Ladies with Attitude | African American Fiction (and More)

Mother’s Day has come and gone for another year. The ladies in this month’s selections are feisty, cunning, disrespectful to everyone, and laser beam-focused on fulfilling their self-centered desires. Although a handful of the protagonists have children, they are not exactly nurturing women. Even so, I bet their Mother’s Day cards would be X-rated.

Four women are caught in various “uh-oh” situations brought on by their own habits and addictions in Niobia Bryant’s Never Keeping Secrets. See Pick of the Month.

Pick of the Month

OrangeReviewStar An Excellent Year for Kwan | African American Fiction (and More) Bryant, Niobia. Never Keeping Secrets: A Friends & Sins Novel.  Dafina: Kensington Jun. 2013. 304p. ISBN  9780758265319. pap. $15: ebk. ISBN 9780758289209. F
Keesha Lands, Danielle Johnson, Monica Winters, and Latoya James have been tight friends since their Newark, NJ, high school days. They’re all grown up, but each of them guards outlandish secrets threatening to destroy their careers and personal relationships. However, an opening scene lets us know that one of them is dead. Could it be the woman addicted to Oxycontin, the one who hires a gigolo, or the sexpot sleeping with her husband’s cousin? Adding to the drama are mysterious emails stating, “I know your secrets.” Wild sex scenes add naughty flair to the narratives. One of our girls second-guesses a hot tryst, realizing she “left behind her torn panties and a broken heart.” VERDICT Four alternating stories make for juicy drama in Bryant’s (Mistress, Inc.) latest tale of wickedness. Tension mounts during the climactic last 20 pages as readers are slammed with tantalizing cliffhangers. The author’s skillful mix of hot sex, betrayal, heartbreak, and realistic characters is sure to please both soap opera and street lit fans. This one’s a winner.

Capri, Ne Ne. The Pussy Trap 2.  Wahida Clark Presents. 2012. 342p. ISBN 9781936649303  pap. $15. F
KoKo has taken control of Kayson’s drug empire (as recounted in The Pussy Trap, 2011). She’s into running everything from black heroin to crystal meth between New York City and Atlanta. Yet her hidden agenda is revenge against thugs who murdered her parents. KoKo fires up blunts, slams Ciroc vodka, and carries a .45 in her belt. The ultra-streetwise lady lives by the motto, “It’s better to have an enemy in your pocket than a bullet in your back.” Her kryptonite may be Boa, a sexy gangsta she brings to her inner circle, but his, ummm, sexual prowess does more than make KoKo’s toes curl. Yet KoKo knows the power of her sexuality and may be setting up all these fools. VERDICT This late 2012 release has zoomed in popularity by word of mouth in my library. The stripped-down, fast-moving tale is flush with raw sex, graphic violence, and an anti-heroine who runs her empire with no patience for the weak or timid. It’s well worth adding extra copies of this title to urban-fiction collections.

Ellis, Shelly. Can’t Stand the Heat: A Gibbons Gold Digger Novel. Dafina: Kensington.  May 2013. 284p. ISBN 9780758290366  pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758290939. F
Poor Lauren Gibbons. When domineering James Sayers slaps her around, she does the right thing and leaves his house. But she also gives up a $15,000 monthly allowance, trips to Paris, and a Bentley. Seven months later she’s hard at work as a lowly sous-chef at Le Bayou Bleu in Chesterton, VA, and her bills are piling up. Enter Cris Weaver, a former NFL star who is worth $40 million. He loves Lauren’s cooking, but this Cinderella story presents lots of hurdles to overcome. Our couple’s blossoming love is flagged for interference by Lauren’s gold-digging sisters and mother. Cris has problems of his own in Alex, a former Miss Dallas who wants to rekindle the flames of a hot romance. Woman has met man, but can she hang on to him? VERDICT In this first entry in her “Gibbons Gold Digger” series Ellis offers a romance that’s as sweet and satisfying as one of Lauren’s Cajun meals, although the storyline is fairly predictable. Likeable characters and nasty villains plus a sassy sprinkling of erotica add to the fun.

Mason, J.D. Drop Dead, Gorgeous. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780312617288. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250023360  F
Lonnie Adebayo can’t escape the drama in this sequel to Beautiful, Dirty, Rich, but she knows that “V” stands for both vendetta and vengeance. Mason’s first book ended with Lonnie near death following a vicious beating by wealthy oil executive Jordan Gatewood. She has recovered but is partially blind in one eye, has a metal rod in her leg, and six of her teeth have been replaced. Now it’s Jordan’s turn to suffer. An accomplice tells Lonnie, “This ain’t nothing but you getting back at the brotha for doing you wrong.” Absolutely. Lonnie concocts an elaborate plan to hit Jordan where it most hurts; his bank account. By a wild stroke of luck, Lonnie knows the secret to Jordan’s true past. Let the conniving dealings begin. VERDICT Mason’s storyline is overly complicated with flashbacks to the first book that interrupt the plot. Although the title has the potential to allure, this sequel fizzles rather than sizzles.

Noire. Dirty Rotten Liar: The Misadventures of Mink LaRue. Dafina: Kensington. Jul. 2013. 290p. ISBN  9780758266101. $15. pap. F
Oh, Mink LaRue. Welcome back! I really missed you and your wild scam going on deep in the heart of Texas. You’ve been trying to snatch that brass-ring payout: a lifetime $300,000 annuity from the Dominion clan of Dallas. How’s that going for you? I know Dy-Nasty, your rival, is also posted at the Dominion homestead and is pushing hard for the cash, but there’s really no reason to label her your “crusty-toe look-alike.” And when she shakes her booty in those micro-shorts at a house party, you’re a tad too nasty saying, “Her thick yellow jelly was pouring outta them shorts like lemon custard pudding.” Tisk, tisk. I see you haven’t lost your razor sharp trash-talking skills. Well, good luck to you Mink. Here’s hoping everything in your life comes up Hennessy and weed, just like you want it. VERDICT  Noire’s third installment is every bit as fresh and as saucy as the first two volumes (Natural Born Liar; Sexy Little Liar). Like skilled race car drivers, Mink and sidekick Bunni put the pedal to the floor and launch themselves from zero to 160 in no time flat. And handling? Oh, my, these girls know how to handle risky business in and out of the bedroom. Stock up with lots of copies. Patrons will be clamoring for more.

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