Night Heat

Soul Desire by Simona Taylor
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG) ISBN 1-58314-121-9
Can a cat burglar and a cop find happiness together? That's the central question posed by Simona Taylorís Soul Desire.

Detective Cole Wyatt has been pursuing Zhara Thorne - on a purely professional basis - for a long time. He has a file on Zhara several inches thick that outlines her exploits in thievery. Cole finally was closing in on her and is about to catch her in the act. ďZhara Thorne was going down. Tonight.Ē

And go down she did. As Cole catches her attempting to rob a corporate executiveís office, Zhara tries to escape from the building and falls several stories to the ground. She is taken to the hospital and placed under armed guard to prevent her escape. It is an unnecessary precaution because Zhara is temporarily paralyzed. Cole is drawn to her, but is also determined to discover the truth.

The truth is not what Cole expects. Zhara and her partner are now legitimate security experts. They were hired by the corporate executive to bolster his case for increased security. Zhara was assigned to break into his office and retrieve items for him as a test of the building security. However, no one informed the police.

Feeling guilty for causing her injuries, Cole invites Zhara to his home to recuperate. The plot takes another turn when Coleís interest becomes neither pure nor professional. Coleís personal and professional sides war with one another over his attraction to her. He is a detective and she is a thief, albeit a retired one. And Zhara is surprised at her attraction to a man who is much older than she . . . a man who is a policeman.

There are many inconsistencies in this story. For example, I wondered why it was incumbent upon Cole to undertake responsibility for Zharaís lodging and assist with her recuperation when she had been hired by a corporation to review their security system and was hurt on the job.

Despite the inconsistencies, I found myself drawn to the characters. I found their background stories fascinating. The tale of Coleís maturity and redemption from days as an irresponsible young man was interesting. His relationship with his teenage son, Omar was among the high points of the novel. The disintegration of Zharaís life of privilege to one of several children lost in the foster care system and on the streets was also compelling. Unfortunately, the chemistry between the two characters in this story of opposites attracting did not always measure up.

That said, Soulís Desire marks an important point in the development in Simona Taylorís writing. The story was set in the United States, as opposed to the Caribbean where her earlier novels took place. The narrative was clearer and more concise. Soulís Desire is a turning point in the authorís career and, as such, is worth a look.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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