One of a Kind by Bette Ford
(BET/Arabesque, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-000-X
****
It has been three years since legal secretary Anthia Jenkins met community activist Dexter Washington in Bette Ford's third novel, Forever After. They were introduced at a charity function, but Anthia only had eyes for that novel's hero Charles Randol.

Recognizing a potential problem, Charles' new bride, Diane promptly summoned Anthia to the ladies' room and strongly suggested she find a cure for her reckless eyeballing before Mrs. Randol did. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Diane and Anthia. Dexter didn't fare as well and had competition for her attention from Doug Henderson.

One of a Kind, Bette Ford's long-awaited fifth novel, picks up Dexter and Anthia's story where Forever After left. Anthia's son Jeff was wrongly accused of armed robbery and was shot by a store owner. His injuries have left him in a wheelchair. Although his recovery has been slow, it has not prevented him from going away to college and excelling in his studies. Dexter was director of the community center Jeff frequented before the shooting. He was there to help the Jenkins family through a difficult time.

During the course of Jeff's recovery, Anthia pursued her doll making hobby. The avocation evolved into a full-time business. Her "one-of-a-kind" dolls are commissioned and sold in galleries and boutiques. She has been able to quit her job as a legal secretary and devote her time to "One of a Kind," her thriving business.

Her relationship with Dexter evolved . . . up to a point. Just as the two were getting close, Dexter kissed her, panicked and made a hasty retreat from her life. She misses him and is confused by his sudden withdrawal. Although he cares deeply for Anthia, Dexter doesn't feel worthy of her or any woman. He's carrying around more baggage than a Louis Vuitton warehouse following the death of his wife and unborn child. But Anthia has decided that if she wants Dexter, she'd better go get him.

One of a Kind is the fourth novel in what I have come to call Bette Ford's "Detroit series." Others set in the Motor City are For Always, Forever After and, my favorite, After Dark. There are references to Detroit people, places and things like Vernor's Ginger Ale that native Detroiters like me appreciate. But beyond my personal nostalgia trip, Bette Ford tells a good story.

As in all her books, family relationships are important. Dexter has very complex family relationships that are fully explored without weighing down the story. The author explores the family relationships with secondary and walk-on characters as well. Die-hard Ford fans will be glad to know what happened to Charles and Diane Randol, Diane's mother Lillie, Quinn and Heather Montgomery and their daughter Cynthia. Donald Williams, Chicago Bulls basketball player and hero of After Dark, makes an all-too brief appearance. A secondary love story is touching and provides resolution and a bit of a surprise for Ford fans.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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