cover image IN LOVE AND WAR


Denene Millner, Author, Nick Chiles, Joint Author . Dutton $23

The husband and wife authors of Love Don't Live Here Anymore team up for another look at contemporary African-American relationships. Busy, uncompromising Zaria Chance has raised her son, James, and her daughter, Jasmine, without help from their no-account jailbird father. Now that she's comfortably settled in suburban Teaneck, N.J., with a job in a college bursar's office, the last thing she's looking for is another man to mess up her life. When Kenneth Roman, a social studies teacher concerned about James's bad behavior in the classroom, comes butting in, Zaria tells him precisely what he can do with his advice—while secretly checking out his basketball coach physique. Romantic sparks fly, but Kenneth somehow neglects to tell Zaria about his four-year-old daughter, Lane. As his feelings for Zaria grow, it only gets harder to explain. The too-thin plot hinges unconvincingly on this flimsy complication, which could easily be cleared up. The novel could also stand to lose 50 pages—Zaria's feisty monologues become repetitive. Yet for the most part, these sharp-tongued, intelligent protagonists crackle with life. Millner and Chiles round out the cast with spicy secondary characters like Zaria's drama queen sister, Mikki (heroine of Love Don't Live Here Anymore), and a host of kibbitzing colleagues and friends, creating a textured portrait of the suburban community. The discussions of African-American social issues can be heavy-handed, but Millner and Chiles's entertaining—and instantly recognizable—portrait of two stubborn singles should keep readers satisfied. (Jan.)