Do You Take This Woman?

R. M. Johnson, Author . Simon & Schuster $23 (321p) ISBN 978-0-7432-8519-3

Love—or as one of the characters in Johnson's latest soap opera calls it, "plain, stupid, make-you-disrespect-the-hell-out-of-yourself love"—makes people do silly things. But even that fails to explain the absurd lengths to which three African-American Chicagoans go in Johnson's disappointing seventh novel (after The Million Dollar Divorce ). Magazine editor Carla is neglecting her meek husband, Pete, by meeting Pete's best friend and business partner (and her ex-fiancé), Wayne, on the sly. Nothing steamy happens (she just wants to see if she still "has feelings" for Wayne). When Pete cheats—and confesses his transgression—Carla wants to even the score by stepping out (for real). Pete agrees, but only if he can pick the man. Pete chooses, of course, Wayne. Carla, afraid of falling deeper in love with Wayne, decides she and Wayne will only pretend to do the deed. But once Wayne and Carla are in the hotel room, things heat up. Pete, unable to contain his jealousy, has Wayne arrested for adultery and soon discovers that Carla's pregnant (and, no, she doesn't know by whom), a revelation that sends Pete on a violent tear. A hokey denouement rounds out this flaccid offering. (Aug.)

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