February is Black History Month. Here’s a bit of romance trivia: The first romance novel published by an African-American author is believed to be the 1980 book, Entwined Destinies by Elsie Washington, writing as Rosalind Welles. Entwined Destines is the story of a journalist working in London for an international magazine who becomes romantically involved with the charismatic subject of her article.
Infatuation, British author Sonia Icilyn’s fourth novel, is a variation on that theme.
Desney Westbourne is an actress on the popular British television soap opera, “It’s a Wide World,” where she portrays the drug-addicted Cinnamon Walker. An article in Bribe Magazine suggests that the soap diva is not just acting, and that Desney and Cinnamon both have drug habits. With her reputation and career in jeopardy, she goes to Wade O. Beresford, the tabloid’s publisher-editor and demands a retraction.
W.O.B. proves to be an S.O.B. who initially writes her off as a “sex goddess” and an example of the worst actress stereotypes. But Desney challenges Wade on both personal and professional levels to uncover the truth about her and to write an accurate story. He takes up the challenge promising to “shadow her 24-7,” adding “wherever you turn, I’ll be right behind you.”
Fortunately, Wade didn’t say how far behind he’d be. In a humorous scene, the publisher soon learns that keeping up with Desney easier said than done. His first attempt at her early morning jogging routine leaves him panting for breath - and for Desney. As he follows the actress throughout her daily schedule, his attraction to and opinions of Desney continue to grow.
Infatuation appealed to me on several levels. I enjoy reading stories about Black people as world citizens. I found the stories of how Wade’s grandfather came to Italy as a West Indian soldier during World War I, of how the family settled in Verona and Wade’s upbringing fascinating. I also enjoyed glimpses into Desney’s British family background. It made for well-rounded main characters whose chemistry, histories and apprehensions are believable.
Icilyn brings a markedly European voice to the novel and colorful idioms abound. It is a touch I enjoyed. For example, a failed condom, referred to as “past its >sell-by= date,” conjured up a slew of funny comparisons for me. However, the author has a slight tendency to overwrite and
some descriptive sentences are top-heavy with adjectives and clichés. In addition, her resolution of central conflicts is weak and the disposition of villains is open-ended.
Running parallel to the main story is the story of life on the set of a soap opera set. The dramas in the soap characters’ lives are nothing compared to the backbiting, subplots and revelations of its stars. The secondary players are soap opera caricatures who provide support and angst for the main characters. If you’ve seen the movie “Soapdish,” you know what I mean.
Infatuation is Icilyn’s best work since her debut novel, Roses are Red. It’s a very strong three-heart read that’s worth a look.
P.S. Yes, I did notice that the model on the cover looks nothing like the author=s description of the hero.