has also reviewed:

Heart's Desire

Love's Celebration

A Magical Moment
by Monica Jackson
(Arabesque/BET, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN: 1-58314-021-2
Question: What do you get when you combine the romantic suspense of Midnight Blue with spin off characters from Heart's Desire? The answer's no riddle. It's A Magical Moment, author Monica Jackson's fourth and, I think, best novel.

Attorney Taylor Cates and Atlanta private investigator Stone Emerson were introduced to readers and to each other near the end of Heart's Desire. Taylor was heroine Kara Smith's psychic next door neighbor. Stone was hired to investigate Kara by Brent Stevens. Taylor and Stone met in a Washington, DC hospital cafeteria. He was impressed by the off-beat attorney and was pleased to know she had just accepted a job with a women's organization in Atlanta.

A Magical Moment begins a little more than a year later. Taylor works as a lawyer for Helping Hands, a nonprofit agency that helps abused women. Her work keeps her busy and she consistently has refused Stone's invitations to go out with him. While she uses her job as an excuse not to see Stone, she is really afraid of her attraction to him.

It seems she's met his type before. Taylor grew up in a household with her father and five brothers. While there was no denying her family all loved her, they were overprotective and overbearing qualities she has attributed to Stone. "Stone Emerson would fit right in, he was confident, handsome, conservative, and probably bossy and set in his ways." She is attracted to him, but is determined to keep him at a distance for as long as she can.

Taylor can no longer avoid Stone when someone begins killing the husbands and boyfriends of the shelter residents. A worried husband hires Stone to find out who the murderer is before his spouse becomes the next victim. Taylor is desperate to find the killer so the shelter can continue to service the women who need it. The women in the shelter need to be questioned without compromising their security. Stone and Taylor grudgingly work together.

A Magical Moment is a romantic suspense novel. Taylor and Stone painstakingly go over clues and suspects in an attempt to solve the murders. Monica Jackson adds another dimension to the mystery psychic phenomenon. As in Heart's Desire, Taylor has the ability to "see things." She doesn't tell many people about her impulses for fear of being called a "flake" or an "imposter." But when the killer reaches out to her through visions and impressions, Taylor is frightened and must confide in Stone.

She'd never met anyone like herself, although people claiming psychic powers abounded. They must be out there, people with the gift. There was so much she didn't know. She accepted the power as a part of her, much like people accept any talent, such as being able to draw or play the piano well....She'd never taken any special note of it, or made any study or the occult, the hidden mysteries."

Monica Jackson explores the world of battered women without moralizing. She notes that abused women come in all races and socio-economic backgrounds. She includes commentary from the women about the reactions of their families, friends and employers. There is also a scene from a workshop for men who abuse women.

Despite the various plot twists and themes in the novel, the basic love story between Stone and Taylor never suffers. The characters are likeable and refreshingly honest. Opposites attract. Stone is a lovable slob who smokes and eats red meat. Taylor is an organized, well-modulated vegetarian. Their meals together are fun to witness.

Stone Emerson wants Taylor on his own terms. There was something about the "prickly, dreadlocked, way-out-there Taylor Cates" that attracted him. For her part, Taylor suggests they have a brief affair, but Stone will not be denied. "Give up girl. I'm not going anywhere. Do you ever get a feeling that some things are simply meant to be?"

The secondary characters provide support for them without getting in the way. Not even a visit by Taylor's father and brothers can sidetrack them. Monica Jackson fans get to see what has happened to Kara and Brent Stevens. There is also a satisfying secondary romance I hope we'll learn more about. There are subtle touches of humor for balance.

All the elements in A Magical Moment came together. I liked it...a lot.

--Gwendolyn Oborne

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