The Price of Passion
by Evelyn Palfrey
(Pocket, $12.95, R) ISBN 0-0-671-04220-3
The Price of Passion is author Evelyn Palfrey’s first novel.

After nearly twenty years of marriage, Texas state representative Walter Carlson gave his wife, Vivian a baby. It was as very special baby. It wasn’t just because her diapers were wet. Nor was it that she had no milk. It wasn’t even because the infant had no name. It was that this baby was a child that Walter had sired by a woman with whom he had an affair. Now, “as casually as a bag of groceries,” Walter announced that the child’s mother didn’t want her, handed the infant over to Vivian and then went on about his life.

Vivian and Walter met when she was a college undergrad and he was a young community-activist attorney. After graduation, she put off her own law school plans and worked in his office. Later, when he ran for public office, she was there by his side. At some point, Walter became seduced by power, the dark side of politics and a host of other women. Through it all, Vivian continued to be the good political wife. She rationalized that overlooking his indiscretions was the price she paid for “the Mercedes, the beautiful house, and the prestige of being Mrs. Carlson, the Texas state representative’s better half.”

Even for the long-suffering Vivian, this should have been the last straw. But politics once again rears its ugly head. It is an election year and Walter is up for reelection. To circumvent any questions about the child, Walter hastily convenes a press conference and announces that there is a foster care crisis and calls for Texans “to adopt one of these children - give them a home, a family and a chance at productive life. Like Vivian and I have done.” For her part, Vivian never saw it coming. She has been broadsided and is stunned. (Although most of the female characters and I thought of agonizing physical punishments for Walter, Vivian never attempted any of them.)

Marc Kline is a Pulitzer prize winning journalist who teaches at the university where Vivian is at the end of her deferred legal studies. Marc is writing a book on adoption and was at the press conference. He approaches Vivian and asks if she would consent to an interview. Although she refuses, Marc cannot explain his attraction to Vivian, a married woman with a child. He pursues her with a relentless string of innocent lunches and conversations while he is categorizing his growing feelings for her. Vivian is pleased by the attention and fighting her own attraction.

The Price of Passion was originally self-published by the author in 1997. It received limited distribution by word-of-mouth, the author=s web site and the support of independent African-American book stores throughout the country. The Price of Passion was a Blackboard bestseller. Simon and Schuster is reissuing the novel through its Pocket Books imprint, making it available to a wider audience. The publisher will also release her popular Dangerous Dilemmas.

Evelyn Palfrey is carving out a niche with what she calls “romantic suspense for the marvelously mature.” Several of the main and secondary characters fall into that category with mature analysis and stories of their own. My favorite characters are Cora Williams, “a young girl trapped in this old body,” and Marc’s large and gregarious family in Georgia. While I had a few problems with Vivian’s early acceptance of Walter’s treatment of her, the character is otherwise credible as is the development of her relationship with Marc. He is smart, gallant and just a little irreverent.

The plot is well developed and includes as few surprises, subtle humor and a mystery to be solved. The Price of Passion is rated R for language which includes medium sprinklings of “the F-word.” The sexual content is PG-13.

The Price of Passion is worth a look.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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