Reviews – January 2013

JANUARY 2013

Elle (Insatiable: Book One)Elle by The Black
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Elle follows the personal journey and sexual awakening of Gabrielle Archer from a woman who thinks she knows herself, into Elle, a woman who truly does. The journey is precipitated by her meeting Simon Bishop, a man so confident and self-possessed that he immediately has her challenging her long-held assumptions about who she is and wants to be. The beauty of this book is that you’re challenged right along with her. I cannot recommend it highly enough for readers of intelligent erotic fiction.

Every once in awhile you run across a new author who pisses you off. Not because their work frustrates you, or their writing doesn’t come up to par, but quite the opposite – it’s because they are so damned good (excuse me, but I had to use that word for emphasis) that you feel cheated for having not read their work before. And you feel even more cheated when you realize they’ve been out there all along and no one told you! The Black is one such writer for me. I started reading Elle(Insatiable Book One) as I was finishing another book (never do that, it dilutes your enjoyment of both books) and so my attention was divided. But when I was able to truly dedicate my attention to this book, I was hooked and could not let go.

First I should say that I was intrigued to read this not only because The Black and I have met in the virtual world, but because the male voice in books is something that I like to study. Few men in my opinion write women well. And occasionally, the women they write are so incredibly one-dimensional you want to stage a book-burning in protest. None of that here. Among the many, many things I liked about Elle was the pitch-perfect female voice. I knew he understood women when the author had Gabrielle, the main protagonist go home after an encounter with Simon and check herself out in her full-length mirror, trying on a pair of shoes to find one more appropriate for her outfit just because he commented that her choice was a poor one. If that doesn’t capture how the female psyche works, I don’t know what does – the ways that self-doubt can rear it’s ugly head when an attractive man makes a comment that is marginally critical . . .

And that was just the beginning. I also liked how he portrayed an organic and natural evolution of a D/s relationship and one that doesn’t exist only in a fictional “playroom” where whips and chains and complicated apparatus are displayed for dramatic effect. He convincingly illustrated how the paradox of a submissive is that they are generally people who are very much in control of all other aspects of their lives, unlike the fictional subs in Fifty Shades and similar novels where subs are weak of will, innocent and in all aspects of their lives very much subjected to the whims of others. Not so in real D/s relationships, so this author clearly did some actual research or knows from whence he speaks!

And then there were the incredibly bold plot choices. I liked almost more than anything that this author chose a counter-intuitive resolution to this story; one which challenges the norm of novels centered around relationships (I can’t call this a romance because that label is too limiting). The ending, which intriguingly leaves room for more, challenged the norm of relationship narratives just as Gabrielle and Simon’s relationship challenges social norms. Brilliantly done.

I said I liked that almost more than anything because more than anything, I liked, no loved that this author knows his way around the English language, how to play with words to create mood, how to create a strong sense of place and of emotion and even of time. I give this book five stars even though there were places where as a fellow writer, I thought I could detect a little fatigue in his prose(like he wrote it late at night, or when he was exhausted with his characters, or just wanted to move the plot along). This is still a five-star read because when it was good, it was effing genius. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Describing Gabrielle’s reaction upon facing Simon’s, er, manhood: “It was just mindless blood-filled muscle, a dark brown organ with a drop of pre-cum glistening at it’s tip. But it beckoned Gabrielle in its rigid silence, called out to her, demanded from her. Its command to her was distinctly clear as had been Simon unzipping his pants. Gabrielle opened her mouth and gave it what it wanted.” Powerful stuff, and not that dumbed-down, raunchy ridiculousness that passes as erotica these days where there’s lots of humping and naughty words that make schoolgirls twitter behind their hands.

Elle is real, grown-folks writing.

I like this excerpt because here, as he does in many more places in the book,he demonstrates that as a writer he knows when to leave your prose alone, let it remain uncluttered and clear: “She felt pure: raw, primal. She was high-on the wine and on the purity of the moment as she walked naked through the night.”

You have no idea how tempting it is as a writer to use adjectives and lots of them; either that or hackneyed similes like “She moved like a panther”, crap like that which I sometimes do when I’m lazy. The Black’s resistance to that kind of language made me want to print some pages, grab my highlighter and post them on my fridge as a reminder of how it’s done. Yeah, it’s that deep for me.

I also liked that the chapters were short bites – snippets of scenes that had the effect of giving us key moments in the time as the transformation of the female protagonist from Gabrielle, ball-busting woman-in-control-of-her-universe to Elle, woman-untethered-by-convention unfolds. By the time you get to the end, she is a very different person than the woman you met in chapter one.

And that I think was what made me love this book most of all, the very vivid, visual and wholly convincing transformation of a character. This was not a technically perfect book, few indie-published books are, but my satisfaction upon reading it was absolutely complete.

If you want to be turned on, it’ll do that but not just physically. For me the turn-on was intellectual as well. How does this happen? That a woman in control of her life decides to surrender and give over her control to another? This writer convinced me in a way that has never been adequately expressed for me before that the surrender itself is a type of freedom.

Books that challenge the way you look at people, relationships and the world; books that make you think. That’s my turn-on. If you’re the same way, read this one.

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The Perfect ChoiceThe Perfect Choice by Libra Rajani
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Perfect Choice is my first read by Libra Rajani and follows the interesting romantic misadventure and road to love of Tanya Campbell, a bold and bodacious young woman who agrees to go on a cruise to meet Isaiah Scott, the brother of her friend, Simone. Unbeknownst to Tanya, Isaiah is leery of being fixed up with anyone who doesn’t fit into his well-ordered and high-profile life, so he instead sends his chief of staff Malik Anderson on the cruise to check Tanya out. On the very first night onboard, Malik and Tanya meet and there is an immediate spark, but Malik is mindful that she is off-limits so nothing comes of their meeting other than some clever banter. Still, because of a misunderstanding, Tanya–when she sees Malik again–mistakenly believes he is Isaiah and Malik decides not to correct this assumption as it will make his job of observing Tanya that much easier and hell, she’s kinda cute too so he doesn’t mind spending time with her if she believes he’s the man she’s being fixed up with.

The time the two spend together very quickly turns into a steamy shipboard romance and Tanya is prepared to jump in and see whether a relationship can develop between them. Then . . . the inevitable happens. Malik’s deception by omission is revealed and Tanya is hurt, deciding that she should return home and give the real Isaiah a shot.

Ms. Rajani does a great job describing the rapid progression of Tanya and Malik’s romance, and considering that it takes place only over a matter of days, she skillfully showed how in a place away from home, one can get caught up in a whirlwind and forget that after the vacation, real life awaits. Through this romance we see Tanya’s character exposed – her alternately confident and assured manner peppered with moments of insecurity about the fact that she is not model-thin. And we see Malik’s calm assurance–he’s a man who knows who he is and what he wants, and he wants Tanya. And in the background, though we hear more than see him in the first half of the book, is Isaiah, a man who by his actions feels entitled enough to basically order up a woman appropriate for his lifestyle and status.

At first, I have to admit, I had problems with the premise–why would Isaiah go to these lengths to check a woman out? Why not just meet her for coffee or something? But as I read on, and saw his interactions with Tanya, I realized that it was part of his character–distance, control, entitlement. He wanted to have his employee (and friend) check the quality of the “product” before he would commit to buying it, essentially. Given that, it’s no surprise that once Tanya and Isaiah do get together, his insistence on excellence begins to impact her self-esteem, making her feel the need to make changes like losing weight, and not the healthy way either . . .

And one fateful weekend, when Isaiah, Tanya and Malik are all forced into close contact with each other, the whole thing begins to unravel. . . The interpersonal drama created by Malik’s deception, Tanya’s fluctuating emotions and Isaiah’s control and perfectionist tendencies were plenty enough for me to make an interesting story, but then toward the end, Tanya’s career as a fraud investigator becomes even more significant (I won’t say how because that would ruin it for you), and Isaiah inexplicably involves his board of directors in his personal life with a mean-spirited and somewhat immature display (that seemed out of sync with his character as someone who cares a great deal about appearances and propriety), and that’s where the story lost a little luster for me.

Still, all in all, I liked how the author portrayed the theme of how one’s negative self-image can blind us to what others see, and affect what we’re willing to accept from others. This issue was very thoroughly explored in the Tanya character. She was complex – brave and yet afraid; smart in life but stupid in love; wanting more, but making choices that compromise her ability to get it. In other words, she was like most of us. And that made this a book worth reading.

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Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever (The Ghetto Girl Romance Quadrilogy, #1)Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever by L.V. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever is not at all what you might think.

For starters, I should say that I have a love-hate relationship with the Fifty Shades trilogy by E.L. James. I think the writing wasn’t . . . well, whatever, but let’s just say I wasn’t impressed by her craftsmanship. But (and this is a BIG but) she had something that many writers who are great craftspeople don’t have – she had a definite ear for what resonates emotionally. Despite my eye-rolling over some of her word choices, I had genuine emotional shifts while reading the story she crafted. But this is not about E.L. James. This is about L.V. Lewis (see what she did there? even her pen name is a play on the prior series – nice), a writer who has both emotional and verbal eloquence. And to top that all off, wit as well. Not just the ability to interject funny one-liners, but true intelligent wit that comes through loud and clear in her writing.

So if I had to say what I most enjoyed about this book, it would be that. She also paired an unlikely hero and heroine in virtually unbelievable circumstances and gave them such strong voices that you could see them and believe that they do in fact exist, or that they could.

No one is more surprised than I am that I loved this book. I hate – yes hate – the term “jungle fever” to refer to interracial relationships. (And I could go on forever about why, but I won’t.) And the only time I use the word “ghetto” is to refer to places not people. And come to think of it, not even then. So I was a little biased from the outset. But as has been the case with almost all my biases, I was proven wrong. The title is parody wrapped up in irony cloaked in social commentary with a healthy dollop of humor. So that takes care of the title. So don’t be afraid of it because of that . . . now about the plot.

I know, I know. The innocent-and-the-billionaire has been done to death. First up, Keisha is no innocent. She is a smart-mouth, streetwise, intelligent and driven woman who is not about to be led down anyone’s primrose path. But having said that, she has the wind knocked out of her by the force of her attraction to Tristan White (hah! the choice of name, again demonstrating the author’s humor)and embarks on an unconventional relationship, being indoctrinated into the exciting and pleasurable world of BDSM. And, as was the case in that other Fifty Shades series, she is as surprised as anyone that she loves “all that kinky shit”.

L.V. Lewis walks us through her internal monologue and has Keisha thinking things that you could totally imagine you might think if presented with an extremely attractive new lover who just happens to want to tie you up and “punish” you a little bit. The exchanges between Tristan and Keisha were humorous, sexy, clever and oh-so-true-to-life, considering the utter unlikelihood of the situation. And I don’t mind telling you that the sex scenes increased my pulse, I mean, considerably. And hey, I write sex scenes, so I know how clinical the writing of it can be, but the reading of these . . . let’s just say, not clinical. At all.

Having read the other Fifty Shades series, I know what is likely to happen between Keisha and Tristan, but already it’s clear that L.V. Lewis is an artist in her own right, not someone doing a cheap knock-off, because the places where she chose to depart from the other series (not just the obvious – like the interracial relationship, girl-from-the-‘hood aspect) were smart choices. So now I’m curious to see in the remaining parts of the quadrilogy where she goes. My only complaint is that there will be three remaining parts (I hate series) but who the heck am I kidding? I’m going to buy them all.

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A Special SummerA Special Summer by Victoria Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Special Summer is my first Victoria Wells read and I enjoyed it immensely. She has a great knack for arousing emotion and believe me, this story arouses plenty of that angsty stuff that makes you want to scream one moment and weep the next.

Summer is a beautiful (though she doesn’t know it), young and inexperienced young woman who encounters the wealthy, worldly and very jaded Nick Stiles at a charity function, and after some resistance, begins to date him. Summer quickly falls for Nick who-unbeknownst to her-has no intention of falling for anyone, because of a difficult family and romantic history that has left him damaged and somewhat cold. Though he treats Summer well while they were together, he has no compunction about unceremoniously ending their relationship when he decides it’s time to move on, and just as Summer is about to confess her love for him.

Five months later he returns, having faced the reality that he was thinking of Summer all along and misses her. When he goes to rekindle their relationship, he finds that she has kept something monumental from him, something that will certainly change both their lives. Feeling betrayed by her failure to tell him this secret, he launches an all-out campaign to make her pay for her deceit-by-omission.

And boy does he make her pay!

Nick’s reaction is so unrelentingly cruel, so angry, so incredibly vicious that I had real trouble seeing how this author could pull me back into wanting this couple to end up together. As he grew more cruel, and at times stepped over the line to becoming downright abusive, I stopped liking him altogether and began wishing him ill, wondering whether I would see a bold ending to a romance novel, like Summer walking out on him like Rhett Butler walking out on Scarlett in ‘Gone with the Wind’. And I was rooting for that ending.

But somewhere along the line, Ms. Wells began to drop more and more hints about the source of Nick’s pain, and the reasons for his irrational vendetta against this young woman who,against all common sense, still seemed to love him. And gradually, I began to understand though not sympathize with him. While we come to learn that Nick, despite his best efforts was repeating the mistakes of his father, and that he once had his heart and hopes dashed by a deceitful woman, I fell just short of loving him the way you want to love the male protagonist in a book.

His manhandling of Summer had been so protracted by that point, that I could scarcely forgive him. Still, given her background, the openness of her heart, her inexperience and the nature of the secret that bound them together, I understood how she might try to forgive him. And his borderline abusive behavior was later dealt with in the storyline, so I can go to sleep not wondering whether I would have told Summer to run for her life and get away from this man.

There were many sweet secondary characters – Summer’s two best friends Starr and Ava, and Nick’s housekeeper Joan who became close to Summer, all of whom added a dimension to the story I enjoyed. I especially liked that the author took the time to give us Joan’s backstory. It made her real to me, and I could see her because of that addded detail.

And because I love this stuff, I couldn’t help but notice some places where the description of the characters’ emotions were particularly resonant.

Like this, when Summer reflects on her decision to become intimate with Nick despite her inexperience: “In the beginning, the tiny voice in her head warned, don’t do it. After months of kisses, hugs and caresses, the tiny voice became a faint whisper, hardly audible. When she decided to . . . share his bed the voice was buried so deep, she never heard its pleas.” Very nice piece of writing.

The story was best when the writing was like that, was simple and succinct, like this sentence which heralds the emotional shift in Nick from wanting to punish Summer to wondering whether he might have gone too far: “Summer was letting go, and he could feel it.” There were also really clever phrases thrown in as well, the kinds of things that make you smile, like when Nick in his mind describes a woman trying to get his attention as a “cosmetically enhanced nuisance”. Hah!

All in all, I enjoyed this story a great deal, and think that if you like romances where the emotional shifts are like riding a roller-coaster, and the hero makes you hate him before finally coming around, this is a book for you. The ending will be particularly satisfying if you need your HEA. All your curiosity about this couple will be satisfied. Four stars rather than five only because if Summer were my sister, I would still, at the end of the day view Nick only with reserved cordiality, at best. And I want to fall in love with my romance heroes, just like the heroine does. Still, highly recommended for an emotional read!

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Chasing Love and RainbowsChasing Love and Rainbows by T.T. Dorsett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lemme start with this disclaimer: Chasing Love and Rainbows is the first book of its genre that I’ve ever read, so feel free to stop reading right now, because it’s possible I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about. But, should you decide to read on, here goes . . .

First of all, some people have innate storytelling ability, and TT Dorsett is clearly one of those people. She’s clearly thought about these characters well beyond what she put on the page and I got the sense of their being full, three-dimensional human beings. I could tell that they lived in her brain, perhaps for a very long time, before she ever wrote a single word and that’s always the beginning of really rich, layered writing in my opinion. The story centers around three sisters, Paris (the eldest, nurturer), Porsche (middle child, a bundle of unresolved issues with men and other stuff that I won’t mention in case I ruin it for you) and Patrice (youngest, overachiever in a sticky situation that could threaten her promising future).

Each character is written in the first person and their voices are strong and strident and powerful, but man, the subject matter and their circumstances were so grim. The book opens with a bang (literally and figuratively)and it doesn’t let up from there – my impression was of three young women trying to make a future for themselves out of a tragic and chaotic past, but making decisions that are in many ways destined to make their futures just as tragic and chaotic. There were parts where I was a little lost because the sisters all began to sound exactly the same to me and without the cue at the beginning of the chapter, or the mention of the man in their life, the voice could just as easily have been any one of them. But that happened only intermittently, and I was largely able to get a clear sense of the differences between the three.

And finally, don’t be fooled by the title and all this talk about ‘rainbows’ and ‘love’. This is not a fairy-tale. This is raunchy, gritty, raw, unflinching stuff and while I can’t say I was left with the warm and fuzzies after reading it, I certainly admire that this author seemed not to have held anything back. She just bled every emotion onto the page – anger, pain, lust, loss – it’s all there. There’s always something to be said for writing that makes you feel something, even if not all of those emotions are pleasant, and for that reason, I’m giving this book 4 stars. All throughout, I was like, “Damn, she went there . . .” It’ll take me awhile to recover.

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Cooking Up Love (Arrington Family #1)Cooking Up Love by Candace Shaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve now read everything that Candace Shaw has out and I am really loving her work! About this book in particular, I like all the same things that have been discussed by other reviewers but I wanted to say something different. I enjoy thinking of how writers come up with their stories and getting into their head a little bit. Apart from the wonderful sweet romances in Cooking Up Love, The Game of Seduction and Simply Amazing, another, very interesting subplot is at work, one that is woven through all three stories. It is the story of this fascinating family, the Arringtons and the influence of the very intimidating patriarch of that family. Each of the Arringtons, sons and daughters alike are high achievers, ambitious and accomplished, who despite being aware of the deep love their father has for them, still seem to have struggles with defining for themselves who they want to be and how they want to live their lives. It’s interesting to see how they balanced own personal dreams for their future with those of their father, and their strong ties to family.

With an exacting father (I had one of those myself, so I totally relate) who demands and gives much, Shelbi in this book, and Bria in The Game of Seduction each travel their own path to realizing what they want and the men in their lives are each a big part of helping them get there. Sometimes series of books seem belabored, like the author is squeezing blood from a stone and you wish they would just stop already, but I can see why this family is perfect for a series of books.

I am already curious about the other siblings who don’t yet have their own story but whose characters Candace Shaw has already done a great job of defining. The way different kids react to the same upbringing is a great theme to explore and to explore that in the context of their relationships and how and who they love is really clever. Sean Arrington especially has me curious. If you’re from a large family like I am, you will recognize the baby of the family who by virtue of having been born when your parents were exhausted from disciplining everyone else, gets away with all kinds of stuff no one else would.

Like the scene (this is from The Game of Seduction, so I’m cheating a little bit here) when the patriarch asks Sean during a staff meeting at their family medical practice:
“Son, what were you typing on your iPad earlier before I kicked everyone out?” To which Sean replies, “All the names, the ones I remember, of the models I dated this year.” Okay, so generally speaking only one person per family would get away with that kind of thing, and it’s usually the youngest. So I loved that about Candace’s work – the integration of good family dynamics info that will make all the follow-ups to this series all the more interesting. Can’t wait to meet the woman who takes Sean down!

And because this is really supposed to be a review of Cooking Up Love, I will say this. I love it when writers sweat the small stuff. Candace provided details about running a restaurant, being a food critic. It wasn’t just window-dressing to get to the sex and relationship stuff. And I loved that Shelbi (and Bria as well) had more drama in their lives than relationship drama. They had career concerns and family concerns and were whole people apart from the men they chose.

I recommend this book, and all Candace’s other books as well, and challenge folks to read them not just as stories of one woman-one man romances, but as threads that will weave a more complete picture of the love story of a family. Here are the links. Buy them!:The Game of Seduction, Simply Amazing, Candace Shaw

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Second Chances (Hot Latin Men #4)Second Chances by Delaney Diamond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book challenged just about every single one of my preconceptions about what I prefer to read and reminds me that I don’t know ANY of what I think I know, especially when it comes to the craft of writing. I’ve been dancing around Delaney Diamond’s work for months. I’d heard great things, but hadn’t taken the time to dive in because I thought she only wrote romantic suspense (preconception #1) and also thought that some of her books were shorter than I like to read (preconception #2) so might be long on plot but short on character development (preconception #3). WRONG. WRONG. AND WRONG.

Her writing in this book has both depth and breadth. The page count is immaterial because she managed to give you rich, lush detail about the characters, the setting (Brazil), and the emotions at work. She created both an emotional and physical landscape that I could see and feel, and she did it with remarkable economy. No extra verbiage, just relevant detail. Others have recounted the plot so I won’t do that here except to say that I felt the characters’ love, longing, loss, passion and pain. And the sense of place she portrayed with remarkable skill as well. How many times have you read a book where the writer tells you it’s set in, say, Italy, but they may as well be in Skokie, Illinois for all the description they give you about the location?

And to do the book justice, I have to point out that if you want a lot of “plot” in your romances, some mystery or intrigue, this book has that as well, but not at the expense of the development of the characters. Once in awhile you run across romantic suspense where lots of sh** happens but you have no idea why the hero and heroine like each other, much less love each other. And when they fall into the sack, you’re like, ‘wait, what?!’

That is most decidedly not the case here.

Delaney Diamond does what I wish more writers would do – she sprinkles seemingly minor details into the story that add dimension to the characters’ relationship, like this: “He’d tossed his suit jacket haphazardly on a chair near the bed. She always used to get on him about leaving his clothes lying around like that. . . [I]t only took a few more steps to put them in the right place, but he never seemed to get that far. She missed giving him a hard time and having him call her a nagging wife. Then she’d tell him he was spoiled, and he’d grumble that if he were really spoiled he’d be able to do whatever he wanted in his own home.” That’s the kind of thing that makes characters live and breathe for a reader, and there was just enough of it in this book to make me feel Sabrina’s sense of loss when she feared her marriage had been damaged beyond repair.

If you have the same “book prejudice” problems I have had, please read ‘Second Chances’. It’ll make you a believer. Now, I’m off to buy The Arrangement!!!

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Redemptive ActsRedemptive Acts by Nikki Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a reader prone to snap judgments. There, I admit it. If the first five pages don’t grab me, it will be very difficult for me to continue reading (although I generally will). When I began Redemptive Acts, Part I, I was already intrigued by the blurb which hinted that the subject matter would be difficult and the book would follow one young woman’s journey to overcome it. Sold. Here’s what I loved about Redemptive Acts, Part I: Ms. Walker’s prose is that of someone who has obvious innate writing talent. Like this excerpt: “ . . . he managed, despite her fight, to take what felt like her very soul from her—what she’d treasured and kept safe was taken from her in a matter of minutes by someone who felt he had every right to it . . . and when he finished, he rolled over like he’d done nothing at all.”

And in another, later part of the book: “She loved the way the sun danced on the auburn colored leaves. She took off toward a well-traveled path and headed into an apple orchard.” The simplicity of the language, the lack of melodrama made those moments even more impactful than they would have been had she littered it with adjectives and over-description. I love that kind of writing, because it doesn’t treat readers like idiots—it gives you just enough information for you to know what happened and how it felt to the character, but doesn’t tell you how to feel. And consequently you feel a great deal.

Where I had some challenges with this book was the fact that moments like those, where the prose was beautiful and unencumbered, alternated with others that read as somewhat overwrought. Like this one: “Jonathan took his fingers and placed them gently on her lips to silence the waterfall of words that were tumbling out of her mouth at the speed of light.” Too much! That kind of description distracted me from the core of the story.

Now on to the story.

Cherise is an interesting character whose background raises more questions than are answered in this book. She seems to be largely without family, except for a cousin who lets her down, and while she appears to have gone through a life of hardship has a sweet innocence about her that makes it hard for you not to want her to be taken care of. Which makes it all the more understandable when Jonathan, the main male character begins to feel the same way. I look forward to hearing more about Cherise later, because she is just on the edge of being too sweet, too innocent. I wonder what else there is and would love to see that developed in Part II.

There is also a fascinating dynamic of one “good brother” and one “bad brother” both of whom loom large in Cherise’s life for very different reasons. Both brothers are layered characters who offer lots of promise for future development in Part II. Tyrone, the “bad brother” who has wronged Cherise is supported and even enabled by Jonathan, the “good brother” who views one of his roles in their family as cleaning up Tyrone’s “situations”. At present, Cherise is one such situation, but Jonathan is clearly being drawn in by a lot more than his sense of responsibility to his sibling. Meanwhile, Tyrone is nurturing a fixation on Cherise that shows just how deluded he is about the nature of his encounter with her.

Because the author uses many references to scripture, I wonder whether there is a Biblical allegory at work—Cain and Abel, maybe? Having said that, as a personal preference, I hope the author will not allow Part II of the story to devolve into a soap opera because in my observation, the strongest writing was in those parts where she described the characters’ innermost thoughts, and less so when she described the goings-on around them. And there is a certain undercurrent that’s inspirational about her writing, a message about inner strength and the triumph of personal will and faith that I think she clearly feels passionate about.

I was left after reading this with many questions but they didn’t frustrate me, they kept me engaged and curious and made me want to read more. And for that reason, when Part II comes out, I’ll definitely buy it.

I’ll add one final disclaimer, about editing,something I’m very lazy about with my work. I didn’t allow it to compromise my enjoyment of the story but think it could be a deal-breaker for some. So my advice to this writer would be to have a fine-tooth comb stylistic and grammatical edit done so that others will enjoy this story as I have.

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