In A Personal Matter by Karyn Langhorne, an African American paralegal at a nearly all-white law firm, finds herself working for an attorney who is difficult, to say the least. Alayna Jackson lost her mother at an early age, leaving with her a seven-year-old sister ten years her junior to raise and provide for. Alayna managed to finish high school, train as a paralegal, and work several part time jobs while making sure her sister Martine went to school and was provided for with everything she would have had if their mother were still alive.
Alayna is now twenty-seven years old and has just been given a raise and a promotion at the law offices of Hughes, Weston and Moore. At the same time, she’s been asked to work for Ben “The Ice Man” Richards, an attorney who is known for being difficult to work for. The two of them clash, which is no surprise, but it is obvious that there is some spark between them. Alayna tells herself that he's white and she has no business even thinking about any romantic ties with this insufferable man. Yet she finds herself thinking about him all the time. The feelings are mutual, but the two hide their feelings behind their work. Ben, in the meantime, notices how smart Alayna is, and between the two of them they work on a case that will either make Ben a partner or possibly get him fired.
While Alayna is dealing with her new boss and their high profile client, she is also worrying about Martine, who doesn't seem to appreciate the sacrifices her sister has made over the years. The raise and bonus Alayna receives are to be put aside for Martine’s college education. Unfortunately, Martine has announced she’s not going to college and plans on getting married right away.
The romantic build-up between “Ice Man” and Alayna felt very convincing, and I loved the fact that the reader could read every thought that popped into Alayna’s head. This made for a funny yet romantic read, as I waited for something to happen between the two of them but at the same time wondered if it was even going to happen. This was definitely a well-written romance, despite the difficult theme of "crossing the line."
And while I'm not an expert in the field of law, everything did feel legitimate and I could trust that Langhorne knew what she was writing about in terms of the case that Ben and Alayna are working on throughout the book. In addition, the miscellaneous characters who populate the novel are all believable, including Martine’s young boyfriend, Jamal, who desperately wants to prove that he could be the husband Martine needs. The relationship Alayna shares with her sister Martine is representative of the situations that may arise when an older sibling takes over the role of parent. There is a lot of bitterness between the two sisters, as Alayna had to grow up too fast and become a mother before she was ready. Her role as a mother to her younger sister causes Martine to act out her frustrations, testing her borders with Alayna as any child would with a parent, but more so.
All in all, A Personal Matter is funny at times, romantic in others, but altogether a well-written story that talks about crossing racial lines and lifting the barriers that create them. The reader will root for Ben and Alayna and their happily-ever-after, but it’s a long journey before they reach it. I’m recommending this romance and look forward to reading more by Karyn Langhorne.