A decade after being raped by a college hoops star, smart, embittered black CPA Gwen Fagan is trying to maintain a quiet life—a sort of "take no prisoners and leave no evidence" approach to work and love alike—in Perkins's interesting but unpolished debut. When she's not excelling in an Atlanta accounting firm or grooving to soulful tunes, Gwen's privately dealing with a lot of anxiety. She gets through the day with the help of Payton, her psychologist friend and spunky foil. But Gwen's cool facade is shattered when Xavier Dean, a handsome ex-basketball player and the former teammate of her rapist, Terry Stuart, joins her firm. Gwen, who associates Xavier with "The Team" and continues to paint men with the same brush, ignores her attraction to him and the confusing emotions it creates ("This is some wacked shit ," she thinks at one point). But when the two are paired together on a project, Xavier's charm whittles away at her reluctance, and a hot-and-heavy romance develops. When Terry re-enters her life, though, it forces her to face her inner demons as well as her past. Perkins excels at showing her character's weaknesses, perhaps, at times, to a fault—spiky, angry Gwen can be an unsympathetic character. Perkins's ability to ping-pong between Gwen's love for Xavier and her fear of men is intriguing, as is her well-developed supporting cast. But there's not much spark in this rather familiar plot. Agent, Kirsten Manges . (June)
FYI: Agate is pushing this as its lead spring title, sending Dawson on a five-city tour (she'll be at BEA) and setting the first print run at 20,000.
Release date: 06/01/2004