Roses are Red by Sonia Seerani
(Arabesque, $4.99, PG) ISBN: 0-7860-0514-9
Roses are Red, British author Sonia Seerani's first Arabesque novel, begins as a "love-your-enemy" story about an intercontinental family feud that spans two generations.

Ramsey Davenport and Benjamin Brentwood were best friends and business partners in their native Jamaica during the 1950s. In 1956, Brentwood departed suddenly for America leaving Davenport with the fledgling newspaper to run and a huge bank loan to repay.

Davenport paid off the debts, and he and the newspaper emigrated to England. The paper has grown into the largest Black newspaper in the country. The elder Davenport retired after his wife's death and their no-nonsense daughter Kendra is at the helm. Meanwhile, Benjamin Brentwood hasn't done so badly in America. He has built a Black cable empire headquartered in New York and shows no signs of retiring.

Benjamin Brentwood has now set his sights on Ramsey Davenport's newspaper, claiming he never signed away his rights to it more than 40 years ago. He never helped to repay any of the debts, but that's never discussed! The family feud is passed down to the Brentwood boys, Shay and Joel, and the Davenport daughters, Kendra and Arlisa.

When social butterfly Arlisa amasses more than $150,000 in gambling debts and embezzles money from a fund she oversees to cover her losses, she plays into the elder Brentwood's plans to get his hands on the newspaper. Shay Brentwood makes restitution and will not turn her over to the authorities if Kendra will agree to both his demands: (1) that she repay the money within seven days, and (2) that she kiss him! If she is unable to meet either of those conditions, he and his family will take over the Davenport's newspaper.

While the kiss was much easier to come up with than the cash, it costs Kendra more in the long run. Shay's kisses light her up more than anything she's gotten from her current beau, the stuffy and self-righteous Selwyn Owens, a member of Parliament. Kendra and Shay are extremely attracted to each other despite the animosity between their two families. But blood is thicker than mud and their individual senses of family duty provide the right amount of sexual tension and personal skepticism throughout the novel.

The deadline comes and the Davenports are unable to come up with the money. However, the Brentwood's can't take total control of the newspaper because Kendra's late mother placed her controlling shares in the newspaper in a trust that her eldest daughter will receive when she marries. Kendra and Shay settle into an easy peace, working together to built the newspaper. And Shay decides to save Kendra from a dull marriage to Selwyn Owens and to get his hands on her...shares.

Sonia Seerani is off to a good start with Roses are Red. It is a well-written story with Several unexpected twists. The author also provides subtle glimpses into the essence of the West Indian family structure. I appreciated the way secondary characters maintained a respectful distance and did not get in the way of Shay and Kendra's story.

My favorite character is Shay Brentwood. Sonia Seerani has created a strong multifaceted character. I've met him! He's self-confident, funny and successful. He is a product of his own personal zeal, his family background and his Morehouse College education. The development of characters like Shay Brentwood by authors who can understand and translate cultural nuances is what attracts more readers to multicultural romances. Readers enjoy books where they can find characters with whom they can identify.

It is refreshing to see the new crop of emerging authors from throughout the African diaspora. Sonia Seerani will go into my emerging authors list. She is one of a growing number of Black authors from Africa, England, South America, Canada and the Caribbean who are joining African-American authors in the romance genre. I'm looking forward to reading their stories and tracking their development.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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