McCann (Forever; Until; Always) turns out another succinctly titled contemporary romance aimed at African-American audiences, this time focusing on two individuals who find each other while trying to find themselves. Nearing 40, successful sitcom actress Joi Weston is forced to give up her dreams of a Hollywood career when the Tinseltown powers that be decide she's too long in the tooth to star in a feature film. Frustrated, she moves to Florida, where her husband of 18 years, Phillip, is launching a political career. Despite the couple's occasionally rocky past, Joi trumpets: "I'd never have an affair." Famous last words. Enter slightly younger hunk Michael Brockmier, an aspiring writer with his own identity crisis: unable to get his work published, he becomes part of a scam in which he's the front man for a more talented but reclusive writer. When Joi and Michael meet, passion ensues, threatening Joi's marriage even as it affords the lovers the opportunity to come to terms with their lives. McCann gets the celebrity downside of successful authorship in the current publishing climate right, but scores with little else. Most of the Composition 101 admonishments Michael receives could be leveled at McCann as well. No metaphor goes unmixed, no cliché unused; cardboard secondary characters and Hallmark-ready platitudes round out the list of offenses. A neat ending in which everybody finds redemption may supply instant gratification, but it falls far from offering true satisfaction. (Apr. 9)
Forecast:Critical reception is beside the point when it comes to Blackboard bestseller McCann's winning franchise. A familiar jacket design, the one-word title and McCann's dependable happy endings generally add up to strong sales.