Tell Me I'm Dreamin' by Eboni Snoe
(Avon, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-380-79562-0
Eboni Snoe is a pioneer. Her first novel, Sheik's Spell, a romance about a researcher and a sheik's son, was published in 1992 by Odyssey Books, an African-American publisher. Her second, Beguiled, was one of the first titles published by Kensington Books to launch its Arabesque line of African-American romances in 1994.

Eboni Snoe's five novels have a lot in common. Ordinary women find themselves in extraordinary circumstances in exotic locales (Egypt, Belize, Martinique, Costa Rica and the mythical island of Eros near Barbados). Jewels or other treasures are lures for danger and adventure in her stories. Unfortunately, what Eboni Snoe books don't have in common is consistency. Tell Me I'm Dreamin' is a case in point.

Nadine Clayton has been sent by the World Treasures Institute to the Caribbean island of Eros "to lead a project which is responsible for historical research of the people, literature, and artifacts native to this area." The data she collects will be entered into the institute's central computer in Paris for use by scholars around the world. Given a choice of assignments Athens, Greece or Eros Nadine picked the tiny island "known for its literary and artistic treasures." She also chose Eros because the Caribbean was "a place that held her ancestral roots. A place she had heard strange, intriguing tales about . . . "

Nadine's first day on Eros was an eventful one. Within hours, she had survived an earthquake and her first encounter with Ulysses Deane, owner of the Sovereign estate and "protector of Eros' treasures." According to the local legend, "the island of Eros was actually named by the goddess Aphrodite after her son. And with the name, she cast the spell that whoever lived here, even for the shortest time, would eventually taste its sexual pleasures in some way or another."

Talk about your fringe benefits! It just so happens that Nadine is a 26-year-old virgin who left her nerdy exterior and Mississippi Pentecostal church upbringing behind in the United States. Emboldened by her make-over and the anonymity of being in a foreign country, Nadine is determined to have her own treasures catalogued during her stay on Eros. The dark and brooding Ulysses Deane "protector of Eros treasures" has been tapped as the guy most likely to...

Ulysses is a confused Alpha male struggling with his own internal odyssey. Of Egyptian and British descent, he is resented by some on Eros because of his race and social position. His parents died tragically when he was a young boy. Since their death he's lived on his estate with his loopy aunt Helen who thinks Nadine's arrival is prophetic and that she is the reincarnation of the goddess, "Lenora. "

There are few things I dislike in romance novels more than vacuous heroines. Nadine Clayton has earned a prominent spot on my "flighty femmes" list. She dangles her virginity before Ulysses like a carrot while she flip-flops within her own mind about his worthiness.

Despite the fact that Nadine is on Eros to explore about the island's history, folklore, artifacts and tradition, she possesses no intellectual curiosity beyond those things that concern Ulysses. While Aunt Helen's bouts with lucidity are fleeting, Nadine doesn't pursue what she's heard from others on the island about the "Legend of Lenora" even after she learns of her uncanny resemblance to the goddess. Not even her self-professed link to her ancestral roots in the Caribbean can spark her interest in local folklore. But most telling, is her willingness to pursue the studly Ulysses knowing someday she could marry him and become "Nadine Deane."

Although Tell Me I'm Dreamin' is nearly 400 hundred pages, I never got a clear sense of who Nadine and Ulysses are. The plot didn't twist and turn, it languished. Neither an exotic, erotic island named after Cupid, nor elements of danger and adventure, nor an ancient legend could sustain my interest. I'm an avid reader. I've read at least eight other books during the weeks I dawdled on this book. In short, I only finished Tell Me I'm Dreamin' because I had to.

Tell Me I'm Dreamin' is not indicative of Eboni Snoe's talent. She has done better work. Beguiled, the story of a dancer who poses as a missing heiress and is whisked off to Belize, is a much more engaging story. It shows what Snoe can do when all the elements of her story come together. That's the book I'd recommend.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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