Rose from the Bayou by Teryn Williams

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rosefromthebayouPublisher/Date:  Teryn Williams, Sept. 2012
Genre:  Romance, Suspense, Supernatural Fiction
Pages:  220
Website:  http://scarletroselaveau.wix.com/rose

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Enfant, l’amour est fou…

In other words: chile, love is crazy. Nothing says this better than ROSE FROM THE BAYOU, the bewitching novel from Teryn Williams, also the author of Be the Sun Again.

Set in 1990s New Orleans, the story follows the friendship of Scarlet Rose Laveau and Koral Baptiste. Soul sisters and neighbors since childhood, the women are now 24 and long-time lovers. Their relationship is deeply befuddling, especially to their families. Whereas Koral is sensitive and loving, Scarlet is cold and selfish. Her practices in what some folks call voodoo or black magic, passed down from her mother’s side of the family, constantly label her a bad seed.

Scarlet relishes her otherworldly abilities, channeling spirits and cavorting with the afterlife, which makes her an asset to people who need her assistance. But she what she uses for good, she also exploits to her advantage. Scarlet is a hedonist with a cause.

“My appetite was fierce and something not of this world. I was not born to be slaved beneath a relationship. I wanted to love freely. Love has no face and love had no color and love was androgynous. Or maybe I was speaking of sex because my heart was a deep dark hole that I often searched for a feeling but there was nothing but space looking for more of that same feeling. A space big enough to hold whatever and whomever I wanted to occupy it.”

However, Koral is the solitary soul she allows into her realm, mostly because Scarlet knows she has Koral’s heart on a string. She dominates the dark-skinned beauty, and because Koral doesn’t know her worth, she lets Scarlet control her. Talks her into doing heinous things, anything to keep Scarlet’s love and attention. Besides her grandmother, Nana, Scarlet is the only family Koral has. Their connection is powerful, and Koral wants nothing more than Scarlet’s “undying” love. With the thoughts Scarlet has, that could be the only way for Koral to win her heart.

Koral should be careful what she wishes – she might just get it.

Rose from the Bayou is one of those books with rich character development that pulls you in. You will either find yourself loving and/or hating Scarlet and Koral and the eccentric personalities in this book. Williams’ book could use more editing, but if you’re into dark stories, Rose will be a book that’s just as sweet.

Reviewed February 2013


Stud by Sa’id Salaam

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studPublisher/Date: G Street Chronicles, Aug. 2012
Genre(s):  Bisexual, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 142
Website: http://www.gstreetchronicles.com

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

What we know as a masculine lesbian takes on an entirely different definition in STUD, the book from street lit author Sa’id Salaam.

Stud apparently has many descriptions, but Salaam portrays protagonist Andrea “Dre” Coleman as a drug-dealing, gun-toting young woman with an identity crisis.

It wasn’t always this way, though.

Tomboy Dre never wanted to wear pink or ribbons. Dressing like a boy for protection, she emulates her hustling older brother, Bernard, and prefers beating up the boys and playing lookout for big bro. Bernard is her hero, and when her brother is killed, it’s up to Dre to take over the game in Bernard’s honor.

Easier said than done. Dre finds it hard to gain respect when you’re a girl filling in bigger shoes.

Luckily, Dre’s best friend Ramel, is her partner-in-crime. The two make a great pair, and when things get rough, or somebody needs to become a nobody, Ramel is in the trenches with her. Doing the kind of work they do, it bonds them without many words being said.

This attraction between Dre and Ramel is what throws the reader completely off when reading Stud. You’ve been introduced to Dre the stud and her romps with women, but you end up knowing Dre the bisexual. And if that’s what she wants to be, that’s fine. But the book’s title seems misleading. Was the author trying sending a message or creating a confusing character for entertainment value?

As entertaining as it may be, it’s also a head-scratcher. What Stud has in its corner is that the writing is decent, and some may like this urban tale. But what Salaam is writing about brings about the issue of what defines a stud. Do clothes or attitude make a stud, or is it a combination? Who’s to say what a stud is?

Sadly, you won’t find out by reading Stud.

Reviewed February 2013


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


Still Strapped by Sharon D. Smith

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stillstrappedPublisher: Lulu.com, Dec. 2011
Genre(s): Romance, Suspense
Pages: 160
Website: http://www.facebook.com/authorsharondsmith

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

The Plot: It’s Silk’s turn to narrate the story, STILL STRAPPED, about her relationship with fellow stud, Taz. Lovers from the previous Strapped, Silk and Taz’s bond has grown and become more organic, but it doesn’t sit well with others. All the couple wants is to share their lives, and interlopers from Silk and Taz’s past want to do them dirty – Zodiac, Silk’s former pimp; Reece, Taz’s femme ex who’s still irked she was left for a stud; and Nic, a relic from Silk’s gang-banging days she’d rather forget. Can’t they just let these studs be great and in love?

The Good: The plot moves swiftly. It’s a good portrayal of stud-4-stud love. I enjoy Taz and Silk’s interaction. I hope their portrayal helps to break down the negativity surrounding this type of relationship.

The Not-So-Good: There are a few twists that come off implausible, like the revenge scheme against Silk and Taz, but it’s easy to roll with the story.

The Bottom Line: Read Still Strapped for Taz and Silk’s love story and allow it to show you another side of black lesbian love. And another installment, Strapless, is soon on its way.

Reviewed December 2012


Nightshade by Fiona Zedde

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Publisher/Date:  CreateSpace, Mar. 2012
Genre(s):  Romance, Suspense
Pages: 144
Website:  http://www.fionazedde.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

The life of contract killer can be solitary. Just ask Brownwynne St. Just in Fiona Zedde’s NIGHTSHADE.

After losing their parents at 12 and 15, Wynne and sister Celeste harden into career women: an assassin and a pimp. Wynne admires her older sister as a role model of sorts, but even she can’t help her when love has stolen Wynne’s heart.

From the beginning of this novella, one would never think Wynne was capable of love. Pleasure, followed by the thrill of death, is her modus operandi, and there have been women whom she could have fallen for – if she wasn’t hired to kill them.

Time for love is something Wynne doesn’t see as important. Though she’d never admit it, she’s lonely, but her job fulfills her, something I don’t think she could quit even if she tried. She’s so good that her inbox is flooded with requests. It usually doesn’t catch up with her, until the past of one of her previous hits resurfaces in the form of a woman Wynne could easily off – or get off on.

Will Wynne kill love before it begins?

We’re used to the dazzling and tantalizing love stories Zedde provides, as well as the exotic lush locales and electrifying erotic adventures – Bliss, Every Dark Desire, and Taste of Sin are just a few – but Nightshade is a little bit different. More dangerous. More sinister.

Reviewed July 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


Dying for a Change by Sean Reynolds (Feb. 2011 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  Suspect Thoughts Press, Sept. 2009
Genre(s):  Mystery, Suspense
Pages:  256
Website:  http://www.booksbyseanreynolds.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

The year is 1965, the place is Chicago. The streets are hot, not just because it’s August, but because racism lives and breathes with a fierce determination to tear apart any civility between blacks and whites.

In the midst of this is cool-as-a-fan Chan Parker, 33-year-old numbers runner, working her dead-end profession with all the enthusiasm of a broken toaster. With her boyish good looks, she makes much more money than the average Negro, but being on the bottom rung of a mobster operation making its money off the backs of blacks isn’t her idea of a career. As Chan says in DYING FOR A CHANGE, “Prostitution is doing any job you would rather not do, and I was beginning to feel whorish.”

The bright spots in Chan’s life are her 55 black-over-black T-Bird, her eclectic jazz collection, and best friend Henrietta Wild Cherry. A 300-pound drag queen, Henrietta has been Chan’s rock since childhood, and when the lady asks for help finding a fellow dragster who’s come up dead, Chan is hot on the trail of discovering what happened to Miss Dove.

Dying for a Change paints a vivid scene of old Chicago as she and Henrietta track down a killer. In the midst of it all, Chan’s job proves to be a more of a liability while discerning who’s on the right side of the law – and who’s twisted in the game.

Sean Reynolds’ prose in Dying is deftly captivating, and the slang from 1960s Chicago is authentic, refreshing, and a character in its own right. As you read, you’re transported to that time of juke joints and back rooms, a time when being the wrong color on the wrong side of town could mean trouble. Dying is a mystery, history lesson and cool suspense at the same time.  I would have liked to see more romance, but nonetheless, Reynolds knows her genre, knows her people, and most importantly, knows how to tell a fantastic story.

Reviewed February 2011


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


Cyber Case by Nikki Rashan

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cybercasePublisher/Date:  Urban Books, Aug. 2010
Genre(s):  Romance, Suspense
Pages:  288
Website:  http://www.nikkirashan.com

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Attention Facebook and Twitter addicts: Nikki Rashan has written a novel that will make you think twice before you make that next status update.

CYBER CASE is the tale of two women whose love has been tested by the Internet.

Mortgage broker Jovanna and her criminal attorney girlfriend Melanie have an idyllic four year relationship. Surrounded by wonderful friends, the pair doesn’t think much about the world of cyberspace except to keep up with the people they love and the occasional acquaintance.

That all changes when one of Melanie’s clients, a lesbian named Sunday, contacts her on a mutual social networking site. Jovanna’s not keen on the idea of her woman mixing business with a friend request, but Melanie convinces her it’s strictly professional.

Straight-laced Jovanna isn’t worried at first. She isn’t the jealous type, and enjoys the life they’ve built as a trusting couple. But something changes. Sure, Melanie’s stress is normal when she’s working on a strenuous case; her secrecy isn’t. Melanie’s suspicious behavior – frequently checking her BlackBerry or shutting her laptop around her – raises Jovanna’s red flag.

Could Sunday’s enticing posts be to blame for Melanie’s shadiness?

Rashan’s Cyber Case tracks the ins and outs of how the internet can dissolve trust between partners.  The well-written story sprints to a great build up; by the novel’s close, it ends without a bang. The couple’s friends – all eight – are introduced with complete back stories that aren’t completely finished by the closing stages. Those things aside, Cyber Case is worth the read.

Now…back to your status updates.

Reviewed February 2011


Stud Princess, Notorious Vendettas by N’Tyse

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studprincessPublisher/Date:  A Million Thoughts Publishing, May 2010
Genre(s):  Romance, Street Life, Suspense
Pages: 288
Website:  http://www.ntyse.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

The Plot: Sequel STUD PRINCESS, NOTORIOUS VENDETTAS picks up where My Secrets Your Lies leaves off, with estranged couple Sand and Rene each working for cold-blooded Chyna. The pimpstress is about getting ends and avenging her uncle’s takedown by an opportunistic lawyer. Using Rene and Sand as pawns, Chyna envisions her plan going down smoothly, until her employees and business begin to unravel. At the same time, the lovers are trying to find their way back after Rene’s infidelity and Sand’s murder accusation, but ironically, Chyna could be the catalyst that brings them together in dire circumstances against the ruthless beauty.

The Good: There’s enough murder, drug deals, and girlfights to engross the reader. Introduction of new characters also compliment an already jam-packed plot.

The Not-So-Good: Stud Princess is sufficient as a stand-alone novel, but as a sequel, the story doesn’t explain much from My Secrets. It would have been good to have a refresher at the novel’s onset to revisit what happened in the previous novel.

The Bottom Line: N’Tyse does her thing in Stud Princess. The romance-urban drama merges nicely to a gripping ending.

Reviewed February 2011


Tongue Love by Ebony Reese

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tongueloveGenre(s):  Romance, Crime
Pages:  92
Website:  http://tonguelove.me/site.htm

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Some people take that Bonnie and Clyde kind of love way too seriously.

If you read TONGUE LOVE, the debut novella from Ebony Reese, you’d understand what I’m talking about.

This  ride-or-die story begins with Jersey, a bartender extroidennaire tired of meeting the same old females in the club. You know the types: the stuck-up sistahs; the desperate types; the every-week attendees; the “I-got-a-man-at-home-but-I-like-a-female-on-the-side” women. It bothered Jersey that couldn’t find a decent love of her own, someone bringing just as much to the table as she would.

Yet, looking out her window was all it took to find this perfect woman when she catches sight of Tropicana. A hairstylist in the salon across the street, the dimepiece enthralls Jersey with her not-so-subtle curves, but she’s too shy to make a move.

The time comes when they meet, and Tropicana is everything Jersey wants: smart, ambitious and ready for a serious relationship. More importantly, Tropicana is fiercely loyal. Considering Jersey’s track record of betrayal from her ex and her recent one-night stand, this is what attracts her to Trop.

Jersey even likes the dark, jealous side of Tropicana – who’s willing to fight anybody getting to close her lover. Especially this one chick, Kim, who doesn’t want to let Jersey go.

When Kim goes missing, Jersey is curious and concerned. Could Trop – who has serious legal and underground connections – have something to do with Kim’s disappearance? How much does Jersey really know about this beauty she intends to wife?

In a small amount of pages, Reese packs a lot of drama and suspense in Tongue Love. Is it believable? I guess, if one could accept that true love can overcome criminal acts that are Law & Order worthy.

Reviewed August 2010


Love & Money Don’t Mix by KoKo B

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loveandmoney1Publisher/Date:  Angel Pearl Publishing, Dec. 2007
Genre(s):  Contemporary Romance, Intrigue
Pages:  220
Website:  http://www.appublishing.net

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

If money can buy love, then it can never be true. This is the case in LOVE & MONEY DON’T MIX, the debut novel authored by KoKo B.

The story revolves around Amanda and Shaun, a seemingly perfect couple who first meet a party. Becoming inseparable almost immediately, the two grow together through the years, sharing their lives. There are things that bother Amanda, the narrator of this tale, such as Shaun’s uncomfortable distance from her family and her overly ambitious nature. However, Shaun is a go-getter in every sense of the word, and only wants to make a better life for herself and Amanda.

So when she takes a job with a dubious businessman, Russo Tolentino, the money is flowing and Shaun is thrilled to have such a high-powered post. In fact, the money’s so good, it blinds Shaun to the fact that there might be more than meets the eye with her boss. It’s only when employees come up dead that the couple realizes this job is placing their own lives in danger.

Someone is after them, and with crooked cops in the mix, Amanda and Shaun only have each other to lean on. Can their love be enough to get them through this unsavory situation?

Love & Money Don’t Mix is an intriguing book, one you could easily sit down and breeze through in an afternoon. While there are some interesting plot twists, the story doesn’t live up to its premise of a lesbian couple on the run. I felt Amanda and Shaun’s characters weren’t as fleshed out as they should have been, and therefore I wasn’t as invested in the couple’s struggles. The excessive grammatical errors don’t help either. With that being said, Love & Money is still a story that can hold your attention.

Reviewed August 2008