Twist of Fate by Loure Bussey
(Arabesque, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN: 0-7860-0513-0
Wesley Keyes and Tianna Stuart were roadkill on the highway of love.

Wesley was a successful district attorney with a stellar reputation for community service until he was accused of raping his former law clerk. When the charges became public, the love of his life and the mother of his son, left them. Wesley later learned that she was married while they were living together. When they met, she made him believe she was single but she was separated from her husband.

Tianna has recently earned her master's degree in speech pathology. She fell in love with a popular actor and broke off their affair after she learned he was married. Refusing to accept their breakup, he came to her apartment and raped her. On the night of the attack, his wife, who had grown tired of his infidelity, followed him from Tianna's and shot and killed him.

The two are brought together by Tianna's older brother, Shaun, who is also Wesley's best friend and college roommate. Only he knows the secrets of their pasts. Shaun believes his sister can help Wesley's four-year-old son, West, learn to talk. He thinks the move from Washington, D.C. to Boston will help Tianna get her life back on track.

Twist of Fate could have been an intriguing story about a number of things: love, second chances and faith. It could have shed light on the impact of rape on victims and their families and on those falsely accused and their accusers. Instead, Twist of Fate is a story about "it." The erogenous, indefinable, all-encompassing, nerve-wracking "it."

Wesley and Tianna's professional relationship starts off very rocky and they spend a lot of time arguing. Only their sincere interest in West's speech problems unites them. But in the time it takes her first paycheck to clear, Wesley and Tianna admit there is an attraction, chemistry, an "it." From that moment on they dream about it, fantasize about it and try to ignore it. But they mostly exude it.

While, Wesley and Tianna both have very valid reasons for not getting involved, his are the most compelling. She is nine years younger than he, his best friend's sister and his employee. He is about to stand trial for raping a former employee and any involvement with her could jeopardize his case. And Royce, a friend and former colleague, is also smitten with Tianna. ("On her part it wasn't there.")

Wesley and Tianna are both well educated, articulate people and they have long philosophical discussions on a number of issues. But when they try to talk about it, they babble and act like hormone-hyped eighth-graders. Several conversations in the book are like this one:

Wesley: "We can't want it. It has to go away. And it will go away."

Tianna: "It hasn't gone away yet. We both feel it."

Things get so bad that even the older, churchgoing housekeeper Mrs. Valentine, finally asks:
"So, when are you two going to do it?"

It's easy to forget that Wesley and Tianna were drawn together to find out why his son's speech development was slow and to help him learn to speak. The book contains only small snippets of Tianna's work with West and it's more telling than showing. When he finally communicates, Wesley and Tianna hug, kiss, talk to each other and run off to Cape Cod for several days of it.

So once West starts to talk, no one is around to talk to!

On the positive side, all the secondary characters are actually very well developed and infinitely more interesting than the sex-starved and often inconsistent main characters. However, the negatives greatly outweigh the positives in Twist of Fate.

The novel conforms to an increasingly disturbing trend I've encountered in several recent contemporaries: the gratuitous inclusion of a stalker or other male character who victimizes women. The stalker-rapist in this novel is introduced merely as a plot device to move Tianna out of her apartment and into Wesley's house.

Twist of Fate could have benefitted greatly from more thorough editing. The sentence structure is choppy and it often seems as if it was written by different people. There are long flowing philosophical passages that seem at odds with the other short slang tinged sections. Once the major conflicts are resolved and the reader expects the book to end, another "twist" emerges that drags on for two or three more chapters. Finally, the book also contains too many serious grammatical and spelling errors.

Twist of Fate abandoned its premise, promise and potential in pursuit of the elusive it.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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