Love by Design

Real Love by Marcella Sanders
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-075-1
Love By Design, Marcella Sanders' first novel, was the story of interior designer Daniella Taylor and architect Brant Parker. The characters Monique McKay and Nick Parker, were introduced in the first novel. Brant’s brother Nick is a lawyer and Monique owns two skin salons in New Jersey. Real Love is their story.

Like Love By Design, Real Love is a second chance story. The Parker brothers’ knack for letting women slip away must be genetic. Monique and Nick had a summer romance that ended abruptly because of unnamed, unresolved issues in her life. While Monique gave Nick a reason for the break-up, neither he nor the readers buy into it. When Monique’s business experiences financial problems, she doesn’t hesitate to call on Nick for legal assistance even though she has not seen him since the breakup. But Nick is more than happy to help her and makes sure Monique knows it. Although he won’t take money for his services -- and she couldn’t pay it if he did -- Nick opts for a “favor” to be determined later.

Of course when the favor is asked, it’s a whopper. Nick’s 89-year-old grandmother is holding parcels of land over her grandchildren’s heads to make sure they not only marry, but marry someone she approves of. Nick has been married once, but “Granny” didn’t like his bride so he didn’t get the property. He’s got one more chance to get it right and he’s got to do it before his money grubbing cousin Sharmaine gets married. So, the cousin who can get to the altar with a suitable mate and who stays married at least six months gets the land.

Nick wants to create a summer camp for disadvantaged children. Sharmaine wants to sell the land to the highest bidder. Nick asks Monique -- whom he loves -- to marry him. Monique wants to save her businesses so she agrees to marry Nick -- whom she loves. Before the ceremony, Monique reveals her deep dark secret and Nick doesn’t reject her. The problem is resolved, right? Wrong. Monique has got to finish her “project.” As a result, she holds Nick to a set of conditions that would send the average man running.

I wanted to like Real Love, but the main characters kept getting in the way. I couldn’t fully support the relationship between Monique and Nick because of petty sniping and a wishy-washy heroine. Monique’s honeymoon shenanigans are a case in point. Because of the couple’s jealousy, I couldn’t buy into a HEA between them.

In addition to the characterization, the plotting presented me with several problems. I guessed what the big secret was and who was involved early on. There also were several unresolved issues within the novel that were left hanging. I could never understand why, Nick’s grandmother never checked out Monique’s background and discovered her secret on her own. As a result, I couldn’t fully warm up to Real Love.

TRR has also reviewed Love By Design

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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