Love Notes by Leslie Esdaile
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG) ISBN 1-58314-185-5
“Anthony Williams loved his wife, but hated his marriage . . . ”

Tony Williams and Nina Carpenter married after a five-year courtship. Nina is the only child of middle-class parents; Tony is from a large working class family. He is not formally educated and makes his living as the owner of a successful jazz club. She is a college-educated artist who now teaches at a university. She has been yin to his yang.

But after only two years of marriage, their relationship has reached a critical point. Nina and Tony have stopped communicating on all levels. Their disparate interests and schedules now work against them. At 39, Nina is anxious to have a child, but Tony has misgivings. When Love Notes begins, the couple has not made love in four months.

Both want to save their marriage and seek the counsel of parents and friends. Tony and Nina’s marital malaise is the catalyst to make others examine their own relationships. Tragedy strikes just as Tony and Nina seem to have worked out solutions to their problems. The couple is forced to reevaluate their lives yet again.

Leslie Esdaile has written an intelligent story that is a strong commentary about marriage, relationships, class, trust and communication. The opening passages are a very well written assortment of astrological, seasonal, artistic and musical metaphors that accurately depict the state of Tony and Nina’s marriage. The author has also created a tightly woven suspense novel with interesting plot twists and turns. Her use of artistic concepts and music in the narrative held my attention. As in most Leslie Esdaile novels, there is a touch of the metaphysical. Each of these elements came together for me.

The characterization is powerful. The main characters are credible as the grapple with life-shattering problems. The secondary characters are strong, but do not overshadow Tony and Nina.

However, Love Notes will not appeal to everyone. While the novel does involve a committed relationship between the main characters and a happy ending, Love Notes is more mainstream than romance. It is just as much about the relationships between and among nearly a dozen other people as it is about Tony and Nina’s marriage. Parental advice is given in good, albeit lengthy, soliloquies. Readers will also see similarities between this novel and the opening of “A Home for the Holidays,” Esdaile’s novella in the Midnight Clear anthology.

Love Notes is Leslie Esdaile’s first full-length novel in more than three years. It couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I have been on a whine of late, complaining about the commonplace nature of the books I’ve been reading. I am on the look out for something different. And, although I couldn’t describe it, I was sure I would know it when I read it. Love Notes is a step in the right direction.

Welcome back, Ms. Esdaile. Thanks for the Love Notes and break from the same old 3-6-9!

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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