Set in the gated communities of Los Angeles, studded with luxury goods of all kinds, an ostensibly comic romance recounts one very spoiled young woman’s journey to the altar.
When iron-willed matriarch Adeena LeBeau dreams of an imminent wedding, she decides that one of her daughters must make the dream a reality. Donneeka, her eldest, seems the likeliest candidate, so Adeena arranges for her to spend some time with Braxton Dupree. As successful as he is drop-dead gorgeous, Braxton is quite a catch, but Neeka—tired of letting her mother run her life—decides to assert her independence by resisting Braxton’s charms. Neeka’s contrariness is, of course, a time-honored device of romantic comedy, but unfortunately what follows isn’t a slapstick romp so much as a forced march with a deeply unpleasant young woman and a story that’s cluttered with information. Phillips builds her characters and situations from many inconsequential details rather than a few telling ones. Will anyone be interested to learn that Braxton’s trucking business is located between a “small toy factory” and a “modest-sized printing company”? In some cases, the accumulation of detail is not just overwhelming, but contradictory. On one page, Adeena will tell her hairdresser anything; on the next, she’ll be doggedly tight-lipped because she’s conversing with a social inferior. These long-winded, sometimes confusing passages might be forgivable if second-novelist Phillips (The High Price of a Good Man, 2003) had wrapped her story around a likable, engaging heroine. Neeka, however, is no such thing. Shallow, immature, and spectacularly self-centered, she seems to regard independence as nothing more than getting her own way. Having used Braxton for sex while rebuffing his pleas for something more, Neeka decides that the next step in her emancipation should be the public and very personal humiliation of her mother—during a church banquet in Adeena’s honor, no less. It’s impossible not to feel sorry for Braxton when the story finally reaches its preordained conclusion.
A tiresome attempt at contemporary romance.