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Laura Castoro's newest explores blended family relationships. Thea Morgan had a brief fling with Xavier Thornton when she was 16 but then Xavier went on to athletic fame, Thea married a white man, had a blue-eyed daughter and became a young widow. When the story starts, that daughter, Jesse, is about to go to college, and Xavier, now a pastor, has found Thea again, and they are engaged to be married. However, when Xavier becomes the minister of a smalltown Arkansas church, hostile churchgoers, the demands on Thea's time and a profound unhappiness with smalltown life take their toll. Meanwhile, Jesse is having trouble fitting in at college. Thea and Jesse are well-drawn characters, strong independent women who readers will love. Xavier, however, is far too perfect to be interesting; it doesn't matter who he is, but merely what he represents-a good man and a relationship worth fighting for. While this African-American novel won't distinguish itself in the field, it is a satisfying read. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.