cover image If I Could

If I Could

Donna Hill. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $12 (304pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-597-9

The rueful theme ""if I could turn back time"" underlies much of romance writer Hill's heartfelt if formulaic paean to the power of positive thinking and decisive action. Insecure Regina Everette is the chief protagonist of this serious-minded drama featuring three African-American women at crucial points in their lives. As she nears 40, Regina is overwhelmed by responsibilities. Against the wishes of her controlling and boorishly sexist husband, Russell, she is a successful but unhappy reporter at New York's Daily News; she also has two teenage children. Her friends think her life is perfect, but she knows better. In a major overhaul, she first divorces Russell, then quits her job, stunning friends and family as she moves to make a life all her own. Meanwhile, her two girlfriends are undergoing their own existential crises. Social worker Antoinette, unable to forget her impoverished Louisiana upbringing, is cheating on her chauffeur husband, and Victoria, tormented by the darkness of her skin, is pregnant with her white husband's child and unsure about whether or not to keep it. Set up as the Terry McMillanish story of a trio of women, the familiar button pushing is there from the beginning, but the saving grace of true affection and camaraderie comes too late. The list of ""Affirmations for Living"" and the reading group guide at the book's conclusion underscore its motivational bent. (Nov.)