When I Was Your Girlfriend by Nikki Harmon

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wheniwasyourgirlfriendPublisher/Date:  Mt. Airy Girl Press; Jan. 2016
Genre:  Romance
Pages: 214
Website:  http://mtairygirlpress.weebly.com/

Rating: ★★★★½ 

How can you be sure that your first love wasn’t your true love? Dee Armstrong leads a seemingly charmed life. She has a successful midwifery practice, a supportive family, and an exciting romantic life. But when Dee mistakenly believes she will have to confront her first love and first heartbreak, Candace, it sends her tumbling back into her memories to re-live the terrifying and exhilarating joy of being a teenager in love … with another girl. Suddenly convinced that Candace was her one true love, Dee sets off on a tumultuous cross country journey to find her in hopes of renewing their relationship. Her quest leads to some serious soul searching and the realization that maybe love wasn’t the only thing that she lost all those years ago.

sistahspicklogoWHEN I WAS YOUR GIRLFRIEND by Nikki Harmon is a rich romance tinged with nostalgia, a refreshing story about a woman looking for her first love.

Dee Armstrong recognizes the good things in her life: a rewarding career as a midwife in a thriving Philadelphia practice; co-workers and clients she adores; family and friends who provide support and pull no punches when it comes to advice.

The only thing to give Dee pause is her girlfriend, Pepper. While Pepper is primed to take their relationship to the next level after six months, Dee is not sure this is where she wants to be. This hesitancy gives way to thinking about all the women she’s been with, and the only one woman that she could ever say she was in love with: her high school sweetheart, Candace.

For 31-year-old Dee, high school was a while ago. Thoughts about a woman whom you haven’t talked to since breaking up in your senior year would be just that: notions about where she is now, whether she’s married or single, or has children; if she ever thinks about you after all this time. Yet Dee takes this to a new level and tries to track down the one who got away. Interspersed with this journey to the past that includes a road trip, cross-country flights and internet detective work, Dee is reliving the rise and fall of her young love with Candace, a dimension that adds depth to the story.

I really enjoyed this jaunt Harmon took me on with Dee because she’s a likable character, even when she’s being a little selfish and a tad presumptuous in her love scavenger hunt. Ultimately, she has a great heart, and her friends, Viv especially, made this book so easy to fall into. I also loved the inside look Harmon offers in Dee’s occupation as a midwife, how passionate she is about her patients and the new lives she facilitates into the world.

The biggest part of this story – the mystery of Candace – is what I gravitated toward. I mean, there are times when I was cautious about what she would find, but I had to know, just like Dee, what happened to her former love.

Harmon’s writing is well done; her descriptions of Philadelphia (or wherever else Dee landed), made me feel as if I were there. However, I feel the pacing of the novel could be better; at times there are big jumps from days to weeks that seemed a little incongruent. There was also one plotline involving one of her clients that could have been left out because it added nothing to the story. As far as the ending, all I can say is I’m happy, but I wonder what will happen next.

When I Was Your Girlfriend is a romance I indulged myself in over a weekend because who doesn’t want to know where her first love is? Read this story, and it just might make you look her up on Facebook. Just maybe.

Reviewed April 2016

Read the Sistahs Pick Interview with Nikki Harmon

About Nikki Harmon

Nikki Harmon, an alumna of The Philadelphia High School for Girls, Wesleyan University and Temple University, has always pursued academic challenges. However, cursed with an overabundance of curiosity, she chose a creative lifestyle as a way to indulge her many interests. As a filmmaker, television producer and a teacher of the aforementioned, she gets to spend her days weaving stories and images together and trying to make sense of it all.

Writing her first novel began as a personal challenge, specifically, the NaNoWriMo write 50,000 words in a month challenge. And so, without any training or planning at all, she did. And out came a book. Despite the guilty pleasure that came with ignoring her three children that month, she didn’t write again for three years. Then, with the encouragement of friends, she decided to dig the book out, make it better and hope somebody else would enjoy reading it as much as she enjoyed writing it.

Having ruined her eyes at a young age reading Stephen King by flashlight, it is only fitting that this Philly native finally come full circle to squint at her own scratchings on the page. Here is one truth learned ….it takes much longer to write a book than it does to read one, especially when one has dropped out of typing class in high school.


Turn Me Out: The Novel by T. Ariez

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turnmeoutnovelPublisher/Date:  Amazon Digital Services LLC, March 2016
Genre(s):  Stud 4 Stud, Romance
Pages:  199
Website:  https://www.facebook.com/T.Ariez3

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Angel and Ace are best friends who happen to both be studs. When Angel realizes that she has developed feelings for Ace, she devises a plan that will go against everything she’s ever known and believed in. She is tired of the traditions and rules that make her feelings taboo and decides to risk everything. When she finally decides that she can’t take it anymore and throws caution in the wind, will it all be worth the risk?

In 2013, T. Ariez’s short story, Turn Me Out, introduced studs Angel and Ace who found themselves in the precarious situation of being attracted to one another. Two studs in lust? Where they do that at? Though it’s oftentimes inconceivable in our black lesbian community, Ariez made the romance between two best friends believable through her writing and characters in such a brief tale.

Fast forward to 2016, and T. Ariez has expanded her earlier quickie into TURN ME OUT: THE NOVEL, and this version is meatier than I imagined it would be. It broke me in several places. The novel pretty much follows the same basic premise as the short story, but focuses more on the “where do we go from here” aspect and explores Angel and Ace becoming a couple. This is where shit gets real.

Now I’m not a stud. So I don’t fully understand what it’s like be a masculine woman in a man’s world.

But it’s hard not to empathize with Angel as she contemplates her feelings for Ace, who’s as hard as they come. We’re in her head as Angel as she grapples with being in love with her best friend, the person who showed her the ropes of stud life and sheltered her during their teenage years. The lengths she goes through to tell Ace how she feels are real and moving and hard to read at times, but the affection they have for each other is hard-fought and raw. Their love scenes were some of the hottest because of this masculine, loving vibe between them.

My biggest concern, though, was how Angel felt she had change herself to what Ace wanted. Ace, Ace, Ace. It was all I could take not to slam her hand in a car door, mostly because of how she dealt with loving Angel. Her hangups, based on what people would think, about loving another stud were going to be the death of her friendship; I just wanted her to wake up and see what was in front of her. Ace was also spoiled, a stud used to bedding a different femme almost every night, and being in love was something she envisioned as a last resort. Until Angel.

I was so invested in Turn Me Out: The Novel. The resolution Ace comes to, and the fight Angel goes through to prove her love, is what makes this book special. I hope this book will help our community let go of the rigid stereotypes we place on each other and ourselves.

T. Ariez, I’m ready for the next one.

Reviewed March 2016

About T. Ariez

T. Ariez is a Texas native currently living in Dallas. He has been writing since the second grade but only started exploring writing for an audience a few years after graduating high school. He enjoys reading in his spare time, playing board games with his family and watching football.


Pit Crew: How to Survive a Spiritual Pit Stop by Renair Amin

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pitcrewPublisher/Date:  Glover Lane Press, Dec. 2012
Genre(s):  Lesbian Real Life, How to Guide
Pages:  98
Website:  http://www.renairamin.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

PIT CREW: HOW TO SURVIVE A SPIRITUAL PIT STOP, is both author Renair Amin’s testimony and a gift to anyone struggling with life and its many bumps along the way.

Her life saw tragedies of rape, a miscarriage, and family loss. She experienced being institutionalized, homeless and on drugs. Enduring what she felt God unjustly thrust upon her, Amin started taking stock and realized everything is a pattern, a track so to speak. And instead of letting life keep taking her around and around in confusion, she knew she needed support to get her life back in stride.

Hence the Pit Crew. Crafted from the Disney/Pixar animated movie Cars, Amin’s book revolves around the concept needing a set of trusted people in your life to fix you, uplift you, and check you when you need it.  Simply put, nobody can do this life alone, and Amin gives you the tools to see who’s important to your journey.

Amin explains the roles your pit crew plays – from the Crew Chief (God), the Car Chief, the Jackman, the Tire Changers/Carriers, the Gas Man and Utility Man – each one has a special role, and all work together to make you better. Her model doesn’t absolve you of personal responsibility, though. You are ultimately in the driver’s seat, and the decisions you make – especially whom you allow in your Pit Crew – is all on you. She emphasizes this with the thoughtful questions for discussion at the end of each Pit Crew description. You have to do the work. Also, learn to be still and learn your life lessons.

Amin, a minister, motivational speaker, and  life coach, writes with honesty and a desire to help women winding around a never-ending track with no finish line in sight. There is a never a time we won’t have issues in our lives, problems in our relationships and troubles on our jobs, but Amin’s book makes the bumps easier. Her own story, as a catalyst to writing this book, is poignant. I admire her courage share this story – her story – with the world.

Thank you, Renair.

Reviewed June 2013

Read the Catching Up With… Interview with Renair Amin


Girl in the Mirror by Alix B. Golden (Aug. 2012 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  I Bleed Ink Publishing, Aug. 2012
Genre:  Romance
Pages:   204
Website:  http://www.alixbgolden.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

You can’t run from your past, and you certainly can’t run from the GIRL IN THE MIRROR.

While the prequel to this novel, Girl, Shattered, is available now, Mirror is its full-length story from blogger turned book author Alix B. Golden with many layers – a surprise love, suspense, drama, parental woes – yet the center of them is Christen Calhoun. The by-day bank teller is uninspired by her job and only finds comfort in her camera; it doesn’t pay the bills, and it doesn’t suit her father’s dreams for her.

Neither does dating women. Especially the ones Christen involves herself with. Still reeling from her last burn with thieving ass Alicia, she decides a no-strings attached relationship is exactly what she needs in Kam, a writer she meets online with a girlfriend. Christen sees nothing wrong with the two having a fling. At least that’s how it begins. It ends just as badly.

*girl in the mirror shakes her head*

Christen could never tell her Pops about these dead-end hookups. Since a young girl, it’s always been just the two of them after her mother’s passing. He never understood her decisions – staying in Savannah after graduation instead of returning to Atlanta, why she couldn’t find a man and make him a “Grandpappy” – nevertheless he did want to see her happy.

The problem is Christen can’t please herself. She suits her personality to the women she dates, and every bad romance she gets her further away from whom she is. When she looks in the mirror, the truth stares back, but then loneliness sets in and fools her heart into thinking it’s love.

It’s only when the worst imaginable happens that Christen returns home to find the love she needs – and makes the girl in mirror finally smile back.

Golden’s Girl in the Mirror shines. What I liked most about Mirror is its dimensionality. The storyline took several twists and turns, tying nicely to make an enjoyable novel. In Christen, you see a woman with so much potential go from settling to avoid being alone to realizing her true reflection is what’s important.

Reviewed August 2012


Jazzy Ladies Productions by Ericka K. F. Simpson

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jazzyladiesproductionsPublisher/Date:  Xlibris Corp., Dec. 2011
Genre(s):  Romance, Suspense
Pages:  576
Website:  http://www.ekfsimpson.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Remember Alice’s much-hyped chart used on The L Word to graph relationships between her friends and the women they knew?

In reading Ericka K. F. Simpson’s latest novel, JAZZY LADIES PRODUCTIONS: NOTHING IS AS SWEET AS IT LOOKS, it needs its own chart to keep up with all the characters and storylines.

And you will want to track every single hookup or association in Simpson’s ambitious work, cause it’s just that engrossing.

First, begin with Dionne, an open mic poet who has several female admirers and desires a real relationship; her best friend, Vincent, a hardcore playboy who can’t give up the women even for the one he really wants; and Dionne’s live-in, college-age niece following in her aunt’s lesbian footsteps.

Then there’s Logan, the MC at Dionne’s open-mic events, who has her own crew: the forever funny Beverly, rowdy realtor Logan, and conflicted Sonja torn between two women.

And finally, Lena, a Virginia teen taken in by her aunt, Vanessa, after her father and grandmother pass away. Her older cousins, Gabby and Mercedes, show her the ropes as sorority girls and help her acclimate to Middle Georgia life.

In the center of all these connections are Jazmine and Karen, life partners and owners of Jazzy Ladies Productions, a local lesbian entertainment company. They host the open mic nights that Dionne performs at, that Logan hosts, and that bring all the ladies (and Vincent) together in love, sex and friendship. But Karen and Jaz – with pasts to run from – also have more sinister links to one character in particular.

Can you guess which one?

At 576 pages, Simpson’s Jazzy Ladies Productions is a big but pleasurable read. The pages fly by as you get into each plot, and you’ll want to see how all the ends tie together.

Simpson, as always, captivates.

Reviewed June 2012


Accept the Unexpected by L. Cherelle

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accepttheunexpectedPublisher/Date:  Resolute Publishing, May 2011
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  216
Website:  http://www.respublishing.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

I wish more black lesbian relationships operated with the reality found between the covers of ACCEPT THE UNEXPECTED.

The truth may have come at the wrong time, but the sentiment was not lost on Keleya Smith.

Author L. Cherelle’s debut novel skillfully portrays the fallout from Keleya’s failed relationship as she slowly nurtures a new one.

Keleya and Kris were in a long-term relationship when Keleya asks Kris to leave their home after discovering some incriminating texts. She’s devastated to lose her lover of four years, yet has plenty to occupy her time. Her job, hobbies, and most especially, her colorful family and friends keep her mind off Kris.

Then another distraction comes in the form of Jordan, whom she’s set up with by a mutual friend. The brown-skinned, handsome stud’s looks and personality entice Keleya, but she wisely gets to know Jordan little by little, instead of instantly hopping into bed. She enjoys Jordan’s laid-back demeanor and wants to be sure before giving her body and her heart away again.

It’s uncomplicated with Jordan – getting over Kris is not. Keleya can admit to herself that there’s still some baggage left with her old flame, and she’s trying hard not to entangle Jordan in the healing of her old wounds. Can her heart make room for Jordan?

Moving on from a long-time love and starting something new is neither simple, nor painless. But L. Cherelle builds a character that reveals her baggage, accepts the way things are, and gets to know herself at the same time. I also admired Keleya’s dedication to her family and friends, who pluck her last nerves. Keleya is a great character, and L. Cherelle does a great job with the entire Unexpected cast.

The ending, though obvious, was deeply satisfying. The honesty rang true.

Like I said, I wish more black lesbians would do the same.

Reviewed January 2012


Making Our Difference by Ericka K. F. Simpson

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makingourdifferencePublisher/Date:  EKS Books, Dec. 2009
Genre(s):  Romance, Family, Marriage
Pages:  184
Website:  http://www.ekfsimpson.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Monogamy isn’t easy. MAKING OUR DIFFERENCE, by Ericka K. F. Simpson, does it brilliantly.

In her third novel and the sequel to In Fear of Losing You, four lesbian couples deal with the ups and downs of monogamy and marriage, illness and faith, and parenthood. The women, united in genuine friendship, are bonded as family also because of the way the world perceives their sexuality.

If you remember Sweets from In Fear, she was the optimistic romantic. Now in new relationship with Janet, a single mother, she has the love she longed for. But as they get closer, Janet struggles with her sexuality while Sweets is left waiting for the woman of her dreams. Will Janet ultimately see that Sweets is the one?

Kat, a reformed player, has settled down with Cheyenne and made a success of her company, The Whole of Delaware. As she builds the 24-hour sports and activities center into a franchise, can she and Cheyenne truly have it all?

Happiness has shed its graces on Lex and wife Ayanna, their life almost perfect with one child and a new baby on the way, until Lex is diagnosed with cancer. Is their love strong enough to carry them through this rough time, especially with Lex’s family in opposition to their marriage?

Lastly, Genius and Ciara had a playful connection before, and are trying to make it exclusive. Will Genius trust her heart to Ciara, who’s been with several before (including Kat)?

Simpson weaves an excellent yarn in Making Our Difference with a well-drawn cast. God plays a big role in their lives, as well, an aspect that blends nicely (not doggedly) with the plot. The alternative ending is also great touch. The only negative in Difference is the excessive clothing descriptions.

That being said, Simpson nails the characters, and that makes all the difference.

Reviewed February 2011


Girls Just Don’t Do That by Natalie Simone (June 2009 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  Bookshelf Global Publishing, Sept. 2005
Genre(s):  College Life, Romance, Studs & Femmes
Pages:  230
Website:  http://www.nataliesimone.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Few understand the ordeals black lesbians go through in relationships, but Natalie Simone has compellingly portrayed what we feel in her debut novel, GIRLS JUST DON’T DO THAT.

Through the eyes of several main characters, the tale of six college women at the University of Georgia takes on several types of relationship woes.

First is Delia, a pretty tomboy type with a seemingly shy demeanor and thoughtful personality. She is the loner type, preferring to have a small circle of friends. Though her strikingly good looks could pull any woman on campus, Delia doesn’t play games with women’s hearts. So why she becomes involved with Jayne, her old high school nemesis, is beyond comprehension.

Jayne is the complete opposite of Delia. She’s a sorority-girl type, an arrogant, gorgeous beauty who was once overweight and made life miserable for Delia back in the day. Jayne’s homophobic behavior toward Delia pitted them against each other, but when they are now paired up on a class project, Delia lets go of the past and sees Jayne for the dime she’s turned into. She can’t help but become enraptured by Jayne’s charm, and they begin a one-sided relationship, where Jayne reaps all the pleasurable benefits. Delia knows she’s being played, but can’t free herself from Jayne’s cunning spell.

And while Delia is being used, her best friend Shavonne is being abused by her girlfriend, Tracy. She lives on eggshells night after night, not knowing what mood could set Tracy off on a rampage, especially when Tracy comes home drunk. In Shavonne’s eyes, it was all so good in the beginning, as in most abusive relationships. As the disrespect worsens every day, Shavonne felt she couldn’t tell anyone what was happening because “girls just don’t do that.” Who would believe that a woman could beat another woman? One thing Shavonne does know is that she has to get out – one way or another.

If someone had asked Stacy three months ago would she ever be attracted to a woman, the answer would have been no. Yet somehow Stacy – an aspiring lawyer from a well-to-do family – spots Kendal and is infatuated with what she thinks is a handsome dude. When she discovers Kendal’s a woman, Stacy can’t help being turned on by her feminine/masculine appeal. Though she has a boyfriend, Stacy’s body betrays her head when she’s around Kendal. Now Stacey has to decide whether to leave her two-year relationship headed toward a white-picket future, or be with the woman who completes her emotionally and physically. Girls just don’t do that, remember?

Simone’s Girls Just Don’t Do That, written several years prior, still resonates with readers. You’ll be drawn into these women’s lives and inner turmoil as they decide what’s best for them to be happy. As an added bonus, Simone includes “Dyke Categories” at the end of the book, which describes several types of stud and femme black lesbian personas. I like the fact Simone not only has the potent gift of storytelling but can also impart knowledge, as well.

Simone has a new novel coming soon, one that follows the scandalous Jayne, a person who refuses to declare herself bisexual even after sleeping with several women. After reading Girls, that’s one I’ll definitely pick up.

Reviewed June 2009


Two and a Possible by Dahni McPhail

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twoandapossiblePublisher/Date:  Lulu, March 2008
Genre: Romance
Pages:  178
Website:  http://www.dahnimcphail.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Love military style is the order of TWO AND A POSSIBLE, the debut novel by Dahni McPhail, who writes a sensitive, insightful story of a black lesbian in the Army.

With the main character of the same name as the author, the life of a private is shown in great detail as she falls in love for the first time against the backdrop of basic training. Dahni leaves home for the first time at 18, headed for an army base with dreams of glory. Drawn to the structure and professionalism of the military, she immediately aspires to climb the ranks as an officer.

That is until Dahni meets her own drill sergeant of pain, Sergeant First Class Jones aka the Jackal. After that, her life is never the same. The Jackal puts Dahni through her paces, torturing her and her fellow privates – christened the Kru – who soon become her sisters-in-crime. Jones gives them hell every single day, and Dahni will never forget the merciless woman.

While being tormented, Dahni manages to have a love life – as much as you can have in the military with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” laws. After surmising her inexperience, Private Sealyn Scott teases Dahni unmercifully with questions. Their flirtation takes a new level when they celebrate graduating basic training; she savors the sweet taste of a woman, but it leaves her confused about what it means about herself and her sexuality. She can’t be attracted to women…can she?

Not helping matters is the fact that she may never see Sealyn again. After being transferred to Germany, Dahni is on her own, with no friends or love in her life. She meets her firecracker roommate, MiMi, a Black-Korean beauty who gets her out of her shell and out of the closet. MiMi shows her that she can love a woman without being scared. It goes effortlessly until Sealyn reappears. Whom will she choose: her first love or her new one?

McPhail has a masterpiece on her hands with Two and a Possible. It combines a love story with a subject she knows well, as she served in the armed forces herself. It’s so finely portrayed you feel like you’re there. The drama is engaging, without being too scandalous. McPhail is definitely a writer to watch, and one I’ll make room for on my shelf.

Reviewed February 2009


How Can An Angel Take My Heart: The Positive Side of Temptation by Regina Knox

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howcananagelPublisher/Date:  1st Books Library, Mar. 2002
Genre(s):  Religious, Romance
Pages:  388
Website:  http://www.reginaknox.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

God works in his own time, and lovers Angela Lord and Kennedy Brooks face this complexity as they wrestle with their loyalties to Him in HOW CAN AN ANGEL TAKE MY HEART: THE POSITIVE SIDE OF TEMPTATION. The debut novel from Regina Knox chronicles the struggle between religion and homosexuality as Angela and Kennedy fall deeper in love, but at a price that almost cost their souls.

Angela and Kennedy’s chance meeting is at a time when they both need something more. Angela, a single mother of two, found herself in a dead-end relationship with a stud she’s not in love with. Kennedy is a highly successful businesswoman with several companies under her belt who doesn’t want for anything – until she encounters Angela on a business trip. The feminine ladies have an immediate attraction, and pretty soon Kennedy’s boyfriend, Robert, and Angela’s live-in lover, Tonya, are forgotten.

Yet there’s more to their connection than simply falling in love, as Angela and Kennedy soon discover. While Angela had previously come to terms with her sexuality, being with a woman was all new for Kennedy. Not only is it a shock herself, but to her parents – her father’s a preacher – and Robert, who had planned to propose to Kennedy upon her return. Everyone weighs their opinions and reminds her of what the Bible speaks of: that homosexuality is an abomination. And armed with everyone’s beliefs, Kennedy is torn between what’s right and what’s in her heart.

Angela has her own crosses to bear, namely a sinister ex-husband attempting to take her kids because of her lesbian status. Though not very religious, Angela is fighting her own demons about whether their relationship would please the Lord. It leads her to church, finding solace in singing the Lord’s praises and doing what believes will make Him happy.

Eventually, it doesn’t sit well with Angela or Kennedy that they may be compromising their spirituality, and the lovers have to figure out whether being with the one you love and giving in to temptation is what God truly intended.

In Angel, Knox writes an extremely sensitive portrayal of what a lesbian endures when confronting both her sexuality and religion. Black lesbians especially receive more grief when it comes to being gay, and hear more religious rhetoric that only confounds the issue. It’s great that Knox has put that struggle in a book that is honest and heart-wrenching.

With the sequel to Angel to be published this fall, I would love to see where she takes Angela and Kennedy next.

Reviewed October 2008


Passing for Black by Linda Villarosa (Aug. 2008 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  Dafina, June 2008
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  262
Website:  http://www.lindavillarosa.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

We’ve all dealt, in some form or fashion, with the issue of being black, being a woman, and being gay – at times feeling as if you don’t really fit on any side, but having to stay true to both aspects of yourself. In PASSING FOR BLACK, the first foray into fiction by renowned journalist Linda Villarosa, this entanglement is experienced by Angela Wright, a buppie struggling with both her sexual and racial identities.

By outside appearances, Angela’s life is seamless in her middle-class world, where she’s an editor at Désire magazine, engaged to a history professor at a prominent university and mingles with a Black elite inner circle. Yet it’s simply a facade. Angela has never felt secure with herself, and “passing” is simply her coping mechanism to deal with never feeling “black enough.” With her mother, Janice, considered a local heroine in the black female community, she always felt tragically compelled to live up to her mother’s roots. And at 29, she should be ready to be married after a six-year relationship with Keith, but something always holds her back. Namely, her attraction to women, a temptation she forbade herself from having for so many years.

But it’s one she can’t resist with Cait Getty, one of Keith’s colleagues at Amsterdam University. After spying the woman hanging posters for a lesbian sex conference, all pretenses of a white picket fence life fade away. Instead, she finds herself drawn to the androgynous vibe of this white woman, an activist whose fervor for women’s issues is only matched by her passion for Angela. With sandy brown hair, boyish good looks and British accent, Cait is nothing Angela expected to be infatuated with. In fact, she’s everything opposite of what her family and friends would see her with.

It leaves Angela, who’s normally indecisive and non-confrontational, torn as to whom she should be with. Her head tells her to do the right thing and stay with her “good black man,” while her heart demands she face her fears and be with the one person who makes her feel true to herself. It’s a hard decision, with consequences that will manage to hurt anyone involved.

And while Angela’s living an illusion, others in her life are also passing. Cait focuses so much lesbian rights that she ignores the plight of anyone else that doesn’t fit in her box. Keith feigns a “good Negro” veneer to his white superiors while alienating his own people. Even her best friend, Mae, learns to leave her Southern roots behind to be accepted in the workplace.

Yet Angela is the center of this provocative tale. When Angela decides her future much later, she satisfies her craving to be true to herself, and passing just isn’t good enough anymore. Because of Cait, everything she never thought she wanted turns out to be everything she needs.

Passing for Black makes for a challenging read. Villarosa tackles the subject of racial and sexual identity with class and a sense of humor. It’s down-to-earth enough for the casual reader, and speak to any black lesbian feeling out of step with their two worlds. Passing conveys that every woman’s journey to herself is never easy, but one she shouldn’t spend passing by.

Reviewed August 2008


Keeping Secrets: A Gianna Maglione Mystery by Penny Mickelbury

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keepingsecretsPublisher/Date:  Kings Crossing Publishing, 2003
Genre(s):  Mystery, Crime
Pages:  193
Website:  http://www.nghosibooks.com/Inkwell/pennymain.htm

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Girl, watch out!!!

There’s a killer hunting the gay community in KEEPING SECRETS, the first in the Gianna Maglione series from mystery writer Penny Mickelbury.

But no worries, Gianna is on the case. A top-notch lieutenant in the Hate Crimes Unit with the Washington, D. C. police department, she’s trying to find out who’s been targeting prominent, in-the-closet inhabitants of the nation’s capital.  Not only is it a matter of who’s been killed but how, as the victims are shot in the gruesome fashion. It’s racking Gianna’s brain and what’s worse is that could be only a matter of time before she or someone she knows could be on the hit list.

On the other side of the case is Mimi Patterson, a black investigative reporter. Gianna won’t let Mimi get anywhere near the case, for fear that the journalist will turn the investigation into a media frenzy. All Mimi wants is some answers, and with good sources on a high-profile case like this, she won’t rest until she gets discovers who’s behind the crime. Even if it means dealing with hard-nosed Gianna.

At odds, the two women are just trying to do their jobs—and trying to fight their growing attraction to one another. Their blossoming romance can’t be good for the case. Especially when they know that one false move could jeopardize any luck they have in trying to find the serial killer.

Mickelbury has created an excellent first novel in a series you will want to read more of. Keeping Secrets kept me on the edge of my seat, and the romance between the two enhanced the story of a cop and a reporter trying to do good. I must admit I had a clue about the killer half-way through, but it was still gripping to see how they would get the sick bastard. And I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes work of the detectives, as well. I definitely plan to read more of the Gianna/Mimi mysteries.

Cause it also doesn’t hurt that the women are hot, too.

Reviewed Aug-Sept 2006


Black Girl in Paris by Shay Youngblood

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blackgirlparisPublisher/Date:  Riverhead Books, Jan. 2001
Genre:  Coming of Age
Pages:  238
Website:  http://www.shayyoungblood.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

When reading Shay Youngblood’s BLACK GIRL IN PARIS, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped in to France’s capital city yourself. You’ll rendezvous with Eden, the protagonist in Youngblood’s adventurous tale, as she travels the city in search of literary greatness and her mentor, James Baldwin.

Eden grew up a poor Southern girl in Birmingham, when in the late 1960s, the racial climate was violent at its worst. The four girls killed in the infamous church bombing was a significant event in Eden’s young life, and she vows to one day live in a city where life is free. In Paris, Eden believes, black people are just people and not a color.

So at age 26, recently graduated and looking for something more, Eden takes off to Paris. She arrives with only $200 but hopes to gain immeasurable riches from life experiences.

During her stay in the City of Lights, Eden befriends many eccentric personalities, including her flamboyant tour guide, Indego, who shows her the real Paris that tourists never see. She also involves herself in romantic tête-à-tête with Ving, a white jazz musician. It is with him that despite how liberated Paris seems, she’s reminded with disdain that she’s still a black woman. Eden also engages in an erotic friendship with a woman, Luce, which teaches her the true meaning of love.

Every adventure, every moment is vividly captured in Eden’s expedition in Paris that you feel as if you’re there, traveling with her through the French boulevards and savoring the foods. Although her outing was the poor man’s experience of Paris–many days she didn’t know where she would lay her head that night– she emerged a much stronger person.

Youngblood’s lyrical prose was superb, and her characters rang true. I wouldn’t take nothing her
Eden’s journey now — except to one day go myself.

Reviewed January 2006


Undercover by Laurinda D. Brown

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undercovernewPublisher/Date:  Strebor Books, Nov. 2004
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Pages:  384
Website:  http://www.ldbrownbooks.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

I wanted to give UNDERCOVER five stars. I really did.

After all, she is the author of Fire & Brimstone, a great lesbian novel for today’s generation. The drama that ensued in that book was simply off the chain! Chris and Gayle kept it real.

Undercover is another story. This sequel of sorts continues with Chris, with even more drama this time, and has enough characters and twists to keep your attention. Yet what kept it from being a 5-star review was simply the timeline of the plot. There were times the plot jumps from one year to another with any transition to know what was going on. Some parts were cohesive, others came out of place.

But despite that, I still resumed my infatuation with Chris, the intelligent, determined woman confident in her sexuality. She reintroduces old friends like Rudy and Gayle, with whom Chris finally makes peace with, while presenting new faces, like Amil and Nathaniel.

This time around, Chris has gotten herself involved in an online affair with Amil, a doctor engaged to a successful entrepreneur. The ladies began with a friendship that turned into something more even without having met. Chris has a feeling it’ll never work, as her instincts warn her that Amil will never leave Manney and the comfortable life they’ve made. Only in a chance business meeting do they finally see each other face to face–and the fireworks begin.

Iyesha, Chris’ sister, has problems of her own. Lil sis is married to Nathaniel, a former drag queen who gave up the life after his lover Patrick leaves him for the Lord. The two become friends after his glorious heyday (or gayday), slowly falling into a relationship. In the beginning of their marriage, Nathaniel has convinced himself to become a heterosexual, faithful husband. He tries to be what Iyesha wants for a while. Pretty soon, though, he’s back to his former life (on the down low), and their marriage is never the same.

Every character’s life intertwines in this enjoyable novel about love and self-acceptance. Chris definitely has come a long way from the chaos of Fire & Brimstone.

Well done, Ms. Brown!

Reviewed October 2005


Fire & Brimstone by Laurinda D. Brown

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firebrimstonePublisher/Date:  Strebor Books, March 2004
Genre(s):  Contemporary Romance, Religious
Pages:  240
Website:  http://www.ldbrownbooks.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

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