Betrayal and Forgiveness | African American Fiction (and More)

Librarians are always keen to find ways to display titles in their collection. Three of this month’s selections (in the following order from top to bottom) are strong candidates for a stacked book spine message:

Wives, Fiancées, and Side-Chicks of Hotlanta 

Lust 

The Mark

There’s a satisfying amount of betrayal, bedroom romps, and violence to please a wide range of urban fiction readers. However, Kimberla Lawson Roby’s latest work moves away from these overworked themes and offers a message of forgiveness while dealing with an overzealous “friend.” Copycat is my pick of the month.

Pick of the Month

41o3istn7nl1OrangeReviewStar Defending Your Castle | African American Fiction (And More!)Roby, Kimberla Lawson. Copycat. Grand Central. Jan. 2017. 172p. ISBN 9781455569717. $20; ebk. ISBN 9781455569724. F
When budding writer Simone Philips meets author Traci Calloway Cole by chance at a hair salon, she asks for advice on how to get her romance published. Traci is generous with suggestions, and Simone is thrilled. That night Simone checks Traci’s website and notices that the author favors fuchsia in her blouse selection; Simone is also eager to change her hairstyle to be “just like Traci.” Gradually, this clingy woman develops an unhealthy obsession with her new friend and buys clothes, boots, a car, new furniture, and even changes churches to be more like her. Family members warn Traci that something is wrong, but our kindhearted protagonist refuses to believe her new writing buddy has issues. As Simone’s over-the-top attachment challenges Traci’s religious faith, she becomes conflicted on what to do. VERDICT Prolific author Roby’s (A Sinful Calling; The Ultimate Betrayal) latest novel is a slim tale that hints of a stalker horror script yet ultimately stresses the author’s trademark message of forgiveness. Roby has a strong connection with her readers, and fans will be happy when the star of her Reverend Curtis Black series makes a cameo appearance here.

813qaooyjdl1Murray, Victoria Christopher. Lust: A Seven Deadly Sins Novel. Touchstone. Feb. 2017. 362p. ISBN 9781501134104. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781501134111. F
Tiffanie Cooper and Damon King are set to be married, and life couldn’t be better for Tiffanie. She loves Damon’s attention as well as the wealth of his thriving Washington, DC, entertainment/realty business. Yet, she is vexed by not having the big O in the bedroom over the course of their three-year engagement. Determined to make the wedding night special and explosive, Tiffanie puts a four-day celibacy cloak on their love life. Problems arise when Damon’s boyhood friend and soon-to-be best man Trey Taylor arrives in town. Trey, out of prison after seven years, sends a vibe of raw sexuality that overwhelms Tiffanie. Damon senses problems but shrugs his unease as wedding jitters, as Trey continues to stoke the smoldering desire in Tiffanie with one-on-one encounters that ratchet up intensity. Tiffanie’s dithering and plain selfishness will have lady readers pounding their fists in frustration. This girl is willing to throw everything away for a night of sex? VERDICT Murray (Stand Your Ground; Forever an Ex) mixes quite a bit of passion, a touch of treachery, and some good old-fashioned revenge, taking time to build the tension, only to pull back from it over and over. Despite this flaw, there’s a great resolution that hints at the movie Fatal Attraction.

51z6y1g59cl1Swinson, Kiki. The Mark. Dafina: Kensington. (Score, Bk. 2). Feb. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781617739705. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781617739712. F
Swinson’s sequel to The Score once again centers on a desperate Lauren Kelly who’s on the run from her murderous ex-lover Matt Connors. But she’s not escaping trouble, she’s heading straight for it. In order to force her to return the millions she stole from him, Matt kidnaps Lauren’s husband, Drake, and their newborn son. Plans go haywire, and when Lauren is linked to a homicide crime scene, she flees New York City and heads for Virginia’s Tidewater area where she knows Matt runs a drug operation. Along the way she has to keep her head down as she’s wanted on numerous counts of identity theft, fraud, forgery, and grand larceny. Lauren realizes she’ll need help cornering Matt, but everyone would be wise to avoid this woman’s connection to ruthless criminals. VERDICT Breathless suspense explodes on practically every page, highlighted by scenes of violence and merciless, execution-style murders. Lauren comes off as something of Superwoman who performs feats of strength two days after giving birth, but that just adds to the page-turning appeal. Swinson’s name will generate strong interest.

51gscm0fqol1Whitfield, Shereé. Wives, Fiancées, and Side-Chicks of Hotlanta. Dafina: Kensington. Feb. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781496709875. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781496709882. F
Newly minted college graduate Sasha Wellington comes to Atlanta from Cleveland to seek her fortune in the fashion industry but only manages to land an assistant job in a law firm. A chance meeting in a clothing thrift shop connects her with Norman, a flamboyant gay man familiar with Atlanta society. Working with Sasha at the law firm is receptionist Casey who is married to a member of Atlanta’s professional basketball team. Soon, this rags-to-riches story builds as Sasha meets pro-baller Terrance McKinley and is swept into a luxurious lifestyle that seems too good to be true. Even Casey warns, “This town has a way of making you something you aren’t.” Off to the side is sassy Norman, tsk-tsking as Sasha finds herself something of a pawn for the wealthy to toy with. VERDICT Whitfield, star of Bravo’s reality television show The Real Housewives of Atlanta, makes her fiction debut with this tale of a young woman overwhelmed in the big city. There are a few juicy bedroom scenes, but they are not as hot as the novel’s title would suggest. Still, there is a nifty twist that promises more betrayal and drama in a second book, and Whitfield’s celebrity will prompt instant recognition.

Series Update

51tfktrlyl1Rax, Cydney. Revenge of the Mistress. Kensington. (Love & Revenge, Bk. 3). Feb. 2017. 346p. ISBN 9781496701428. pap. $9.95; ebk. ISBN 9781496701435. F
This third and final volume (after My Married Boyfriend) in Rax’s trilogy once again visits the drama swirling around Rashad Eason’s love life. This time, Rashad is marrying Nicole Greene, whose boss at work is Kiera, Rashad’s former wife. Awkward! Nicole wants more of everything, but the deck may be stacked against her. A stunning opening chapter reveals Rashad’s fate, but readers won’t know details until Nicole’s drama plays out. There’s plenty of backbiting among the ladies here. As former mistress Alexis tells Nicole, “You’re a miserable little soul and I hope you get everything you schemed for.” That could be said for every character in this trilogy. VERDICT Fans of this series will want to see if Rashad receives his just desserts.

 

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