By Layle Giusto:

Silver Love

By Doris Johnson:

Heart of Stone

Love Unveiled
W/A Gloria Greene

Man of the House

White Lies

By Jacquelin Thomas

Forever Always

Hidden Blessings

Resolution of Love

Someone Like You

Cupid’s Arrow by Layle Giusto, Doris Johnson & Jacquelin Thomas
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG-13), ISBN 1-58314-076-X
Cupid’s Arrow is Arabesque’s first Valentine’s Day anthology of the 21st century. In recent years, the publisher’s Valentine’s Day collections have been tied together by a theme -- matchmakers, second chances, a hotel wedding contest . . . Cupid’s Arrow is a disparate group of stories without a unifying theme.

Cupid’s Arrow begins with Layle’s Giusto’s “Maleka and the Sheik. Maleka Darling is a fashion designer working in Europe. When her mother arrives from the States, Maleka automatically assumes it is to check up on her. However, her mother’s visit has more to do with a confusing clandestine mission with an old family friend. A friend who happens to have a gorgeous, but arrogant son.

Layle Giusto is one of my favorite authors. She has a wonderful sense of humor I enjoy. However, “Maleka and the Sheik” is one of those stories I’ll have to reread later. I didn’t quite get it this time.

Doris Johnson’s “A Passionate Moment” is a story about second chances. Verna Sinclair’s fiancé died of a heart attack before their wedding. When the story begins, it has been two years since his death and Verna is still mourning the loss of her love and what could have been. She meets Dan Hunter in a local department store. There is an instant mutual attraction, but a brief misunderstanding keeps them apart. She thinks he is married and he thinks she is engaged. Their paths cross four months later and they begin a relationship. Doris Johnson does an excellent job of developing Verna’s character, her reticence to dating again and the pacing of Dan and Verna’s relationship. There is a good cast of supporting characters in this story about love, loyalty and realizing dreams.

My favorite story in the collection is Jacquelin Thomas’ “Heart to Heart,” a spinoff which began with Hidden Blessings and continued with Forever Always. The story revisits the large and loving Ransom family. (Ray Ransom was the hero of Forever Always.)

Ray’s sister Jillian Ransom is a former Marine who works in California as a physical therapist. She is a divorced single mother with a young daughter. John Sanders, a twice-divorced attorney, is Ray’s best friend. Although John has a reputation as a player, he has been in love with Jill for more than a decade. Because of her divorce and his reputation, she insists on being his friend. John wants to kick the relationship up several levels and begins a campaign to win her heart.

Jacquelin Thomas manages the hoard of secondary characters well and doesn’t lose sight of the main relationship between John and Jill. You’ve got to love a hero who can say “I Love You” in several different languages. Thomas has demonstrated a flair for subtle humor in this story. I’m looking forward to more of the Ransom family stories.

Cupid’s Arrow earns a three-heart rating as an overall package. As most TRR readers know, Arabesque’s 1996 Valentine’s Day anthology, A Valentine’s Kiss, is my favorite. It is the standard by which all others are measured. The collection includes three five-heart stories by Carla Fredd, Brenda Jackson and Felicia Mason.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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