Publisher/Date: Strebor Books, March 2004
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Religious
FIRE & BRIMSTONE is the tragic story of Chris and Gayle, two “bag ladies” carrying heavy sacks of unresolved issues.
In the beginning, there is Chris, an intelligent woman with two degrees – in English literature and French – from Howard University. Just as she was set to take the world by storm, she becomes pregnant. While waiting for boyfriend Trey to grow up and become a man, she moves home to Memphis to raise her daughter. Chris thinks it’s only a matter of time before he proposes and she has the perfect life: a doting husband and father (unlike her own deadbeat dad) and a beautiful baby. It doesn’t quite work out that way, and Chris begins to explore an attraction for women she’s harbored for years.
Chris first begins seeing Carol, a white-trash woman with a penchant for dark meat on the side. While that ends sourly, Chris meets Gayle.
Gayle is a story and a half. She’s got some deep-seated issues from her childhood. Totally opposite from Chris, Gayle is impressed because Chris is unlike anyone she’s ever dated. Never has she been with a college graduate or a woman so confident. It boosts Gayle’s morale, especially since she’s been in and out of trouble with the law and acts as if the world owes her something.
They begin dating seriously, and everything is cool at first. Gayle moves in quickly with Chris and her daughter, getting to know each other but not knowing the real story behind their facades.
Then things turn ugly. Really ugly. So much drama transpires in the novel from this point. Gayle began stealing from her job in order to get the things she thinks Chris deserves. When both ladies get caught up in unwise schemes, Chris finally realizes who Gayle really is, and the women twist in and out of each other’s lives like a tornado, leaving one another destroyed in the wreckage.
As the title Fire & Brimstone suggests, religion plays a part in the women’s relationship. Gayle, the minister of music at her church, spends a lot of time in the Lord’s house and moving the masses with her heavenly voice. What bothers Chris is that Gayle can run up and down the aisles on Sunday, then raise hell throughout the week. Not one for attending church, Chris doesn’t understand what religion is about. It’s only when the unexpected happens that she figures out what God’s been trying to tell her – Gayle’s not the one.
The message of the dramatic story is one of redemption. Both women had to be freed from the shackles of their pasts in order to claim their future. Whether homosexuality is acceptable is not the crux of the novel, but about accepting oneself.
Brown’s Fire and Brimstone reveals heart and soul, and the wayward routes we take to salvation.
Reviewed September 2005