and his home for five adopted children. Now, his children want to do something for him. They have embarked upon “Mission: Find a Wife for Dad.” A special man deserves as special woman. She’s got to be pretty, smart and able to bake cookies. Where will they find someone like that?

The Banks siblings can’t believe their luck with Mia Gordon buys the house next door. The reconnaissance team - Kimani Lashelle Banks - is dispatched. Kimani launched a full assault through a nonstop barrage of questions: “Can you cook and bake cookies? You got a boyfriend? Are you smart? Do you like kids? Is that your car outside?” Poor Mia never knew what hit her. “She felt as if she were being interviewed by a mini Queen Latifah.”

Mia is a very successful financial analyst who hasn’t got time for anything that is not work related. She is smart and has an economics degree from Rutgers and a Stanford MBA to prove it. And, while she does have a silver Mercedes parked outside her new home, she can’t cook and bake cookies and she doesn’t have a boyfriend. But hey, nobody’s perfect.

Speaking of imperfect, there’s Jordan Banks. Behind and beneath Clark Kent glasses, frumpy sweats and a somewhat nerdy persona is a real hunk. A klutzy hunk, but a hunk nevertheless. However, Mia has no time to uncover the mystery that is mystery writer Jordan Banks. It was not love at first, second or third sight. This is not what the Banks siblings envisioned and they scramble to refine “Mission: Find a Wife for Dad.” They will not be denied.

Last summer, I reviewed Admission of Love, Niobia Bryant’s debut novel. It was a strong start to her writing career that earned her a spot on my Emerging Authors’ list. In my review, I said I was looking forward to her next book. Three Times a Lady was worth the wait. Niobia Bryant is a good storyteller who combines wit and humor in this story about opposites who attract -eventually.

Jordan and Mia’s relationship develops naturally and Bryant realistically expresses Mia’s misgivings about becoming involved with a man with five children. While many romances have dealt with a hero taking on large “ready-made” families, few stories look at the plot from reversed roles. Bryant presents a fresh and honest approach to the issue without becoming preachy.

Another strength of the work is the author=s characterization. It is not easy juggling two main characters and a cast of strong secondary characters that includes five children. Bryant is up to the task and the characters play off each other well. In a delightful subliminal character quirk, Jordan is klutzy in many scenes throughout the novel, but his lovemaking is never hampered.

On the downside, Three Times a Lady is about thirty pages too long. I found the couple’s numerous misunderstandings and tantrums tedious and I was disappointed in the resolution of the conflict surrounding the novel’s two erstwhile villains. That said, I enjoyed the story, recommend and will continue to watch this author’s development.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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