Only You, Angela Winters’ first romance, was published in January 1997. In May of that year, “Never Say Never Again,” a wonderful second chance story in the Mother’s Day anthology, Mama Dear was released. Both stories earned her a spot on my Emerging Authors List and I have continued to watch her work with interest. With her second novel, Sweet Surrender, Winters began an uneasy transition into romantic suspense which continued until A Forever Passion, her fifth novel. Angela Winters has now reached an important juncture in her work that has been worth the wait.
A Forever Passion is the story of Howard University graduate student Sydney Tanner. Sydney is a lemonade maker. She endured a difficult childhood at the hands of her mother and stepfather. While the couple did whatever they could to destroy her drive and self-esteem, Sydney resolved to exact her revenge by achieving despite the odds and her family’s lowered expectations. At 18, she left their home in Chicago, entered college and earned an undergraduate degree. Determined to make her mark in the corporate world, Sydney is in the midst of an MBA program.
Although it still is not easy for Sydney, her determination keeps her focused. When she is given
an opportunity to earn extra money during the summer working on a genealogy project, Sydney jumps at the chance. The guidelines thankfully prohibit her from working on her own family tree.
Classmate Gabrielle “Bree” Hart is quick to offer hers for the project.
Bree is the free-spirited member of a prominent Baltimore family. One character refers to the Harts as “Black royalty in Baltimore. I’d call them the Black Kennedys, but they’re more like Dynasty than Camelot.” Patriarch Anthony is in charge of White House public affairs and part of the president’s inner circle. Victoria Hart is a society maven and both “king and queen” of the Hart castle in Baltimore. Marcus, the favorite son, is a U.S. congressman. Younger brother Keith is an attorney. Keith’s twin sister, Kelly escaped the continuing family drama and is married to a former professional football player. Grandaunt May, a feisty octogenarian rounds out the mix. And, while the Harts may not have a lot of nuts in their family tree, they definitely have a few skeletons in their closet.
At the onset of Sydney’s work, her professor advises her that “Tracing a family tree, the regathering of roots, linking the past to you. This can bring, joy, pride . . . and a sense of completeness. It can also bring grief, embarrassment, self-doubt, and more questions that can never be answered no matter how much you search.” At first Veronica and Anthony Hart view Sydney and her project as annoyances that will go away if ignored. The brothers Hart are too busy vying for Sydney’s attention. When the risks of the project go from petty vandalism to attempts on her life, Sydney realizes to what extent someone will go to stop her from discovering long-held secrets.
After a rather antagonistic beginning, Sydney and Marcus become attracted to each other. The chemistry between the two main characters is strong and believable. Despite the differences in their backgrounds, Sydney and Marcus both know the pain of living within the parameters of their parents’ expectations -- both positive and negative.
Angela Winters has crafted a wonderful story of love, loyalty and a bit of sibling rivalry. There is an added element created by Winters’ mystery within a mystery plot as Sydney works to uncover the secrets of the Hart family’s past and save her life. The secondary characters are all very well rounded and it would be great to revisit these characters in stories about Bree and Keith.
February is Black History Month. A Forever Passion raises thought-provoking questions about the interrelationship of past, present and future generations. I think it is Angela Winters’ best full-length romance.