Island Romance

As Sonia Seerani:

Roses are Red

Violets are Blue by Sonia Icilyn
(Arabesque/BET, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN: 1-58314-057-3
They say “a picture is worth a thousand words.” There is a great looking guy on the cover of Sonia Icilyn’s Violets are Blue. He is holding an enraptured woman in his right arm and clutching a bunch of violets in his left as he looks directly into the camera. He seems a bit self-absorbed. The cover model is supposed to be the novel’s hero Brad Belleville and the pose says a lot about the character.

Filmmaker Brad Belleville is also an heir to a British restaurant fortune. As a young boy, he met nine-year-old Arlisa Davenport. Arlisa’s father, who owned a fledgling newspaper, brought her along to a meeting at Brad’s grandfather’s house. Brad and his witchy sister Erica “made it plain to her that she was too poor to be their friend” and banished Arlisa from their playroom. Their paths crossed five years later at a birthday party. Arlisa was smitten with Brad who gave her her first kiss. But she was heartbroken when she overheard him tell Erica that she tasted like wet rubber. They had a brief affair years later and one would assume her taste (albeit not in men) had improved.

Violets are Blue is a spinoff of Roses are Red, British author Sonia Icilyn’s debut Arabesque/ BET Books romance. It was a fairly decent “love-your-enemy” story set in the global communications industry.

Roses are Red introduced Arlisa Davenport as a bit of a flake. Early in the novel, Arlisa had accumulated more than $150,000 worth of gambling debts in Monte Carlo. She embezzled money from a media charity fund to cover her losses. To keep Arlisa out of jail and to save the family newspaper -- now the largest Black paper in Europe -- her older sister Kendra was forced into a marriage-of-convenience with Shay Brentwood.

Arlisa would have us believe she has matured from her days as a wild party girl. In Violets are Blue, Arlisa Davenport is still a high-flying member of the jet set. She enjoys salsa dancing in London’s trendiest night spots and wouldn’t be caught dead leaving the house without wearing an ensemble worth at least £1,000 (currently about $616.10 U.S.). Arlisa is squired about by an international complement of suitors. Her goal is to become what she calls a “hypermega,” a superwoman “who can juggle professional, home, social and family life with both hands,” an “enlightened woman who sees men as useful subjects only if they have money.”

Arlisa and Brad are reunited for the first time since their ill-fated affair at a London club. The meeting is acrimonious. However, when Kendra Davenport-Brentwood is kidnapped, Arlisa enlists an antagonistic man she hasn’t seen in at least three years to help her. Brad is a filmmaker with no known investigative or covert skills. At this point, Violets are Blue becomes a peculiar story that joins Cuban revolutionaries and an escaped mental patient in an attempt at romantic intrigue.

Violets are Blue lacks the characterization and plot of Icilyn's first novel, Roses are Red. While the novel has a handful of interesting moments, I couldn’t get fully vested into the relationship between the hero and heroine. When Arlisa asks for Brad’s help in finding her missing pregnant sister, his first response is: “What’s in it for me?” And of course, Arlisa has to sleep with Brad twice and assess the value of the day’s outfit before she attempts to place a call to her brother-in-law to tell him that his wife is missing.

Violets are Blue is also a strange tale in which the sins of the mother fall on the women of the world. Brad Belleville is unable to establish a lasting relationship with a woman because he’s afraid of ending up with a girl just like the mercenary girl that married dear old dad. His mother abandoned her two children for greener pastures. Brad sees Arlisa as “a man’s woman: worldly, experienced and self-sufficient, as long as there was a male wallet picking up the tab.”

Shallow characters, a predictable plot and a strange collection of villains combine to make Sonia Icilyn’s tale of romantic intrigue less than intriguing. I’d think twice about this one.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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