K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood by La Toya Hankins

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k-rhosweetteastePublisher/Date:  Resolute Publishing, Nov. 2013
Genre(s):  Friendship, Romance, Sorority
Pages:  236
Website:  http://www.latoyahankins.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

First things first, can we just admire the beauty that is this book cover? Gorgeous.

With that done, let’s get down to the beauty that’s in La Toya Hankins’s newest novel, K-RHO: THE SWEET TASTE OF SISTERHOOD. Hankins, the author of SBF Seeking, has done it again, creating a moving story about an unbreakable bond between sorority sisters pledging Kappa Alpha Rho.

The premise is simple, but the enduring friendship is anything but. It’s a kinship built amongst three diverse Copper Road University sophomores who on the surface don’t have much in common, who probably wouldn’t have even been friends otherwise, but connect from enduring on the same line, commiserating their relationships, and growing through their college experiences in the 1990s and adulthood 10 years later.

And to think it all began by an invitation in a heavy purple linen envelope one cold February evening. From that first interest meeting, Kiara, Gloria and Donna clicked and became inseparable.

The anchor of the group is Kiara, a legacy considered a shoo-in to be a K-Rho swan. Practically groomed for membership since birth, the business major knows all the answers and passes all the trials with flying purple and platinum colors, but she harbors a secret that could end her bid for joining the sisterhood. They don’t know her lover Chris is a she – not a he – and Kiara questions whether they would accept her otherwise.

Gloria, the liberated brainiac, always has a saying, a random fact, or a long-winded explanation as the voice of reason between the trio. On full scholarship and living in the honors dorm, she’s cerebral but down-to-earth and open to more experiences than the other two girls, including being down with the swirl. Beneath that adventurous attitude lies a woman who wants to be stepped to the right way. She doesn’t settle – and her high standards could be her downfall.

Now, Donna…this girl, the daughter of a deaconess and a Marine, won my heart. She’s the sister that could offer you with a Bible-quote in a heartbeat, but would beat your ass and ask questions last if you messed with her man. The curvy beauty lives (and fights) for Peter, who’s a player on and off the football field. As a strong as she appears to be, there’s a soft spot she has for Peter that even her sisters can’t seem to sway her from. And trust me, they’ve tried.

Crossing over, even with all that going on, was an accomplishment the girls held in high regard, and cemented their friendship through college and one tragic incident that set a slightly darker tone for the remainder of the book.

Ten years later, the girls are balancing relationships, children and careers. Kiara is still devoting her every waking hour to K-Rho at her partner’s expense; Gloria is tired of letting love find her – and of being alone. Donna is the most transformed, now a mother to Peter’s children and settled in domesticity.

This second half of K-Rho doesn’t hold as much fun as the beginning when they were fancy-free co-eds, enjoying Greek parties and gossiping about who was zooming who. However, I do think they become fuller, mature characters. I enjoyed their interactions with each other, mostly between Kiara and Donna, who are my favorite women in K-Rho. The “lesbian” and the “Bible-thumper” understood each other in ways that show best friends don’t have to do anything but love and accept each other for whom they are. Hankins shows this time and time again between Donna, Kiara, and Gloria.

I did have a couple of qualms about the night of the “incident,” in that I thought it was of out of character for one of the women to even be in that situation. I also kind of hoped Hankins would have delved into skin-color issues in African-American sorority life, but that’s just my wishful thinking.

Hankins, a Zeta Phi Beta member since undergrad, writes authentically in K-Rho. She exhibits talent in writing what the sorority experience is like, most especially as a lesbian in an alliance of women who may not always accept you – despite wearing the same colors.

But despite it all, Kiara, Gloria and Donna can’t be, won’t be stopped.

So at Hankin’s capable hands, sisterhood does taste quite good.

[rating-report]

Reviewed March 2014

About La Toya Hankins

La Toya Hankins is a native of North Carolina and currently resides in Raleigh, NC. A graduate of East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism with a minor in political science. During her college career, she became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and later served as second vice president for one of the largest graduate chapters in North Carolina.

After working as a regional reporter and features editor in the Charlotte metro area for seven years, La Toya entered the world of banking, where she worked for the fifth largest bank in the country. Presently employed with the State of North Carolina, she divides her time between being a proud pet parent of a terrier named Neo and volunteering in the community.

Currently serving as the chair of Shades of Pride, organizer of the annual Triangle Black Pride, La Toya is an active supporter of LGBT issues and health disparities that affect her community. Her literary influences and loves include Zora Neale Hurston, Walter Mosley, Anne Rice, and Pearl Cleage. Her motto, borrowed from Hurston, is “I do not weep at the world, I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

La Toya is the author of SBF Seeking and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.


Nothing Short of a Rainbow by Kaution

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nothingshortrainbowPublisher/Date:  Big Works Publishing/CreateSpace, Feb. 2009
Genre(s):  Romance, Studs & Femmes
Pages: 298
Website:  http://www.kaution-online.com

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

With NOTHING SHORT OF A RAINBOW, writer/artist Kaution aspires to take urban lesbian storytelling to the next level. As such, you should be forewarned because her debut novel is a gripping story full of the twists and turns of betrayal between best friends.

Seniors Teren Ramsey and Ray Romero are dogs for life, seeing each other through women, basketball and more women at ASU. The studs have been best friends since meeting as full-scholarship freshmen at basketball orientation, admiring each other’s passion for the game, and eventually, their passion for pretty femmes. That’s where there similarities end. Teren, the more reserved of the two, has trouble finding sincere, lasting love, while Ray has too many girls to juggle. It gets Ray into trouble that usually Teren has to get her out of.

One woman Ray dogged is fellow teammate and good friend Nia Alverez, who long carried a torch for the womanizer. Ray never gave her the time of day, leaving Teren to pick up the pieces of younger girl’s broken heart. Soon Nia catches feelings for Teren, who’s had a crush on the thick-bodied beauty for a while. When their affair goes public, Ray is the one who has the biggest problem with it.

Seeing Nia with Teren triggers Ray to see what she was missing, and a restless night ends with Nia and Ray in a compromising position. When Teren discovers the deceit, she abruptly cuts both out of her life.

Five years later, Teren has moved forward, but she still holds on to the loss and daydreams of what could have been with Nia. When Nia reappears, Teren realizes that she has a second chance. However, the past is something she can’t let go of, especially because Nia reminds her of the hurt she endured from the two people she loved most – her lover and her best friend.

Let me tell you, Nothing Short of a Rainbow is chock full of delicious sex, drama and duplicity. Secret crushes are revealed, the women are mad hot, the sex is explosive and several relationships are tested. That aside, the writing is choppy in places and changes narration abruptly, which slows down the reader.

But if it’s excitement you want in a novel, watch out – Kaution’s gonna give it to you.

Reviewed November 2009