I Promise

Love's Deception

Say You Love Me

My Destiny by Adrianne Byrd
(Arabesque/BET, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-292-4
Romance readers who are tired of stories in which the main characters go from meeting to mating in less than zero-point-six seconds, will enjoy My Destiny. Adrianne Byrd has crafted an intelligent, poignant and sometimes funny anatomy of a ten-year relationship. We journey with a couple at the beginning and at the five- and ten-year points.

Destiny Brockman and Miles Stafford meet as she is moving into an Atlanta condominium. Her crew of helpers are slackers who seem to be more interested in the party across the hall at Miles' than in lugging Destiny's belongings into her new home. Her friends don't think Destiny's much fun and they're probably right. Destiny is an ambitious young lawyer, one of a long line of attorneys Brockman. Besides, Destiny has met her new neighbor and she wasn't impressed.

For most of his 35 years, attorney Miles Stafford never met a woman he couldn't charm into submission. Destiny Brockman wreaks havoc with his streak and his ego. At first, she presents a challenge. Later, she poses a threat to his safety. He is forced to admit "For the first time in my life I met a woman that I absolutely can't stand and wish to hell that I never have to see again."

Famous last words. Miles and Destiny are fated to spend a lot of time on opposing sides of the hall and of court battles. It's fun to watch the evolution of their relationship from benign neglect to "just friendship" to love.

My Destiny is, to a certain extent, Miles' story. It is a tale of friendship, family expectations and destiny - with a small "d." Adrianne Byrd's title refers not only to the heroine's name, but to the notion that fate has a hand in our lives.

Both characters are haunted to distraction by the deaths of loved ones. Miles is weighed down by the knowledge that seven generations of men in his family have never lived beyond their 45th birthdays. When we meet Miles at 35, his response to his fate is to party, party, party. Meanwhile, Destiny is struggling with the impact of the suicide of her twin brother, the hint of scandal associated with it and her father's death shortly thereafter. She, too, is at an impasse. Socially stagnant, her response is to work, work, work.

The relationship between Miles and Destiny is believable and readers are able to see it take shape. On the downside, the resolution in the epilogue was somewhat pat. Adrianne Byrd has assembled the best cast of secondary characters I've encountered in quite some time. From the Destiny's crew of sister-friends to Miles' poker pals to their respective mothers, each contributes love, laughter and space to the mix. Each contributes support and witty one-liners without getting in the way. They are around to witness what Miles and Destiny take a decade to realize - that they belong together. Byrd has done a good job of depicting the relationships among the group members as well.

My Destiny asks the age-old question: "Can men and women just be friends?" It's a variation on a theme explored in the film When Harry Met Sally (which makes an appearance at a sleep over) and by comedian Chris Rock. The author has put her sense of humor into high gear and there are several laugh-out-loud scenes.

My Destiny marks an important point in Adrianne Byrd's romance writing career. I think it's her best work and a good beginning to 2003.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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