A Private Affair by Donna Hill
(Arabesque, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN: 0-7860-0484-3
****
A Private Affair is the story of New Yorkers Quentin Parker and Nikita Harrell. She's an uptown girl, the daughter of a prominent doctor and an educator, who has dropped out of medical school at Cornell to pursue her dream career in publishing. He's an inner city guy, with a high school education. He and his twin sister were raised by a single mother who abandoned them at age 16, declaring that they were grown, able to take care of themselves, and "It's my time now."

Lacy, Quentin's twin sister, is his other half, his muse, his foundation, his spiritual anchor, his protector. "God loves you and so do I," she tells him. When Lacy is killed -- on her way home from church -- in a senseless act of urban violence, Quentin implodes.

Not even Maxine Sherman, his sister's best friend and confidante, can reach him. Maxine is a childhood friend who shares a special bond with Quentin and wants to be much more. He of course, is unaware of her feelings for him. When he moves into a new neighborhood, he meets Nikita, the attraction is immediate.

When Quentin and Nikita meet A Private Affair becomes a misnomer. The reader becomes a spectator to a very public seduction. Quentin offers some very inventive pick up lines. The bantering and posturing between the two sets the stage for their intimacy. The affair was short-lived. "She stayed so busy planning the future, she couldn't see the now..." The novel holds the reader's attention until Quentin's, Nikita's and Maxine's moments of truth.

Quentin's character is powerfully drawn. He is a man of many contradictions and secrets. The road scholar loves literature and music and privately writes poetry, stories and music. He is called "Quinn," by his associates, "Q" by his closest friends. Hill deftly shifts the narrative to accentuate the many facets of his persona. A Private Affair is also a sensory delight full of images of artist John Biggers' work and a complete full soundtrack of jazz, pop, gospel and rap references to enhance the narrative.

Donna Hill fans will welcome the active return of characters from her earlier work. Lawyers Sean Michaels and Khendra Phillips from Indiscretions and Scandalous help Quentin solve the police cover-up surrounding his sister's death. Club owner and musician Nick Hunter, his singer-wife Parris McKay, Taj Burrell and Jewell Avery from Hill's Christmas novella, "The Choice" also put in appearances.

Just when you think you've got Donna Hill pigeonholed, she throws you a curve. While Hill is known for her romantic suspense novels, she is not afraid to carve out new directions for her talent. As in all Hill's novels, she explores the complexities of family infrastructure. What emerges is never "Leave-It-To-Beaver" or "Ozzie and Harriet." In A Private Affair, Hill tackles class and color discrimination among African Americans, clearly defines love and friendship and exposes the tragedy of living within the parameters of other people's expectations.

A Private Affair is one of Donna Hill's best.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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