One of a Kind

Island Magic by Bette Ford
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-113-8
Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus.

Gordan Kramer lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he runs a multinational hotel chain with his brother Wilhem. Cassandra Mosley lives in Oakland, California, where she co-owns a bed and breakfast with her sister, Sarah. For nearly five years, Gordan and Cassy have successfully maintained a long-distance relationship.

For both personal reasons and the demands of their jobs, neither Gordan nor Cassy expressed an interest in getting married. As Cassy approached her 39th birthday things changed. Sarah had recently married and given birth to a son. The pregnancy was extremely difficult for the 44-year-old mother. Cassy began to long for a marriage and a child of her own. She had broached the subject with Gordan, a divorced father with a teenage son.

Cassy spent her birthday with Gordan in Atlanta, hoping for a ring and commitment. Instead, she received earrings and a proposition. He translated her need for something permanent into a living together arrangement. After a bitter argument, Cassy ended the relationship and flew back to California.

As Island Magic begins, Cassy is beginning an ill-advised vacation to Martinique. The trip is a gift from her sister and brother-in-law to thank her for holding down the business while Sarah was incapacitated during her pregnancy. The resort where she is staying not only is owned by Gordan, but is the place where they met.

In the meantime, Gordan realizes that Cassy hasn’t just gone to cool off, she has gone left for good. He is frantic and eventually tracks her down in Martinique. He takes off from Atlanta with his ambitious assistant in tow. Gordan is on a mission. He will promise Cassy anything -- short of marriage -- to get her back. Despite nearly five years with Cassy, Gordan can’t seem to differentiate between her and his ex-wife. To say his is altar shy is an understatement.

Island Magic (not to be confused with a recent St. Martin’s anthology with the same title) is a spin-off of an earlier Bette Ford work. “Mama’s Pearl,” a novella in Arabesque’s 1996 Mother’s Day anthology, A Mother’s Love. I had not read “Mama's Pearl” when it was first releases. When I learned that Island Magic included some of the same characters, I went to find it. “Mama’s Pearl” is a wonderful second-chance romance that is worth the price of the anthology by itself. Sarah’s story includes a couple of amazing plot twists and briefly introduces the relationship between Gordan and Cassy and between Cassy and Sarah.

I found the relationship between Gordan and Cassy in Island Magic, both honest and refreshing. Both characters are mature and above game-playing and manipulation to get what they want. However, Gordan often views sex as the answer to any problem the couple might face. I liked Cassy. She never whines nor extorts gifts from Gordan. Both are comfortable in their relationship and in auxiliary relationships with their siblings, his son and staff. The story is a realistic take on some of the problems faced by commuter relationships. It is an interesting romance about love and its compromises that I strongly recommend.

Secondary characters are very well drawn and work well as part of an ensemble cast. They provide definition and support for Gordan and Cassy, only when necessary. There are two intriguing male characters who could definitely benefit from the telling of their own stories.

There are several continuity flaws in the book. However, the most annoying is the hero’s name. In the Bette Ford novella and in several instances in this book, his name was “Gordon.” On the cover copy and throughout the novel, he is “Gordan.” I read from uncorrected proofs and hope most of the errors will be resolved by the time the book is published.

Island Magic is one of those stories that will generate a lot of discussion. Readers will be split into at least two camps: those who believe Cassy was a bit too pigheaded in her refusal to compromise with multimillionaire Gordan; and those who believe Cassy was right to hold out for what she wanted in their relationship and to cut her losses when it was apparent Gordan refused to give her what she needed.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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