The Highest Price for Passion by Laurinda D. Brown (Oct. 2008 Pick of the Month)

Publisher/Date:  Strebor, Aug. 2008
Genre(s):  Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages:  272

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

The past comes back to haunt in Laurinda D. Brown’s fifth solo title, THE HIGHEST PRICE FOR PASSION. Beginning in the volatile pre-Civil War era, her latest novel follows illicit exploits of slaves and masters as their lives intersect in the most perilous ways. Several characters narrate the story filled with infatuations and horrors that arise during a time when blacks were no more than tortured servants for white masters.

The fiery tale begins from the eyes of Amelia, a slave who recounts her life and the terror she endured escaping her master. Amelia, born from a white mother and slave, grew up knowing she wasn’t like the other workers around her. Yet because of the time and place she inhabited, she had to keep the appearance of being like the other black folks around her. One night her lineage is discovered, and it eventually leads to her disappearance.

But Amelia’s roots trace back far before her birth, tied to a shaky family tree with unspeakable secrets. Passion explores her heritage from her descendents and to a host of other characters from three generations ago – ones whose desires lead them to destructive behavior. There’s Massa Gray, who after years of rumors, can’t deny his attraction to the male form, including his own slaves; McKinley Wellsworth, whose notoriety as a hard-nosed master, is essentially a product of his tortured upbringing; and then there’s her own father, Josiah, whose attraction for Amelia’s mother couldn’t be contained and produced a love child he had to abandon.

Amelia, as she tells her life story, is aware of the passions that consume those around her, including her master and mistress. Both have strong connections to the beautiful slave, and she’s treated somewhat better than other blacks on the plantation. But Amelia knows her destiny and that there’s something more out there for her than a life of servitude.

Brown has a tackled a novel with historical significance with Passion, a book worlds apart from the contemporary novels she’s written such as Fire & Brimstone, UnderCover,Walk Like a Man and Strapped. The drama is still there, only from an earlier time and place. Brown has done her research with this story, and offers something different for black lesbian readers with Passion, a tale we should read not only for its compelling subject matter, but so that we can gain perspective with how far our race has come.

Reviewed October 2008

How Can An Angel Take My Heart: The Positive Side of Temptation by Regina Knox

Publisher/Date:  1st Books Library, Mar. 2002
Genre(s):  Religious, Romance
Pages:  388

Rating: ★★★★½ 

God works in his own time, and lovers Angela Lord and Kennedy Brooks face this complexity as they wrestle with their loyalties to Him in HOW CAN AN ANGEL TAKE MY HEART: THE POSITIVE SIDE OF TEMPTATION. The debut novel from Regina Knox chronicles the struggle between religion and homosexuality as Angela and Kennedy fall deeper in love, but at a price that almost cost their souls.

Angela and Kennedy’s chance meeting is at a time when they both need something more. Angela, a single mother of two, found herself in a dead-end relationship with a stud she’s not in love with. Kennedy is a highly successful businesswoman with several companies under her belt who doesn’t want for anything – until she encounters Angela on a business trip. The feminine ladies have an immediate attraction, and pretty soon Kennedy’s boyfriend, Robert, and Angela’s live-in lover, Tonya, are forgotten.

Yet there’s more to their connection than simply falling in love, as Angela and Kennedy soon discover. While Angela had previously come to terms with her sexuality, being with a woman was all new for Kennedy. Not only is it a shock herself, but to her parents – her father’s a preacher – and Robert, who had planned to propose to Kennedy upon her return. Everyone weighs their opinions and reminds her of what the Bible speaks of: that homosexuality is an abomination. And armed with everyone’s beliefs, Kennedy is torn between what’s right and what’s in her heart.

Angela has her own crosses to bear, namely a sinister ex-husband attempting to take her kids because of her lesbian status. Though not very religious, Angela is fighting her own demons about whether their relationship would please the Lord. It leads her to church, finding solace in singing the Lord’s praises and doing what believes will make Him happy.

Eventually, it doesn’t sit well with Angela or Kennedy that they may be compromising their spirituality, and the lovers have to figure out whether being with the one you love and giving in to temptation is what God truly intended.

In Angel, Knox writes an extremely sensitive portrayal of what a lesbian endures when confronting both her sexuality and religion. Black lesbians especially receive more grief when it comes to being gay, and hear more religious rhetoric that only confounds the issue. It’s great that Knox has put that struggle in a book that is honest and heart-wrenching.

With the sequel to Angel to be published this fall, I would love to see where she takes Angela and Kennedy next.

Reviewed October 2008

Love Lust and a Whole Lotta Distrust by DeiIra Smith-Collard

Publisher/Date:  AriSiri Publishing, May 2008
Genre(s): Bisexual, Romance, Straight Books with Lesbian Characters
Pages:  276

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

The ladies of Synergy Wireless are off the chain. Never has a group of scandalous employees been introduced than in LOVE LUST AND A WHOLE LOTTA DISTRUST by author DeiIra Smith-Collard. They love, they fight, and basically wreak havoc on own their own lives – just another day at the office.

Co-workers Nicole, Kendra Carmell and Natina play a lot harder than they work, bed-hopping and game-playing with the best of them. Nicole is the woman who refuses to take no for answer when it comes to fellow employee, Jason. Disregarding the fact that Jason is a player, she is determined to make the playboy settle down, even if it means tricking him and making a fool of herself – or destroying her relationship with her best friend, Kendra. Seeing Kendra and Jason together, she vows to do anything to push her friend out of the way to have Jason.

Meanwhile, Kendra’s not even studying Jason. She has her hands full with her own affair with Gia, a woman she met online. She chats with the Atlanta native every single day, exchanging poetry and photos. Soon the mental affair becomes a physical when Kendra is sent to Atlanta for work. They hit it off in, and Kendra is torn between the most passionate affair of her life and her dutiful husband.

While that drama unfolds, Carmell and Natina are new employees who extend their work endeavors to after-hours fun, hitting the town hard. It’s all fun at first, but there’s a misunderstanding when Carmell crosses the line with Natina. Believing Natina is sending her mixed signals, Carmell vows to make the woman her own, while humiliating her in the process and possibly destroying Natina’s new relationship with Louis.

And it just gets more outrageous from there. Smith-Collard keeps your attention with the antics of these amorous employees, where work takes a backseat to drama. The characters are fleshed out, and Smith-Collard is definitely a story-teller; it’s a rush just to see what will happen next.

But with all the going-ons going on at Synergy Wireless, I don’t see how the ladies get any work done.

Reviewed October 2008

My Little Secret by Anna J.

Publisher/Date:  Urban Books, Sept. 2008
Genre(s):  Romance, Erotica
Pages:  288

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Anna J., known for her girl-on-girl, off-the-chain romps, is back yet again with another tale of lust, lies and lesbian action with MY LITTLE SECRET. The newest story from the author of My Woman His Wife and The Aftermath brings us Midori Hunter and Jayday B., two women whose secret affair goes from hot to dangerous very quickly.

The passion between the two is undeniable, despite the fact Midori is married to a top physician and has everything a wealthy wife could want. Jaydah, in her own right, is a highly successful author who has enough drama for several books. Their story begins when Jaydah encounters Midori at one her bookstore signings, and they realize their attraction is more than a storybook romance.

But after two years of being Midori’s little side dish, Jaydah is sick of the game. It doesn’t matter how many promises or “I love you’s” Midori comforts her with, Jaydah simply wants her all to herself. How can Midori deny how they feel, lie about her whereabouts, and share the things they share and not want to have something more?

Jaydah can’t get down with Midori’s fickle affection, and tries with great effort, to break it off – more than once. The back and forth of these two women is the meat of the story, who can’t seem to let go of one another, and at some points, even using desperate measures to get what they want. When Jaydah lets go, Midori worms her way back in. When Midori goes back to her neglectful, unfulfilling husband, Jaydah uses a calculated move to get her woman back. They can’t quite let go, but can never have each other as they wish.

What are two horny women to do?

In My Little Secret, Anna J . knows how to bring the lesbian action better than any “straight” woman can. The plot is a little sparse, other than the vacillating relationship between Midori and Jaydah, but the hot sex scenes somewhat make up for that. What’s really intriguing is the character Jaydah, who seems to be deliberately similar to Anna J.

Could there possibly be some truth to fiction?

Reviewed October 2008