A Test Of Time by Cheryl Faye
(Arabesque/BET, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-51-4
Cheryl Faye began her romance writing career in August of 1996 with the release of At First Sight. The following year, "Second Chance at Love," a wonderful second-chance story about a widowed mother of two teenagers who hesitantly begins a relationship with the new high school coach, was published in Arabesque's 1997 Mother's Day anthology. Faye's full-length novel, A Time for Us, was also released that year.

A Time for Us is the story of Mark Peterson and Nicole Johnson. The novel covers their relationship from the first day Nicole began working for Mark's company as an executive secretary, through their courtship, marriage, and birth of their first child. We witness their first marital crisis and their first joint business success. Through more than 300 pages, we learned everything there was to know about Mark and Nicole -- until now.

For her first romance in more than two years, Cheryl Faye reprises the characters of Mark and Nicole Peterson in A Test of Time.

The first chapter begins where A Time for Us ends in Jamaica with the opening of the couple's resort. Family, friends, business associates and the troublesome architect Ashlei Brown are on hand. After a brief recap of Mark and Nicole's story, their peaceful life together is threatened by a series of misunderstandings and their knee-jerk reactions to them. Both Mark and Nicole are strong-willed and proud. The fabric of their relationship begins to unravel under the strain. Two years of marriage are in jeopardy. Can this marriage be saved?

I have deliberately not revealed more of the plot. Those who have read A Time for Us deserve to read the rest of the story for themselves. I strongly recommend that those who have not read A Time for Us do so before reading A Test of Time. It will set the stage and provide a better understanding of where this couple began and how they got to this point. It may also explain why I have very mixed feelings about A Test of Time.

While it is wonderful to have Cheryl Faye romance after all this time, I was very uncomfortable witnessing the deterioration of Mark and Nicole's marriage -- page after page after page. As a reader who had invested time into the development of their relationship in A Time for Us, I was disappointed in many of the main characters' actions in this novel. And, unlike the couple's fictional family and friends, I found it extremely easy to choose sides and point fingers. A great deal of the novel's underlying message deals with the impact of the break-up of a relationship on those within and without. I soon tired of the nonstop bickering, name-calling and posturing.

I found that the impressions I had created of the characters in the first novel no longer held true. In the earlier novel, I saw Nicole as naive, but directed, here she appears spoiled and willful. And Mark, for all his business acumen and experience, should have known what the impact of his continuing relationship with Ashlei -- of all women -- would have on his marriage to Nicole.

It was good to revisit Nicole's parents, her sister Stephanie, Mark's sister Carol, and friends Yvonne and Lucien Rogers. A romance for Stephanie or Carol might have proved to be a better re-entry vehicle for Faye than A Test of Time. There are new elements and relationships in Mark and Nicole's story, but they are overshadowed by the anger and squabbling.

All in all, I've got a feeling that Cheryl Faye fans will be so happy to have her back after two years, they will even put up with Mark and Nicole's antics. And that's the true test of time.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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