Books 2 Check Out – April 2014

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Looking for something new to read? Here’s a round-up of a few novels you should check out (the titles are linked to Amazon, but most are available for purchase at Barnes & Noble, as well):

The Girl With the Treasure Chest by V.A. Fearon

Dani Fenton thought her life was sorted. But when her private and professional lives collide, she is forced to walk a dangerous line and risk everything for love. At home Dani has a loving partner with a young child who adores her. At work she is a powerful broker in London’s vicious gangland, where she uses her influence to negotiate deals between rival gangs at underground “meets”. Her intuition has never failed her and her charisma has attracted a loyal band of “soldiers” who would go to any lengths to please her. Life is good until Susanna returns. Enigmatic, sexual, hot-tempered and fragile, Susanna is irresistible to Dani, who soon finds herself in a spiral of obsession and violence that threatens to devastate every aspect of her life. Dani must choose between the love she has and the love she wants, and she knows the wrong decision could prove fatal.

Maxi’s Place (Volume 1) by Literary Stud

Sooner or later, everyone slides through Maxi’s Place. Good food, good music and good company are the ingredients for an unforgettable night. The atmosphere infuses the soul with jazz, and conjures up a grown and sexy crowd. Come in and have a drink with a friend or lover. An unforgettable experience awaits the hungry patron from the delectable menu to the talented musicians who grace the stage. If only the customers knew what happened in the background of this bustling restaurant – drama, deceit and maybe a little love. (This is a bind-up of Parts 1-3 of the Maxi’s Place series.)

The Rules by S. Renee Bess

Blackmail, murder, missing persons, and hidden identities link lives that otherwise, would have remained unconnected.

London Phillips’ suburban black middle class background has made her vulnerable to the alienation she feels as she tap dances between the expectations she holds for herself and the expectations other people impose upon her. A full-time realtor and part-time writer, London encounters frustration when she tries to contact Milagros Farrow, a revered lesbian author whose work London would like to include in an anthology she’s compiling. Milagros has disappeared from the face of the earth.

Rand Carson is a prominent newspaper journalist who is forced to deal with the sudden loss of her financial security and the dissolution of her long term interracial relationship with Willa. Rand seems compelled to pursue London, although it’s possible she’s more attracted to London’s ethnicity than to London herself.

Candace Dickerson, a corporate event planner, is married to avarice. In order to chase a more lucrative future, Candace has abandoned her lover, Lenah and Lenah’s perceived lack of ambition. She’s moved into the city where she executes a plot designed to augment her earnings with other people’s money.

Lenah Miller is content with her job at a local hospital’s Emergency Department. For reasons known only to her, she distrusts women she considers too ambitious or from different social strata. Steeped in cynicism and memories held in secret, Lenah finds it easier to criticize a woman whose gentle nature differs from hers than to accept their differences.

The threads entwined around London’s desire to connect with a kindred spirit, Lenah’s wary skepticism, Rand’s inappropriate ardor, and Candace’s greed come undone when three people fall victim to blackmail, one reappears, and another succumbs to murder.

When She Says Yes by Fiona Zedde

The provocative women from Fiona Zedde’s imagination are at it again. From the sultry beaches of Jamaica to the palace of a Tanzanian queen then all the way to the exclusive playroom of one of the hottest women in Miami, When She Says Yes takes the reader on a sensual journey guaranteed to inspire a different kind of wanderlust. Between these pages, an artist falls in love with Zora Neale Hurston. Two lovers reunite in Jamaica after nearly a lifetime apart. A sexually restrained woman finally gets the chance to meet the seductress she has been lusting after from afar. A chief’s beautiful daughter is forced to marry for rain. The women in this collection of stories love each other passionately, diving into the heart of obsession, desire, and obligation while pulling the reader along for the wild ride.

Yabo by Alexis De Veaux

Fiction. African American Studies. LGBT Studies. Women’s Studies. “See YABO… like a Mingus composition: Pentecostal, blues-inflected, full of wit and that deep literacy of the black diaspora. The present, the past, the uncertain future collapse upon themselves in this narrative of place/s. Our dead move with us: behind us, above us, confronting us—in Manhattan; Asheville (N.C.); Buffalo, NY; Jamaica; the hold of a funky slave ship; crossing and bending lines between genders, sexualities, longing and geographies. Time is a river endlessly coursing, shallow in many places, deep for long miles, and, finally, deadly as the hurricane that engulfs and destroys the slave vessel, ‘Henrietta Marie.’ YABO calls our ghosts back and holds us accountable for memory.”—Cheryl Clarke


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


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


Breaking Jaie by S. Renee Bess

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breakingjaiePublisher/Date:  Regal Crest Enterprises, May 2007
Genre: College Life, Romance
Pages:  212
Website:  http://www.reneebess.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

S. Renee Bess mixes a fine weave of love, pain and higher education in BREAKING JAIE, the compelling novel that chronicles the romance of two very different graduate students.

Jaie Baxter is a Ph.D. candidate with an overly confident attitude and a harrowing past. After witnessing her brother’s murder and living with a dysfunctional mother, she won’t allow anyone to get too close. That anguish, coupled with the heartache from the only woman Jaie has ever loved, proved only to propel her success as she grew into an exceptional student and a great writer — and top-notch player.

Until she meets Terez Overton one day in the English department office. Terez didn’t grow up rough like Jaie, instead living in the suburbs and enjoying the comforts of middle-class life. She’s never met someone like Jaie; the thought of beginning a relationship with someone so unlike herself tells Terez to proceed with caution, especially once she gets wind of Jaie’s gigolo tendencies.

S. Renee Bess put her foot in Breaking Jaie, with its concoction of love and suspense. There are plot twists thrown in to keep you guessing. Bess, the author of Leave of Absence, pleasantly surprised me with the contemporary tone of the book; the maturity of the characters will please both young and older readers. Bess has managed to do it again with this one, and manages to keeps me patiently waiting for the next.

Reviewed August 2007


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