Something Old,
Something New

Worth Waiting For

Mad About You by Roberta Gayle
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-108-1
There’s something about a Roberta Gayle contemporary romance that appeals to me.

Whether it’s Something Old, Something New, a story about the whirlwind courtship of a couple who met at a funeral -- where he was the undertaker-- and the bride’s twin sister who suddenly finds herself dateless for the wedding, but surrounded by her four ex-boyfriends and their dates. Or, Worth Waiting For, a romantic triangle consisting of a 41-year-old social worker, a 31-year-old lawyer and his nerdy 29-year-old brother. Or, “Just in Time,” an innovative take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I enjoy Gayle’s offbeat sense of humor.

She writes about straight-backed heroines with self-deprecating wit and laid back heroes who have to work overtime to convince their ladies that their intentions are truly honorable. Bits of parental role reversal often rounds out the mix. Mad About You is a classic Roberta Gayle romance with all the elements I’ve come to like.

Regina Primm is a Seattle-based public relations executive whose small firm has been contracted by a Hollywood studio to handle local publicity for Langston “Mo Down” Downs. Langston is a former NFL quarterback who has made a credible transition into movies. He is in Seattle as part of the publicity tour for his second film. The early buzz says he’s an Oscar contender.

Regina is prepared to meet an egocentric jock-turned-star. She hasn’t fared well with athletes and other members of the in-crowd since her high school days at St. Mary’s when she was the target of many of their jokes. At their first meeting, Langston doesn’t disappoint her. He is aloof and condescending. But there is something about Regina that intrigues him. He apologizes and sets out to know her better. However, Regina wants to keep their relationship on a strictly business level.

Langston believes it is because Regina sees him as a dumb jock, a college dropout. It’s a sore point with him that is exacerbated when he learns that she recently taught at a local college. The truth of the matter is that Regina hesitates to get involved with Langston because she is self-conscious about her weight -- which she calculates as 80 pounds above the mark. She wonders what Langston, who has been voted “the sexiest man in America,” would want beyond a short-lived affair. After all, he has been seen with Tyra Banks and Vanessa Williams.

She has issues about her body and he has issues about his mind. Both Regina and Langston have insecurities that they begin to work on. They do well within a well-ordered cocoon. However, once the outside world -- including the tabloids -- pick up on their relationship, Regina starts to backpedal.

Roberta Gayle has created a wonderful set of supporting characters to augment the growing relationship between Langston and Regina. Their parents and siblings provide comic relief, support and clarity. I have a particular affection for Langston’s mother who named her children after African-American authors. However, there are a few technical problems. Most noticeable are the transitions between important scenes and spots where useful information has been omitted.

With Mad About You, the trend toward romances featuring full-figured heroines continues. (In the last year Monica Jackson, Candice Poarch and Raynetta Manees are among those who have released such novels.) While Gayle does succumb to use of “the O-word,” Oprah. The characters do not talk about diet and exercise. Mad About You emphasizes self-love over adapting to others’ notions of beauty. It is a very strong three-heart romance I enjoyed.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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