Between Right and Wrong by S. Stephens

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betweenrightandwrongPublisher/Date:  Outskirts Press, Sept. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Family, Friends
Pages:  360
Website:  http://www.authorsstephens.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

When I first read S. Stephens Am I My Sister’s Keeper in 2005, like Elise, I was going through my own coming out conundrum. I was gay, living with my parents, and taking shelter in my closet. So Elise’s story – attempting to please her parents while struggling with her sexuality – spoke to me in a lot of ways.

Now, eight years later, both Elise and I have faced our demons, but in BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG, Elise is still taking on the woes of her family and friends. She allows her sister Lynn to live in her spacious Miami home to get her life in order; provides the always sympathetic ear to best friend, Carmen, a skyrocketing recording artist; and fights to keep her guy pal Wade sane while he goes through some pretty serious legal issues.

At the same time, Elise’s love life is just as hectic, as she falls back in stride with ex Symphony (her biggest hurdle in the previous novel) and cultivates a fling with an extremely sexy older woman, not to mention the simmering feelings she has for married friend Monica, whose unconditional love held Elise’s through every traumatic event.

With all this love in her life, as well as a successful career in high-end real estate, it would appear her life is flawless at 32. Yet here’s Elise’s biggest issue: Elise will do anything for the people she loves, but it always seems to be at the expense of finding romantic love. In Wrong, I saw Elise fluctuate from crisis to crisis, from woman to woman, and it’s so clear that she can’t trust her heart with anyone. I love that she’s so committed to her family, both immediate and extended, but she hides behind them to escape the love she knows she deserves. I found Elise’s life full but slightly dizzying.

The strength of Wrong is in its cast of characters. I really got to know her extended family all over again, and their loyalty to Elise is commendable. What I love most about them is that they will always tell Elise is the truth, even when headstrong Elise doesn’t want to hear it, because that’s what family does. And each character’s romantic woes – reexamining one’s sexuality, sacrificing one’s to get ahead careerwise – is another fire for Elise to put out, which is a huge chunk of Wrong‘s plot. It also moves the book along to a dramatic finish.

Can I say Elise James has grown in the eight years since Sister’s Keeper? I think she knows what love is – she sees it in all forms in Wrong –  yet making it happen and making decisions about who’s best for her aren’t her strongest suits. And even with her devotion to everyone else, she always looks out for self. Nothing wrong with that, per se, but best friend Carmen hit the nail on the head when she told Elise, “There’s this person in you that walks on water, then there’s this other person in you that can move like a snake. Sometimes I don’t think you know right from wrong.” She’s not perfect – no one is.

Somehow I think Elise will get it together, though. Either that or I’m expecting another novel from Ms. Stephens.

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 Reviewed Month 2014

About S. Stephens

Originally from Miami, S. Stephens now resides with her spouse and daughter in Northern Virginia. She enjoys the challenges of creativity and attention to detail. Between Right and Wrong is her long awaited sequel to Am I My Sister’s Keeper?


Books 2 Check Out – Oct. 2013

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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):

Abandoned Property by Kai Mann
Kori, Jerard, Darius, Jay, Layla, Karina, and CoCo all have something in common; they’ve been abandoned. Even though their issues of abandonment stem from some of the same situations, how they play out is different in nature. Whether it’s Kori’s guilt and shame, Jerard’s revolving door of relationships, Darius’ daddy issues, Karina’s attention seeking, Layla’s insecurities and self doubt, Jay’s fear of being abandoned, or Coco’s trust issues; they all allow their issues to manifest negatively in all of their relationships.

Will the cycles of physical or emotional abandonment like being left with strangers or relatives, placed in foster care, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or even death determine their futures? Or will they go to the extreme opposite to ensure that the cycle ends with them? Or maybe they’ll realize the blessing in being abandoned by people who never knew how to care for them in the first place? (The sequel to 30 Day Notice.)

At Her Feet by Rebekah Weatherspoon
During a night of Web surfing for celeb gossip and masturbatory material, digital marketing producer Suzanne Kim stumbles across an intriguing thread while checking her profile on kinklife.com. Suzanne isn’t exactly looking, but the request for a very specific type of submissive from the attractive mistress, Mami-P, is hard to resist. Though the two hit it off during their first online conversation, Suzanne never imagines how strong their real life attraction and compatibility will be. After a few missteps in training, trust, and communication, Suzanne finds a deep love with her mistress, Pilar.

Overworked and overstressed in her daily life, Suzanne comes to crave their relationship for the visceral escape it provides, but before they can make the ultimate commitment, someone from Suzanne’s professional life threatens to disrupt their perfectly balanced bliss.

Between Right and Wrong by S. Stephens
Elise James has finally found her place in Miami. She’s a high-end real estate agent and loves selling homes to the rich and famous of Miami, Florida. With all her success she continues to live on the edge with the women in her life. The constant turmoil she’s in with her best friend, recording artist Carmen Trammel, the struggle with whether to reconcile with her long time love Symphony Graves or to start something new with Monica Adams who has to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to be with Elise. Just as Elise and her friends are basking in the glow of Carmen Trammel’s success a phone call rocks their world. Will Elise be the glue that holds them together or the piece that tears them all apart? Will the friends stay together long enough to get through it or will the choices between right and wrong derail them forever? (The sequel to Am I My Sister’s Keeper?)

Descendants Of Hagar by Nik Nicholson
It’s 1914 in Zion, Georgia, during the Black Codes, when Negroes were lynched for one wrong glance. A time when marriage was an agreement between a woman’s father and the man he chose for her. Most women had no romantic interest in their future husbands. In the worst case, they were promised to complete strangers.

Madelyn “Linny” Remington is the great-great granddaughter of strong-spirited ex-slave, Miemay, who oversees her rearing. While other women were raised to be broken, Linny was reared to build and repair. When other women were expected to be seen and not heard, Linny was expected to vote beside men. As other women prayed they would be chosen for marriage before they were too old, Linny cleaned her rifle to hunt. While her sister hoped to honor her husband by bearing a son, Linny wondered how a single woman could provide for herself, when only male children could expect an inheritance.

A secret has Linny slated as her father’s favorite son. Until Linny makes a promise that frees her from a conventional woman’s role, but the promise also brings shame on her family. Will Linny, threatened with alienation, honor her promise? Or bow to her father’s will and go back on her word?”

Dreams in Acapella by Alicia Clark
Poetry with a distinct edge. It will have you snapping your fingers, each one better than the last.

In Pursuit of Joi by Olivia Renee Wallace
Joi McIntosh is a woman torn. She is married to the perfect husband. She is the mother of the perfect daughter. She has her own thriving business and seems to be living the perfect life. But she has secrets… Secrets that haunt her dreams. Along comes Latoya Bradshaw. She’s beautiful, successful, and edgy. She awakens feelings in Joi that have lain dormant for years. She reminds Joi of her past. Joi must decide on whether she wants to continue living the life of the woman that she has become or risk it all to become the woman that she once thought that she was meant to be.

Soft Tsunami by Claudia Moss
Poems About Desire, Awakening, Fearlessness, Love, Acceptance and Lesbian Love From the author of If You Love Me, Come and Not Without Passion, Soft Tsunami is a collection of 55 poems, each flowing through torrents and gushes and surges and streams and inundations of life and love. “Soft Tsunami was written like Sanskrit on my Soul, splashed across wire-bound notebook sheets, trickled down yellow legal pads and, eventually, tap-danced across my laptop’s lit screen, each poem flowing into a line-up of regimented and sexy showgirls awaiting applause,” Claudia Moss Poet/Author/Blogger/Speaker/Performer. Soft Tsunami is the complete collection of the 5-part series, The Soft Tsunami Collection, in one book. Readers now have choice. You can delight in one or more sections or read the entire collection.

Two Times A Lady by Seconya Y. Bagby
Four years ago Yvonne was a ‘womon’ on the edge… of love that is. Caught between head and heart, she found herself at the mercy of both Dorian and Corrine, having inexplicably fallen for them both. In the end, Yvonne is forced to choose. This time around she is back with a vengeance and remains firm in her decision. It is only when adversity strikes, testing the solidity of her relationship, that she begins to ponder if love is enough. She soon discovers that one bad apple does indeed spoil the bunch as all of her relationships become affected in one way or another. In trying to salvage the most important relationship of them all, Yvonne must confront her past head on. It is through this vulnerability that she comes to understand what it truly means to love. (The sequel to The Womon.)


Am I My Sister’s Keeper? by S. Stephens (Dec. 2005 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  iUniverse, Sept. 2005
Genre(s):  Romance, Coming Out
Pages: 164

Website:  http://www.sstephens.info

Rating: ★★★★★ 

When your head is torn between your sexuality and the expectations your parents, where does that leave your heart? That is the struggle starkly captured in S. Stephens’ debut novel, AM I MY SISTER’S KEEPER? Stephens brings the protagonist Elise James to life, along with her grueling inner struggle to both stay true to herself while pleasing her family.

Elise has acknowledged her attraction to women since she was 15 years old. With that knowledge, she delved into the world of same sex relationships only to have it blow up in her face when her parents learn of her “lesbian episodes.” It plants a wedge between Elise and her parents, and ruins the relationship with her younger sister, Lynn. It’s then Elise realizes the world does not accept her kind of love, and after a four-year respite at a college far from home, she leaves women behind to live a “normal” life. She doesn’t want to put her family through any more pain and yearns to be the daughter her parents could be proud of.

After settling at home in Miami, Elise begins dating Grayson, a high school classmate. They become serious very quickly, and are engaged within weeks – to the pleasure of her parents, but to the chagrin of her other “family” – best friends Carmen, Iran and Donna. They know Elise is simply fooling herself being with Gray. In spite of disagreeing with her decision, the friends take Elise out to celebrate, and that’s where Elise meets Symphony.

Symphony is the type of woman Elise has always desired – smart, sexy and self-confident. Despite being engaged to Gray and, she begins seeing Symphony on the sly, carrying on a wicked tryst. Elise is torn between the perfection of Symphony and the perfect life she has mapped out for herself with Gray.

Meanwhile, baby sister Lynn is falling through the cracks. Lynn always looked to Elise, but because of Elise couldn’t be true to herself, she fails Lynn. Their parents spent so much time trying to keep Elise “straight” that Lynn acts out to receive any attention at all. When Lynn’s so far gone that the worse happens, it takes the whole family by shock, but finally brings them together.

Am I My Sister’s Keeper? is a heart-wrenching tale of a woman who sacrifices her heart and soul to please her family. It takes her a while but Elise figures out that being herself, without qualms, takes true courage. S. Stephens writes a true story with intensity and a great ring of truth. The plot is carried out smoothly, to a climax that will keep the reader hanging on for dear life. Make room on your bookshelf for Stephens as she is an author worth reading every single time.

Reviewed December 2005