You can’t judge a book by its cover. In the case of Leslie Esdaile’s Love Potions, you shouldn’t even judge a book by its first chapter. In the span of 317 pages, Love Potions went from a book I was ready to dismiss to one that is made my list of top ten reads for 2002.
When the novel begins, four friends - Delores, Gail, Nikki and Victoria - are in the midst of a post-Valentine Day group rant about the quantity and quality of available suitors. It’s an all-too familiar plot in contemporary African-American women’s fiction.
Victoria saves the day - and my interest in the novel - by telling her friends they need to end the pity party and look at ways of becoming financially independent. Money will get them through times of no sex, better than sex will get them through times of no money, she rationalizes. Victoria suggests an outlandish scheme for the group to make a bit of extra money by offering readings to a select clientele. It’s supposed to be a four-week project that will give each woman an evening’s proceeds.
Faster than you can say “Miss Cleo,” the quartet sets up shop in Victoria’s beauty salon and Nikki Gordon is placed in the role of reluctant psychic. In addition to spiritual advice, clients can buy special elixirs made from pot liquor. But a funny thing happens on the way to prosperity. An incident in each woman’s life forces her to look closer at their new enterprise. Aided and abetted by a wily fairy godfather named Jo-Jo, the women reinvent themselves within and without. They discover courage, confidence and perspective.
Lest you think this is not a romance, enter Adam Bastille. Adam is a former New Orleans cop who is trying to find out who is harassing his cousin. Suspects abound since his cousin has a penchant for other women’s men. Adam stumbles upon the ladies’ psychic hook-up during his investigation. And, although he has not had any of the love potion, Adam is immediately under Nikki’s spell. The chemistry between the two is powerful. Adam is a wonderful hero who learns early on that the key to a woman’s heart just might be a new set of steel-belted radial tires.
Leslie Esdaile has written a wonderful romantic comedy with several interesting twists. Love Potions is about family, friendship, loyalty, and six degrees of separation. It is about links between the past, present and future and about the power of a mother’s love. It’s like a visit to Oz, where each character discovers their hidden strengths and abilities.
While Love Potions is a definite keeper, it is not a five-hearter because of its heavy mainstream leanings. That said, I strongly recommend Love Potions.