A second novel that's marred irrevocably by its controlling agenda--from the talented author of One Dark Body (1993). Seattle-ite Rayna is a 35-year-old, African-American artist working days as a crisis-line counselor to make ends meet. At a reception for a residential-care hospice for AIDS patients, where a sculpture by Rayna and her friend/collaborator Novel Lewis is on display, Rayna sees an old friend and fellow artist whom she had not known was sick with AIDS himself. Disturbed by her negative reactions, Rayna flees the reception, deciding she should never have become involved with the hospice, since any association with AIDS, she thinks, will likely bring her bad luck. But over the next few weeks Rayna's life takes a turn for the betterafter a string of unsuccessful relationships, she's introduced (by her best friend, C'Anne Poinsett) to Theodore, a true soulmate. When Theodore discovers a lump in Rayna's neck, though, it's the reader who feels the impending doom: Rayna, who has ``almost always'' insisted on condoms, tests positive for HIV and sinks into an isolated despair. After weeks spent avoiding her parents, C'Anne, and Theodore, Rayna is finally convinced by Novela therapist as well as an artistto break the news to her loved ones. Meanwhile, Sherman tries to weave together frayed ends: Theodore, whose brother, it emerges, died of AIDS, introduces Rayna to a group of HIV-positive children through whom she finds her salvation. But the incessant safe-sex jargon, along with the too-easily-martyred Latosha Briggs (a woman with AIDS who's been illegally sterilized by a doctor at the clinic), ensures that Sherman's potential remains cloaked beneath too many segments sounding straight out of an informational pamphlet. Regrettably, heavy-handed AIDS diatribes eclipse Rayna's story, saddling and ultimately consuming the prose.