The Essence of Love

A Mother's Love

With this Kiss

Intimate Secrets by Candice Poarch
(Arabesque/BET, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-033-6
I've got good news and bad news...

First the good news: Candice Poarch has completed the third book in her Nottaway, Virginia, stories. Now the bad: The author says it's the last of the popular series.

Intimate Secrets is the story of Jonathan Blake and Johanna Jones.

Jonathan is one of the Nottaway's richest residents. He is the brother of Karina Blake Wallace Dye (With This Kiss) and the best friend of Tylan Chance (White Lightning). He's also the town's most eligible bachelor. Jonathan was once engaged, but his fiancée was killed in an automobile accident the night before the wedding. Jonathan has thrown his time and energy into running his business which employs a sizeable percentage of the town's citizens and, until recently, into serving as a surrogate father for his sisters rambunctious triplets.

Johanna is the daughter of the infamous, Mrs. Jones, the town busybody. She is also the best friend of Karina Dye, Jonathan's younger sister. As a young girl, Johanna had a crush on him. But Jonathan, who raised Karina after their parent's death, only saw her as Karina's mature, but still too young buddy. Not one to sit around and wait for things to happen, Johanna has prepared -- through education, training and experience -- to realize her childhood dream of restoring and running the town's hotel.

When Intimate Secrets begins, Jonathan and Johanna's chance meeting allows them to get reacquainted. The reclusive Jonathan Blake is immediately attracted to her and they begin to date...within range of the prying eyes and wagging tongues of Nottaway, including Johanna's mother. Mrs. Jones puts on a full-court press that amazes Jonathan and Johanna. But Johanna is her mother's daughter and is determined not to succumb to the pressure. Her dream will not be deferred.

Jonathan and Johanna's time together is cut short when their businesses are threatened. His, through sabotage; hers through an unforeseen claim on the hotel. At this point, Intimate Secrets reveals two mysteries to be solved. The search for the truth begins in earnest.

Intimate Secrets, like the other stories in the Nottaway series, brings back an interesting set of characters only small town life can produce. While Intimate Secrets is a strong stand-alone, I recommend reading the other stories in the series -- White Lightning and With This Kiss -- to meet the range of rich characters and to discover what Mrs. Jones is really capable of!

While I recognize the author's need to stretch and develop her range, I will miss the residents of Nottaway. They have become as familiar as Tina McElroy's characters in Mulberry, Georgia, and the citizens of Adrienne Ellis Reeves' Jamison, South Carolina.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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