Surrender by Monique B. T. Thomas

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surrender2Publisher/Date:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, June 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Mature Lesbians, Workplace Romance
Pages:  328
Website:  http://authormoniquebeingtruethonas.
wordpress.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

SURRENDER: TWO HEARTS AND A RAINBOW SERIES (BOOK 1) reminds me of the Harlequin romance novels I used to read sneakily under the covers at night when I was nine years old: swoon-worthy and full of feels.

That’s not to say that Surrender is a saccharine love story. It has the mature relationships and wisdom expected from Monique B. T. Thomas, the author of several titles including Love Relived and In its Rawest Form. In the start of a new series, Surrender offers workplace romance, criminal mischief, and a charming family storyline. Yet as in all her previous novels, the biggest draw is the chemistry between the main love interests, in this particular case, Robyn Sterling and Kenya Martin.

Robyn and Kenya serve two different stations in Pens & Things. Robyn is the CFO in the office supply company her great-grandfather built during the 1950s, now run by her father. While she toils at keeping the family business in the black, her love life is about avoiding relationships at all costs; the only long-term commitment Robyn values is to Pens & Things. So when the discovery of financial mismanagement in one of its stores launches Robyn, at her father’s request, into a scheme to save Pen & Ink’s bottom line, she’s eager to unearth the root of the store’s issues and get back to her normal routine. That goes awry once she meets Kenya.

A petite, dark-skinned lovely, Kenya is the overnight manager at the store Robyn’s supposed take over. Her job, which she takes seriously, is to handle the early morning deliveries and ensure stock is in place before the shop opens. Untouched by love also, Kenya is a respectful, dedicated and strong-willed worker, but finds herself flustered by Robyn – first by her gruff demeanor, then by her evident attraction to the commanding woman.

This is what sets everything – Robyn’s line of attack, a company cover up, and most importantly Robyn and Kenya’s love affair – into motion, a plot that Thomas handles so swiftly that it keeps the pages flowing.

Again, the best part is the romance brewing between the Pen & Ink employees. Two women who grew up in separate worlds – Robyn with a trust fund, Kenya in a foster home – both not expecting much from love, and finding what they needed in each other. It’s just an enjoyable love story that’s believable and great to immerse yourself in.

The supporting characters, most especially Robyn’s family members, are happy additions to the story. That’s also one of Thomas’ strengths: creating characters that are flawed but endearing.

There are some faults to Surrender – the editing could use work, the ending does wrap up too quickly – but honestly, I can’t wait to see where Part Two in the Two Hearts and a Rainbow series goes. If it’s just as engrossing as this one, I’ll be back to curling up on my couch with a good book.

[rating-report]

Reviewed November 2014

About Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas is a native New Yorker who has been in love with the written word since the third grade. At the age of fourteen she was a teen journalist for youth magazine, FCYU, writing featured articles about the trials and triumphs of youth in the New York foster care system.

She currently has 7 books available: Forever Tangled; Volume One: a collection of poems and short stories from the heart and between the thighs; Forever Tangled Volume II: Caught in the sheets of Emotion; Love Relived; In Its Rawest Form; Notes of Seduction; An Unexpected Gift; Feeling for the Wall.

Although Thomas began with a flair for writing short stories based on mystery and murder plots, she currently writes romance and erotica for all those lovers of love and temptresses of lust. She has also been a featured radio host on Lesbian Memoirs blog Talk radio show.

Thomas has been featured in lesbian anthologies Life, Love, Lust 2011 and Life, Love, Lust 2012 published by LM Inc. She was also a featured poet in Her Voice also published by LM Inc.


Interview & Review Chat | Love Relived by Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas

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loverelivedPublisher/Date:  CreateSpace, Feb. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Friendship
Pages:  198
Website:  authormoniquebeingtruethonas.wordpress.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

interviewreviewchatlogoFriendship and love go hand and hand…or does it? Photographer Mahogany Williams and head museum educator Cheryl James are testing this theory after being childhood best friends, then later lovers — and watching their connection crumble over the years. Can they get it back together? I had to find out from Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas, author of LOVE RELIVED. So read on to see what she thinks about love and friendship in this Interview & Review Chat. The transcript follows below:

Sistahs on the Shelf: Oh, Miss Monique?!

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I am here.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Lol

Sistahs on the Shelf: Hey, how are you?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I am wonderful and antsy.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Don’t be. It’ll be painless, I promise.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Okay, so…let’s start with how long have you been writing?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I have been writing poetry since I was five years old and short stories from seven years of age.

Sistahs on the Shelf: So basically most of your life. What were you writing about at five years old?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes, I have been writing since I could put together words. My mother encouraged creativity and she always pushed me to read and write as much as I could. I used to sit at her desk and fill up yellow legal sized notepads with lines about my best friend at the time and my love of anything that had to do with basketball.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Oh, so this could have been the basis for Love Relived? Maybe?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Hmmm (inserts smile) I shall never tell.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Lol!

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: To be truthful my first girlfriend was at the age of seven and she was not my bff.

Sistahs on the Shelf: 7, huh? I was still dreaming of girls instead of kissing them at that age.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I had already had my first and second kiss that year.

Sistahs on the Shelf: *smh* *but impressed*

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: lol

Sistahs on the Shelf: Now about Love Relived, bffs in love. Tell us about your book.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Love Relived is a story that came to me as I was working on another book idea. The main characters are Cheryl and Mahogany, two women who were best friends throughout adolescence. My focus for the storyline was the aftermath of friends becoming lovers. Most people think that it can be an easy move to just get into a long lasting relationship, especially if the friendship had been so strong. That I believe is a myth that starts the relationship of wrong. Once Cheryl and Mahogany crossed the line the conflict began and there are really no answers for years leaving both with questions.

Sistahs on the Shelf: All very true.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Especially when one partner is struggling with her sexuality, like Mahogany, while the other knows who she is, like Cheryl.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Exactly! Mahogany is dealing with her own personal struggles. As close as she is to her friends not even they know that she was dealing with her sexuality. She feels as if she has an obligation to her family to be someone that she is not. She is strong but like so many of the strong she has a weakness. In Mahogany’s case it is her grandmother Mama Hanna. She knows her grandmother to be a God fearing woman and being gay is something that Mahogany doesn’t think she will accept.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Acceptance is something a lot of us have struggled with as black lesbians. I think you wrote Mahogany’s struggle realistically.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I tried my best to make sure that Mahogany came across real. We may not care if society accepts us as black lesbians but there are people who are close to us that we wish would love us no matter who we love or what we do.

Sistahs on the Shelf: But the crazy thing is where we think we’re hiding ourselves, some of our family members knew our tea before we poured it.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes! I have found that the only people in the “closet” are the ones that claim not to be in one.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Yep!

Sistahs on the Shelf: Speaking of realistic, is Cheryl and Mahogany’s relationship based on your or anyone else’s relationship?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: No one has asked me this question so kudos to you. (smile) When I first set out to write this book I had no particular thought process. I just let the words flow. It was not until I read the first draft back to myself that I realized that this was subconsciously personal.

Sistahs on the Shelf: How so?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: For one thing I have been in a situation where a friend and I have crossed an emotional line that was way beyond friendship. Although I explained my reluctance I did not shut down the feelings that I knew were growing. I tried to act as if I could use my charm and full blown cocky arrogance to move past the feelings and continue our friendship as if nothing had changed between us. That proved to be unrealistic and problematic. The line had been crossed and the friendship became difficult. When someone tells you they want to move forward with you romantically and you don’t it is a difficult thing. When said person is a very good friend the stakes are high. You have to deal with feelings of rejection, hurt, and anger. It is a dangerous game.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: So like Mahogany, I decided to run.

Sistahs on the Shelf: So what happened?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: We have both moved on. The friendship is done. We have not talked in years. We have mutual friends and it is crazy because we respond to their posts on Facebook without talking to one another. Life is something.

Sistahs on the Shelf: It sure is.

Sistahs on the Shelf: But crossing that friendship line…do you think it can be worth it?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That is the billion dollar question isn’t it? The friends and lovers debate has been going on for years. For some it works and for others it is a disaster. I believe that it can work but when before a dating relationship can begin a conversation has to be had. You can’t bring up everything that pertained to our friendship. As I used to say all the time, once the line is crossed it is a different ballgame. The” me” you knew as your friend may not be the “me” you want as your mate. You really have to think about it.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: If I was a jerk to all my girlfriends, don’t assume that I will treat you different because we have a history as friends.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Huh, ain’t that the truth.

Sistahs on the Shelf: But having that history is “supposed” to make the relationship easier, let some people tell it.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That is foolishness. Maybe for some that was the case and I applaud them. Most however don’t remember the way they watched you treat your other mates until something happens. By then you can’t bring it up because you were warned way in advance. As a matter of fact you as the friend had the clearest crystal ball of them all but for whatever reason you chose not to see. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that everyone can change. I know that personally. I am just speaking truth.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Speaking of being true, throughout Love Relived, Cheryl is stayed true to herself regardless of the changes Mahogany put her through. I loved that about her.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you so much. Cheryl’s weakness is Mahogany. Though that is the case she refuses to let Mahogany’s confusion cloud her decisions and break her heart further.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I remember a line from your book that said, “It’s the crime of stealing hearts.” I loved that.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That line is from a poem I wrote when I was around 18 years old called, ‘Robbing the broken’. It was really me boasting that I could say whatever, do whatever and still like a boomerang I knew the girls would come back. I used to be arrogant beyond. When I was writing that particular scene in Love Relived the line came to me again. Now that I am older it has a completely different meaning.

Sistahs on the Shelf: What meaning does it have for you [now]?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Now that I am older and have lived through a few trials in my life the line is a symbol of knowing that I didn’t want the love I was receiving but instead of saying that I took it anyway. That is a crime. Those girls could have spent time with someone who was worthy of their admiration.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Wow. That is some truth right there.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you. I have learned lessons and through the teaching that my wrongs have showed me I am better.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Writing has helped tremendously. I can see certain characters clearly because of my experiences both personal and through friends.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I agree. Writing and reading especially have always opened my eyes.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes indeed!

Sistahs on the Shelf: Now Mama Hanna. I want her to adopt me, since I have no living grandparents. She is a hoot and a great sounding board for both her granddaughter Mahogany and by extension, Cheryl.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I love when she tells Mahogany: “Girl a pot unstirred never made good stew. It just sat and burned.”

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I adore Mama Hanna. She is lively, blunt and doesn’t miss a thing. She is the true meaning of unconditional love. The lines that she says in the book are me all day. I can make up a saying in a second.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I know that’s right! I follow you on Facebook.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Ha! Ha!! Yes I like to think I am a wise clown.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Yes, you are. Mission accomplished.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: LOL! Thank you.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Okay so one last question (I think). What new projects are in the works?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: First let me just say that Lisa, a character from Loved Relived has her own story, In its Rawest Form, which is currently out. I began 2014 by putting out my latest Feeling for the Wall. This one is for those who have been in real love. I mean that kind of love that makes you smile but question. It also deals with what happens when after years of being together how life can get in the way with the day to day love. What happens when routine overwhelms us. I have two other books that I am working on now that I will be putting out sometime this year. One will be released this spring and the other in the fall.

Sistahs on the Shelf: You work hard, Monique.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I have been blessed with a partner who has made it so that I can live my dream.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I also have a short story collection and a few novelettes available as well.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I would like to add something if that is okay.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Sure, go ahead.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: The end of 2012 was one of the hardest years that I think I have ever been through. I was holding it together for the masses but inside I was scared and falling apart. I had a serious health scare and I lost my job. I was nervous to the point that I wrote out a will. I didn’t know if I would be here for 2014. Having already had one stroke due to stress I was told that I was on the verge of having another. That is why I dedicated every moment of 2013 to writing and family. I opened my eyes wide and really looked. I realized a lot of things about myself and I also learned how much my babe truly loves the heck out of me. I have gotten healthier and have learned to clear my mind and return to the “me” that I am. For that I will forever be thankful and I will not give up this chance to share my love of writing with the world.

Sistahs on the Shelf: That is heartbreaking and beautiful and inspiring. Your hard work is paying off.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I hope that it does. I didn’t want to leave this world without more of my work published.

Sistahs on the Shelf: You’ll have plenty of time to share more, I’m sure. I truly believe that.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you! I am in much better health and have moved back into my positive space.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I’m glad.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: As am I. I have more time to clown *lol*

Sistahs on the Shelf: *lol* You slay me, Mo.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I try.

[rating-report]

Reviewed/Interviewed January 2014

About Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas is a native New Yorker who has been in love with the written word since the third grade. At the age of fourteen she was a teen journalist for youth magazine, FCYU, writing featured articles about the trials and triumphs of youth in the New York foster care system.

She currently has 7 books available: Forever Tangled; Volume One: a collection of poems and short stories from the heart and between the thighs; Forever Tangled Volume II: Caught in the sheets of Emotion; Love Relived; In Its Rawest Form; Notes of Seduction; An Unexpected Gift; Feeling for the Wall.

Although Thomas began with a flair for writing short stories based on mystery and murder plots, she currently writes romance and erotica for all those lovers of love and temptresses of lust. She has also been a featured radio host on Lesbian Memoirs blog Talk radio show.

Thomas has been featured in lesbian anthologies Life, Love, Lust 2011 and Life, Love, Lust 2012 published by LM Inc. She was also a featured poet in Her Voice also published by LM Inc.


Inside Out by Juin Charnell

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insideoutPublisher/Date:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Oct. 2011
Genre(s):  Romance, Suspense
Pages:  148
Website:  http://juincharnell.blogspot.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Being a black lesbian prison investigator ain’t easy. Ask Lieutenant Perri Stone.

Between the rape of a prisoner at the maximum-security Dexter Correctional Facility and her home life exploding, she can’t catch a break in INSIDE OUT, the first in the Perri Stone series by Juin Charnell.

In addition to the rape, Perri also has to figure out why her inmates are being murdered. Of course, the convicts aren’t talking, and a couple of the officers are proving their incompetence. Perri’s worked in this system for 12 years, enough to know who to trust. Back then, as a 5’4”, Afro-wearing, 20-year-old officer, she gained the respect of the male prisoners and fellow employees alike by taking her licks and not being afraid to get dirty. Now at 32, there wasn’t much you could get past Perri Stone.

Her homelife, though, is a different ball of wax. Perri’s partner, Cassidy, is somewhat in the closet, and on top of that, has issues with her ex-husband who is determined to kidnap their daughter because of her relationship with Perri. It also doesn’t help that Cassidy’s mother meddles in their affairs.

Through it all, Perri stays cool as a cucumber; it seems nothing fazes her. It’s part of her charm – and what makes Inside Out interesting.

Charnell herself is a 10-year veteran in Corrections, writing Inside Out with authority and no-nonsense flair. Based on her novel’s realistic and gritty view of prison life, I’m motivated to read the sequel, Quiet Riot.

You will be, too.

Reviewed December 2012


30 Day Notice by Kai Mann

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30daynoticePublisher/Date:  Scriblical Vibez Publishing, Dec. 2011
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Pages:  216
Website:  http://www.kai-mann.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Sometimes, the ending of a relationship is telling. It reveals truths about the woman you were in love with, things that make you wonder if you really knew her.

And a breakup pushes you to reevaluate your life and purpose, much like main character Kori Maitland, the heroine of 30 DAY NOTICE by author Kai Mann.

When her relationship of five years disintegrates, it leaves Kori broken. Though she’s given a 30 day notice from her love, Kori never thought Layla would end it, despite the hurdles and dysfunction that occurred during. Layla did what she had to do for herself, but Kori can’t seem to muster the same self-worth to pull herself out of the heartbreak.

It paralyzes her. During the 30 days, Kori begins to examine her entire life to figure out what got her to this downward path. At the same time, she moves back to Detroit, her old stomping grounds where she runs into people from her past – some who uplift her, others who take advantage of her spirit.

In truth, her life has been no crystal stair. In her current situation, disturbances once dead resurface. The ghosts of leaving her marriage and children behind to be her authentic self haunt her.

Every setback – and there are several – devastates her core. Being used, being discarded, being alone. It’s all there.

Yet Kori is a fighter. And she knows God has a plan for her.

That’s the crux of 30 Day Notice. Although the writing could use more showing than telling, the novel is direct and honest, as you sympathize with Kori; we’ve all been there in some form or fashion. This is a great story for lesbians dealing with separation from their families or finding themselves at a crossroads in life.

Reviewed June 2012


Finding Us by T. Jurrette

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findingusjurettePublisher/Date:  Lulu.com, July 2011
Genre: Romance
Pages:  140

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

It was more than a year ago when I pronounced there were no marriages in the novels I read. I’ve finally found one, thanks to T. Jurrette’s FINDING US, a great lesbian novel about marriage and its ups and downs.

Dana Reynolds and Te’anna Marks (better known as Tea) get to know each other through a mutual friend, and after taking it slow, find themselves deeply in love, beginning a life together. Tea, finally leaves her comfortable job as a retail buyer to launch her pastry shop, and Dana is satisfied with her work as a legal assistant with the District Attorney’s office.

Despite having ghost of relationships past hanging over them – Tea being friends with an ex, while her social-climbing girlfriend Camille makes unwelcome appearances – they press on. With a near perfect love, their next logical step is marriage.

Happily ever after seems in arm’s reach, especially when soon after the wedding the couple works to get Tea pregnant. Dana has never been happier, having the love she wants and adopting Tea’s family since being estranged from her own.

When Dana is formed to work closely with the bougie Camille, she neglects to tell Tea how bad things are the office in order to protect her wife. Thinking she can handle Camille’s harassment, the hole Dana’s in gets harder to climb out of.

And Dana doesn’t want to lose Tea – the one thing in the world she calls home.

Jurette’s Finding Us is a noteworthy portrayal of married lesbians. Though Tea and Dana’s love appears easy, the decisions they face are far from it. It depicts what sacrifice matrimony really is. Finding Us simply shows love isn’t faultless, but is still worth it.

Note to T. Jurrette: I’m waiting for my sequel. I want to know what happens with one of my favorite couples.

Reviewed June 2012


the bull-jean stories by Sharon Bridgforth (Jan. 2012 Pick of the Month)

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bulljeanstoriespotmlogo

 

 

 

 

Publisher/Date:  Red Bone Press, Aug. 1998
Genre:  Poetry
Pages:  109
Website:  http://www.sharonbridgforth.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

na/i’s a wo’mn
whats Lovved many wy’mns.
me/they call me bull-dog-jean i say
that’s cause i works lik somekinda ole dog
trying to get a bone or two
they say it’s cause i be sniffing after wy’mns
down-low/beggin and thangs
whatever.

the bull-jean stories, written by accomplished author and playwright Sharon Bridgforth, is a Southern-fried poetic masterpiece. Like bites of mama’s golden fried chicken, the words coat your pallet with a flavor that warms the soul. The rhythm of Bridgforth’s tale of a rough-talkin’, blue-collar bulldagga in the 1920s likens itself to prose that creates a vivid love story.

bull-jean is a willing participant in love, as narrated by neighbor Cuss. Cuss watches and reports every bull-jean sighting with the expressiveness of an old lady busybody. Through her eyes, we see bull-jean fall in love faster than greased lightning, having no problem expressing her feelings to the one she loves.

am asking you to be my wo’mn
whole and complete in all essence
i want to make this journey/this Life
wid you i want to wake
to the smell of your hair/the taste
of your neck each morning/i
want you curled in to me so i can
turn you open/to the
light of your eyes

Every chapter is a lesson learned because bull-jean can’t find the right woman. She becomes enamored with the wrong ones, and never feels like she’ll love again. It’s a place we’ve all been, and Bridgforth tells it with such devotion and passion.

By the book’s end, we witness a woman who had to go through to get it right. Short but sweet, Bridgforth’s writing captures the black lesbian song of the South, a time when being gay or black wasn’t a desirable status to the powers that be. Yet, bull-jean was not ashamed, just a woman who lived her life and sacrificed and took care of the people she loved.

the bull-jean stories has a blues, spiritual and inspirational soundtrack, one that sheds light on our history and reminds us our kind of love has been around for generations – but it’s still the same refrain.

Reviewed January 2012


If You Love Me, Come by Claudia Moss

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ifyoulovemecomePublisher/Date:  Mariposa Publications, July 2011
Genre(s):  Romance, Mature Lesbians, Self-Love, Straight Books with Lesbian Characters
Pages:  376
Website:  http://www.claudiamoss.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Following your heart is one thing; listening to spirits is divine in IF YOU LOVE ME, COME, the lovely novel by Claudia Moss.

Spirits are what led Freenonia Roberts to the Techwood Home projects one March night, nearly striking a boy named Mookie with her gray Mercedes, and sends her on a different path than she ever imagined. The owner of a thriving bookstore, Free’s life seemed enviable, with a small circle of friends and book club members, a doting mother and a head chef boyfriend. The night she meets Mookie’s sometime baby-sitter, Miz Too-Sweet, it begins a new relationship that only the spirits could align.

Seeing it as her personal mission, Free brings the Atlanta housing project an experience they wouldn’t forget, while Miz Too-Sweet spins life stories that provide the young woman, and, eventually, those around her, light in darkness. Free contends with whether she made the right decision to leave her boyfriend, J.T., even with his demanding ways. Rhonda, her baby sister, covets Free’s storied existence and doesn’t think her own is as fulfilling as a teacher, mother and wife. Sharmayne, Free’s best friend, leaves her dreadful marriage to Vince behind, shedding her closeted sexuality. Pinky, Mookie’s mother, attempts to find love through her three baby daddies, but nothing could cure the longing for the woman who abandoned her after childbirth.

All four women have crosses that seem too much to overcome. And all four discover, through spirits sometimes unknown, that love is the answer.

If You Love Me, Come is a beautiful book. I savored every page, where the story shifted from various points of view, as well as the Southern wisdom within its pages. It reminded me of one of my favorite books, Mama Day by Gloria Naylor.

Mostly though, I was enamored by the many examples it showed of what love truly is.

Reviewed January 2012


The Butterfly Moments by Renee Bess

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butterflymoments-198x300Publisher/Date:  Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC, July 2010
Genre(s):  Romance, Mature Lesbians, Suspense
Pages:  208
Website:  http://www.reneebess.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Who else could craft a story with the suspense of CSI and the drama of The L Word better than Renee Bess?

That’s THE BUTTERFLY MOMENTS, a novel with a mélange of characters who find themselves caught up in one way or another.

The star is Alana Blue, a veteran officer of the Philadelphia probation system. Attempting to make her last weeks before retirement as smooth as possible, she is given the task of supervising Rafaela “Rafe” Ortiz, a probie transferred because of a workplace impropriety. Alana knows she can handle Rafe; what she can’t handle is her attraction to the notorious bad girl.

This flirtation is the last distraction Alana needs. When her last relationship died, she cut herself off from finding someone new, using her job as a way to fill her days and nights. Her career is also a diversion from the strained relationship with her daughter, who blames Alana’s sexuality for breaking up their family.

As if this wasn’t enough, Philly Police Detective Johnetta Jones needs Alana’s help in solving a co-ed’s death. While finding the killer, the two progress to more than just professional relationship.

Johnetta’s heart, also, has been marred by her years on the force, but for Alana, she’s willing to open herself to the possibility of love. But as the pair’s romance blossoms, it may become stalled when Johnetta’s lead on the case point to a person close to Alana.

The Butterfly Moments is a graceful flight into the mind of Alana, to understand her life and occupation, as well as the supporting characters who fold impeccably into this mystery. Bess has always been the queen of slow-building romance, and Moments is as sensual as her others. The ending takes you to a climax you didn’t see coming.

Not bad for a retiree.

Reviewed February 2011


Deepest Desire by Anne Shade

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deepestdesirePublisher/Date:  Freedom of Love Press, June 2008
Genre(s):  Coming Out, Romance
Pages: 
116
Website:  http://www.folpress.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Confronting your closet after being married – and divorced – and then jumping into a new relationship is a lot for a woman to take in. So lovers Eve Monroe and Lynette Folsom proceed with caution in DEEPEST DESIRE, the first novel from Anne Shade.

Besides, being married was just a diversion Eve. She assumed being the perfect doctor’s wife would cure her appetite for women, a desire she’s had for as long as she could remember. But when the urge resurfaces, her marriage ends in a mess.

Moving forward and feeling stronger, she begins a new business venture, Details by Eve, and enjoys a life uncomplicated by longings for the same sex – and then she’s asked to plan a book release party for out lesbian writer Lynette. After reading her erotica, and meeting the attractive writer, Eve is faced with her attraction for women and nervously gives in.

And why wouldn’t she? Lynette is dreadlocked, intelligent, fun to be around, and very open about whom she is. She is very intrigued by Eve, the voluptuous beauty who seems to be strong-willed inevery aspect of her life except coming out to her strictly religious family. Lynette has dealt with women not strong enough to be themselves, so being with Eve is an exercise in patience. But their heat is undeniable.

While her relationship with Lynette is the most sensuous she’s ever known, the perfect Catholic daughter of African-American and Puerto Rican heritage is nervous about telling the world. Rejection stops her every time. She has to realize that Lynette worth it – or let her fears stop her cold.

Deepest Desire boasts a simple love story. What’s most enjoyable is how the love between Eve and Lynette is extremely erotic, but not overtly so. Shade is honest about two women overcoming exes and hang-ups to obtain the love they so deserve. I’d like to know more about Shade, who exposes how to get to the deepest part of a woman – and love everything that’s beneath.

Reviewed August 2010


Re:Building Sasha by Renee Bess

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rebuildingsashaPublisher/Date:  Regal Crest, Nov. 2008
Genre(s):  Romance, Drama, Mature Lesbians
Pages:  268
Website:  http://www.reneebess.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

When love is new, it’s passionate, exciting and full of promise; the days are sweeter, the sex is abundant. When love goes sour, the hope of happily ever after evaporates, leaving an empty shell of what could have been.

This is the predicament of Sasha Lewis, the loyal protagonist of Renee Bess’ third novel, RE:BUILDING SASHA. At first captivated by the fiery nature of her lover, Lee Simpson, Sasha finds her four-year relationship becoming combustible. Lee is a jealous, controlling lover who berates Sasha to the point of insanity. The abuse and neglect at Lee’s hands wounds Sasha, yet makes her try harder to accommodate Lee’s extreme mood swings.

The mistreatment has also made Sasha push everyone out of her life, including lifelong friends. The only area it doesn’t affect is her work at Whittingham Builders, her sanctuary from Lee’s wrath. It’s where Sasha takes pride in being the manager of a successful construction firm, overseeing the building of houses to completion. One such project involves Avery Sloan, an attractive new client Sasha’s company takes on, rehabbing a group home for the non-profit Avery operates.

It’s not Sasha and Avery’s first encounter, previously meeting by chance on a business flight. Now paired on a professional level, the two are drawn together, but that’s where it ends for Sasha. Though there’s an attraction to Avery, Sasha remains devoted to Lee – and her hesitancy may cost her the chance to experience love without fear of what her partner may do next.

Bess is in fine form with Re:Building Sasha, a multi-dimensional story with well-drawn characters. Sasha and Avery’s romance is smoldering, burning into something that could be deeper and satisfying. What’s compelling about Re:Building is Sasha’s pain felt through Bess’ superb writing, where you both hurt and root for her.

Bottom line: Bess shows you the rebuilding of woman ready for genuine love.

Reviewed February 2009


Loving Her by Ann Allen Shockley

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lovingherPublisher/Date:  Northeastern University Press, Oct. 1994
Genre(s):  Romance, Mature Lesbians
Pages:  187

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

That which we call a rose by any other name is just as sweet, and the love between a black musician and a white writer can be just touching in LOVING HER, Ann Allen Shockley’s tragic story about an interracial romance.

When the novel begins, Renay Lee is packing her suitcase and trying quietly to escape with her daughter, Denise, to escape her abusive, alcoholic husband, Jerome. The mother and daughter run to Terry Bluvard, a wealthy white woman Renay’s fallen in love with. They live together quite nicely and Renay finally feels free from Jerome Lee’s suffocating grasp.

Renay met Terry while working as a musician in an upscale supper club, and introduces herself to the writer after she requests a song. It was something Terry that drew her to the woman so different from herself, a woman who grew up with a silver spoon her mouth, compared to Renay’s meager upbringing. Here was a woman who with one touch could make her feel things she never though possible, after years of detached feeling with Jerome Lee. Things at home with her husband are worse than ever and the last straw comes when Jerome sells her beloved piano, the one thing her hard-working mother was able to give her daughter.

So she runs to Terry, a woman who is able to give her what she’s been missing: love. They make a great home together, for themselves and Denise. Jerome Lee is a miserable mess, and tries his hardest to make life a living hell for her, terrorizing her and stalking their home at every turn. He can’t fathom that Renay can actually make it without him, and tries his hardest to get her back.

It all comes to a head when Jerome Lee discovers whom she left him for, and his outrage is evident: Renay’s left him for a woman! His anger leads to tragic events, and Renay has to figure out whether her guilt will allow her to love a woman despite the pain their relationship has caused.

Shockley makes it quite clear that love has no boundaries in Loving Her. Black or white, genuine affection is what’s most important. She doesn’t sugarcoat the romance between Renay and Terry, as they encounter many roadblocks to their love. Shockley spells out their pitfalls and outlines their sensitive love story with care. Flowery writing is still her trademark, and although it makes the story too long-winded at times, it kind of works here, keeping you on the edge of your seat.

Loving Her is a great love story for anyone who believes in beating the odds.

Reviewed February 2006


Leave of Absence by S. Renee Bess (Nov. 2005 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  Borders Personal Publishing, May 2005
Genre(s):  Romance, Mature Lesbians
Pages: 147
Website:  http://www.reneebess.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Who says one can’t find love in the stodgy halls of academia?

Certainly not debut author S. Renee Bess, who has crafted LEAVE OF ABSENCE, a lovely novel about a high school teacher turned college professor. Kinshasa Jordan has retreated to Allerton University after a leave of absence from her New Haven, Connecticut high school, more so to escape a chaotic relationship than to teach undergrad English. Kinshasa is still smarting from the mental and physical abuse she endured from her ex, Michael, and moves to get away from the horrible memories.

At Allerton University, Kinshasa is introduced to the English department staff she’ll be working with for the next year and a half – a staff that has few people of color.

One of them, though, happens to be Corey Lomax, a full-time professor and part-time author. She was attracted to Kinshasa when she first spied her at a local restaurant days earlier, but the two women weren’t properly introduced until that particular staff meeting.

Being a lesbian, Corey’s curious as to what Kinshasa’s tea is, but keeps her distance since Kinshasa’s sporting a “don’t mess with me” vibe. Kinshasa has been hurt so much, she’s put a wall around her heart no one can penetrate.

It’s only when the two ladies are paired on a volunteer project at an inner-city school, that Kinshasa and Corey become more acquainted. Kinshasa becomes a member of Corey’s clique, which includes Allerton professors Simone and Charlene. Despite persistent egging by Simone to pursue Kinshasa, Corey is reluctant, especially after overhearing a terse phone call between her and Michael. The name “Michael” indicates to Corey that Kinshasa is straight-and off limits.

As the days wear on, and the two spend more time together, Kinshasa finds herself falling for Corey. Only she masks her attraction with indifference. When Kinshasa confronts Corey one night, their frenzy turns into passion and they end up more than colleagues.

At this point, Kinshasa’s teaching stint is almost up, and she has a decision to make: whether to return to her New Haven high school or stay at Allerton University. It also becomes complicated when Michael comes unannounced and wants Kinshasa back.

Leave of Absence is a well-plotted novel. Bess’ writing is effortless and thoughtful, although the ending wrapped up rather quickly. The novel is a simple love story that, like real life, develops slowly but fulfills its promise.

Reviewed November 2005


Considering Venus by D. Gisele Isaac

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consideringvenusPublisher/Date:  Seaburn Publishing, June 1998
Genre(s):  Romance, Mature Lesbians
Pages:  144

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Even as the lines appear, the hair turns a little lighter and the all the children are gone, a woman still needs love.

That’s the underlying message of CONSIDERING VENUS, D. Gisele Isaac’s story of love between two middle-aged women.

Antigua-born Cass is the lesbian who falls for Lesley after they reunite at their 25-year high school reunion. Only one problem: Lesley is a straight woman recently widowed with three adult children. Seems unlikely that they’d fall in love–but they do–despite the fact that Lesley hasn’t figured out if she’s gay or straight, that she was married to a man for 23 years, and her grown children are very dependent on her.

They pursue a relationship in spite of all the barriers. Everything seems wonderful at first. Cass knows this is love, and while anxious and unsure at first, Lesley relishes their time together. That is until her children discover their affair; they selfishly scold her for becoming a “lesbian”–a badge they scorn her with like a scarlet letter–and accuse her of forgetting their father.

An interesting thing about Considering Venus is that Lesley’s sexuality is never defined. It’s just love between two women–with no barriers.

Isaac has written a lovely book, with just the right fusion of prose and poetry make it a joy to read.

Reviewed August 2005


Say Jesus and Come to Me by Ann Allen Shockley

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sayjesusPublisher/Date:  Naiad Press, April 1987
Genre(s):  Romance, Religious, Mature Lesbians
Pages:  283

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Lawd, have mercy! What a book!

Ann Allen Shockley’s SAY JESUS AND COME TO ME is mind boggling, to say the least.

Rev. Myrtle Black, a vivacious fiery pastor, is the star of this tempestuous tale. A traveling minister, she sets congregations ablaze with her holy word, then finds a sweet young thing to bed, and disappears almost as soon as she arrives, leaving behind no ties.

When confronted with the stodgy minister at a conservative Nashville church she was invited to, Myrtle finally lays her roots down with an idea brewing: initiate a women’s march against sexism and racism. Spurred by the assault of two local prostitutes, Myrtle quickly gets to action and calls out the male powers-that-be.

In town at the same time is Travis Lee, a famed R&B songstress taking the world by storm. After a rough night with her doggish boyfriend, Travis has her own spiritual revelation–she’s missing the Lord from her life. This leads her to the Rev. Myrtle Black. Seeking the minister’s guidance, the two women become friends and fight a growing attraction.

The novel then becomes a play-by-play of the march’s development. Myrtle finds intelligent allies for her mission, including leaders of feminist and women organizations. After a laborious planning meeting one night, Myrtle and Travis finally act on their lust for one another.

This causes chaos for both women. Myrtle, having been an emotional and physical nomad for the last several years, has to deal with finally falling in love and risking her ministry by coming out as lesbian. Travis has to face her budding spirituality, sexual identity and her adoring public.

A lot of other events ensue in Say Jesus, but the heart of this novel is Myrtle and Travis. All the rest was filler–the march, Travis’ ex, and death threats–added to the story as a backdrop to their love. Shockley’s writing was poetic at times, too wordy at others. Occasionally, you have to plow through her flowery writing, and the love scenes could have been more intense. Yet, Shockley definitely took religion to task and brings the story together, enough to make you praise and shout.

Reviewed August 2005