‘Loving Cassie’ by Jacinta Howard

About the book:

Cassandra James thinks she has her place in the world all figured out. But an unexpected betrayal forces her to ask if her “free black girl” vibe is a myth, or worse, a mask to hide herself from the world.

Bam Mosley, keyboardist for the alt-soul band, the Prototype, knows who he is. He just wants to make good music and see the people he cares about win. 

Then he meets her. 

Sure, Cassandra is gorgeous and smart, with hypnotic eyes, but his bandmate’s sister wasn’t supposed to be this…disruptive and break down all his defenses. 

She sees what he hides from everyone else. He allows her to take off her mask. 

But is their connection powerful enough to survive life’s low notes? Or maybe the true test of love is knowing when to let go…

AVAILABLE ON:

AMAZON | FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED

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NIA’s REVIEW OF ‘LOVING CASSIE’

Settle in, folks. This is going to be a long one. I am ridiculously excited about this release. Jacinta Howard is one of my favorite authors. And I’ll tell you why in a minute, but let me just start with my review of ‘Loving Cassie’.

This book, like all this author’s books, has a mood and rhythm all its own, that reminds me of the music that her characters in The Prototype Series create—deep, soulful, incredibly memorable. And Bam and Cassie’s story continues that trend. Bam is the percussionist in the soul band The Prototype, who we met in previous novels as the loveable, comic relief, the counterpoint to all of the angst that seems to swirl around his friends. But in this story, his story, we learn that Bam is just as focused on his craft as the other members of the band, just as steadfast underneath all the jokes. Like his bandmates, he also has some pretty complicated stuff to contend with, including the difficult family histories or distant parents that seem to typify the experience of almost all the band members in one way or another. The members of The Prototype understand each other in ways that their families of birth don’t always understand them, and Bam’s experience is no different.

Still despite his frivolous façade, Bam actually has things pretty well under control—he has a lover who he enjoys, and who enjoys him, and who understands his limits where commitment of time and emotion are concerned; and he has a fatalistic attitude about his distant relationship with his mother, and his almost non-existent one with his father. He doesn’t agonize about much of anything, he just gets on with it, recognizing that if he puts the time and work in with the band, he’s going to wind up in a different place from where he is now as a struggling college student.

As an aside, I never hesitate to say this about Jacinta Howard’s characters: they are not frivolous. Young, yes, but frivolous, no. And I don’t mean they don’t display frivolity in their behavior, what I mean is, as an author Howard respects them, even though they’re young. Their feelings, experiences and aspirations are not portrayed in a way that’s too … cute, or too precious. The significance of their story is never minimized because they’re just on the cusp of embarking on more adult lives. Some writers write new adult characters with a tone that’s almost glib, as though they’re patting them on the head and going, ‘Isn’t that sweet? You think you’re in love!’  or, ‘Aw! You crazy kids!’  With that approach, you feel the writer’s outsider perspective in their tone and so what should be earnest comes across as disingenuous. Jacinta Howard doesn’t do that. She pulls you back to that time in your life, if you’ve already passed it; or she roots you in it, if you’re currently there. She empathizes with her characters in a way that is clearly genuine.

Back to the review: so Bam is, despite the joking around, a young man on very firm footing. Knows who he is, and where he’s going. Enter Cassie, his bandmate Kennedy’s (from Finding Kennedy) somewhat flighty sister, who is like a whirlwind in more ways than one. She’s rebounding from the end of a long relationship and doing her “free Black girl” thing, rolling where the wind takes her and trying to temper her penchant for occasionally causing “drama.” This time, she tells herself, she’s going to straighten out, starting with putting a codependent relationship behind her. But … then comes (as Cassie later reflects on their connection): Bam: A sudden impact or occurrence.

Together, she and he are combustible, something neither of them wants, but both are powerless to resist. Their respective plans, resolutions and routines are up-ended by their connection. Bam has to learn to deal with Cassie’s changeable, volatile and unpredictable nature; and she must learn to trust that Bam’s steadfastness is not a mirage, and that he will not fail her. What one has, the other lacks, but together, there is balance. Watching them go through the process of trying to reach balance was fun, nerve-wracking in a way only passionate people can be, and all kinds of sexy. That’s all I’m gonna say, other than READ THE BOOK.

Now, back to why I love this author. I feel like she’s not just entertaining us, but documenting a time. A kind of revolution in Black creativity. I feel like we lost it for a while behind a focus on flashy commercialism, but things are changing and Black creatives are more mindful of their place in our story. For sure, there have always been young Black artists who are in it for the artistry, and not for the glory. We don’t hear about them much, because … again, they’re not in it for the glory. In the past decade we’ve heard more about stars, and glamor and bling … and a fair amount of contemporary romance focuses on that as well. But the tide is shifting. Even the biggest commercially successful female performer on the planet is beginning to lead with a mindfulness of her place in the cycle and history of Black artistic expression. Still, far fewer books—especially contemporary relationship-focused fiction, or romance—look at the grit, the struggle, the sacrifice, the determination and the pure love of an art (in this case, music) in the way Jacinta Howard does. And fewer still allude to the existence of a quiet tribe of young Black creatives who do it #ForTheCulture; the ones for whom, maybe the fame comes, maybe it doesn’t, but they press on because the work itself has inherent value.

I feel like that about this author’s work. I know that out there, there’s a reader who wants to see a dimension of us that’s not as frequently portrayed in modern Black romance. So I think it’s pretty cool that Jacinta Howard is giving us other stories, not as frequently told stories about Black people, Black love, and Black art. You know … for the culture.

ABOUT JACINTA HOWARD

A longtime journalist and lifelong music lover, Jacinta Howard lives in the Atlanta area. She is the author of new adult, women’s fiction, and contemporary romance, a USA TODAY HEA Must-Read Author and a two-time RONE Award nominee. 

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Finding Jacinta Howard

Finding Kennedy CoverWell, she hasn’t been missing. But it’s been a while since we heard from Jacinta Howard, and only because she was working on a couple of exciting new projects. First, on May 20th, she releases the next installment in her bestselling Prototype Series. Remember ‘HAPPINESS IN JERSEY’? Catch up with Zay and Jersey, and then fall in love again, with Travis and Kennedy. Coming May 20, 2016. More about her other project later. First check this out …

From ‘FINDING KENNEDY’:

We rode for what felt like forever. Until my mind quieted. Until the noise in my head was less than a hum. Until the vibrations of the bike were even with my breaths.

We pulled up to a place that sort of looked like a small house that’d been gutted and turned into a storefront. The entire street was lined with quaint buildings like it. It smelled like fall– crisp and clean. “Evan’s” was written on the sign that hung just over the front door.

“Where are we?” I asked once I’d pulled my helmet off, smoothing my braid, which was hanging over one shoulder. My body was still humming, coming down from the high of our ride. I was still seated on his bike and watched as Travis removed his helmet, raking his fingers through his hair.

“In Allen, just outside Dallas. I wanted a beignet and some wings,” he said, nodding toward front door of Evan’s as he climbed off.

A small smile touched his lips, and he helped me off the bike. “Was the ride too much?”  he asked, watching as I stretched my arms above my head.

“It was perfect.”

He smiled, brushing a loose strand of hair behind my ear.

“This place is owned by a cat named Evan from back home,” Travis explained, as I looked around. “It’s pretty low key,” he offered, reading my expression. “And it’s old school, so no TVs.”

I looked down at my boots.

“I gotta warn you though, dude is a little… off.”

“Off?” I met his eyes again, grinning.

 “Last time I was in here, he was trying to tell me that world is actually flat. Like, he argued me down about it. Got all animated and shit, talking about how Antarctica is really an ice wall.”

I laughed and he shook his head, his dimple showing as he chuckled.

“Why does he think the earth is flat?”

“Your guess is good as mine. I tried to follow what the hell he was talking about– something about gravity being an illusion, and the earth really being a disc.”

I laughed, eyeing him. He smiled and grabbed my hand, interlacing our fingers as we walked together toward the entrance.

“I kept thinking he was gonna laugh, but it never came,” he continued. “All he kept saying was ‘stay woke.’” He widened his eyes, looking like a zombie, and I laughed.

“And you still come here?” I asked as we paused in front of the door.

 “You know how hard it is to find a good beignet in Texas?” He raised his brows.

“But beignets and wings?” 

He nodded his gaze sweeping over me, landing on my boots. He grinned then met my eyes again.

 “My taste is particular.”

“Guilty pleasure?” 

“Nah,” he said, his eyes turning serious despite the playful grin on his face. “I don’t believe in that. You should never feel guilty for enjoying what brings you pleasure.”

A half hour later, we were seated at one of the plush booths, and I was completely in love. Evan’s was the coolest place I’d ever been—part restaurant, part bookstore, part record store. It smelled like vinyl and sugar. I chewed slowly, smiling at Travis who was watching me intently, waiting for my response since I’d told him I’d never actually had a beignet.

“So what’s the word, baby doll?”

I swallowed, relishing the sweetness of the pastry, and grinned.

Yum.”

He laughed, stuffing the last of his into his mouth. Sly Stone’s “Just Like a Baby” played from the speakers, the lazy groove filling the space, seeping into my bones, relaxing me. Or maybe that was just Travis’s energy. I’d expected this day to be like last year, unbearable, too drenched in reality. But I felt almost… dreamlike. The sadness, the ache was still there, but it was hazy instead of overpowering. I could breathe with Travis. 

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“Thanks to Jacinta Howard’s skill in making Jersey and the rest of the cast colorful and solid,  [Happiness in Jersey] is full of flavor, while offering a mix of life lessons to ponder long after reading.”—USA TODAY