Fate by Pamela Leigh Starr
(Love Spectrum, $8.95, PG) ISBN 1-885478-74-7
New Orleans is a city of 465,000 people. What are the odds of encountering the same woman four times during the course of a weekend? Architect Scott Halloway decides it’s got to be fate.

Scott is a widower with two small daughters and a sister who is forever trying to fix him up. His collision course with fate begins in a grocery store. There, Vanessa Lewis -- aided and abetted by her sister’s children drag racing in the store -- crashes into Scott’s cart. She is mortified and, after checking for damage and apologizing profusely, checks out. Scott is both amused and amazed to discover that, for the first time since his wife’s death, he’s paying attention to a woman. Their paths continue to cross throughout the day -- at Storyland and at Burger King -- once as he’s trying to escape a woman his sister has sent to seek him out.

Not one to tempt fate, Scott asks Vanessa out and, although she has enjoyed the time they’ve spent together, she declines. They part without exchanging phone numbers. At home later that night, Vanessa is admits to herself that she is attracted to Scott -- despite the fact that he is white and she is not. Capriciously, she wishes on a star that somehow she gets another chance to see him. Guess who shows up at mass with his family on Sunday morning? Be careful what you wish for. Despite Vanessa’s initial misgivings, the “Brown Lady” and “Vanilla Man” finally get it together and a whirlwind courtship begins in earnest.

Fate, Pamela Leigh Starr’s debut novel, is published by Genesis Press' Love Spectrum imprint, the Mississippi-based publisher's interracial romance line. If Fate and Gwynne Forster’s stunning Against the Wind are indications of what Love Spectrum has to offer, the line will do well. Fate moves beyond stereotypes and knee-jerk reactions to mixed race couples. It is a romance with mature depth and understanding of relationships -- those with and without problems.

Scott is a wonderful hero. He never wavers from his conviction that he and Vanessa belong together. The bantering between them is light-hearted and realistic. Scott is determined to wait until he and Vanessa are married before the relationship is formally consummated. But that doesn’t prevent him from seeking pleasure in a myriad of ways. Scott is a man of many pleasures. How can he love her? Let him count the ways. It’s a wonderful plot device that increases the novel’s sexual tension by several degrees.

Of course, Scott’s and Vanessa’s interracial relationship does not exist in a vacuum and the novel acknowledges the viewpoints of those who oppose them. Fate’s strength is that it doesn’t wallow in the misgivings of others.

Pamela Leigh Starr has created a great supporting cast of characters who bring dimension to the novel. There is a humorous scene involving a “militant granny,” a realistic scene in which Scott has a heart-to-heart talk with his former mother-in-law. The children on both sides of the family are wonderful and creative. The addition of another interracial couple who ignored their detractors, married and had children added yet another layer to the story.

Although I enjoyed Fate, its major flaw is that there isn’t enough of it. Pamela Leigh Starr has crafted a thoughtful and realistic romance that could have been fleshed out in a number of areas. For example, Scott has admitted that Vanessa “brings music” to his life. In one series, he attempts to woo Vanessa through a carefully selected set of songs played by a local radio station. We are told the songs have meaning to the relationship, but we are never told what the songs are. It’s a nit to pick, but my enjoyment of the book would have been increased by being able to place a specific song within the context of the narrative...particularly when the author set me up for it.

The book also suffers from several capitalization and editing snafus. However, Pamela Leigh Starr, Fate and the Love Spectrum line are off to a very good start.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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