When Love Aint Enough by Vivian M. Kelly (May 2008 Pick of the Month)

Publisher/Date:  Gritz N Eggs Production, Apr. 2006
Genre:  Romance
Pages: 488
Website:  http://www.vivianmkelly.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

We’ve all suffered through the media’s obsession with black men on the DL, but what about sistahs on the down low, keeping their lesbian affairs hush-hush while using their heterosexual relationships as a cover?

That’s what Casey Banks contends with as you read WHEN LOVE AINT ENOUGH, the debut novel from writer Vivian M. Kelly. When we first meet Casey, she’s strung out over her longtime-lover Jade, who left to her marry a NBA superstar. Devastation overtakes her heart – along with glasses of Cognac and the sounds of Luther Vandross – and drowns her in despair. In her heartbroken haze, Casey recalls the road that led her to this low in her life.

A childhood filled with hidden desires, Casey always felt she could never act on her feelings for women. She carried her longing in a secret place, until she fell in love with her college sweetheart Nahdia, and knew she had to be herself. Yet, as quickly as love came, it faded as tragedy struck the happy couple.

Afterward Casey became emotionally numb, and time passes before she can open herself up again. She believes she could never find the connection she had with Nahdia, and it’s proven when she puts herself in trifling situations to have someone in her life. No one values her sensitive side, the one that will do anything for the right woman.

Now a promising new attorney at prestigious Norfolk law firm, Casey believes she’s found the perfect partner in Jade. A TV executive, Jade is everything Casey’s been looking for: beautiful, smart, and seemingly together. They truly enjoy each other’s company, whenever Jade can spare it. Jade doesn’t acknowledge their relationship publicly, and won’t admit that she’s gay – except when Casey’s between her legs.

To make matters worse, Jade doesn’t bother to let go her ex-boyfriend b-ball player, and doesn’t make any apologies for it to Casey. For Jade to treat their relationship like a dirty little secret leads to Casey’s depression and loss of self-esteem. She can’t handle it seeing the woman she loves in the arms of someone else. Can she pull herself together to see the writing on the wall?

Kelly’s novel proves love is definitely not enough to keep someone who doesn’t want to be kept. Jade strung Casey to the point that I was sick of her. Grammatical errors aside, you’ll get more involved with every page, and there are almost 500 pages to get through. When Love Aint Enough effectively demonstrates the expression love is blind, but anyone who’s been in Casey’s shoes will realize that your own sanity is more important than believing in empty promises.

Reviewed May 2008

Down Low Sistahs by Wakiem Freeman

Publisher/Date:  Apricot Books International, Feb. 2008
Genre(s):  Contemporary Fiction, Bisexual
Pages:  224

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

If you pick up DOWN LOW SISTAHS, here’s a warning: Read at your own risk.

Urban author Wakiem Freeman’s tale of sistahs gone wild is blunt in its approach, to the point that it might offend the delicate black lesbian reader. The eye-opening plot centers around a dude named Nicor, who can’t seem to find a straight sistah to save his life. He tells the story in the most graphic fashion, his exploits downright dirty.

How it all begins is with the surprise his girlfriend Tamar drops on his 25th birthday: she has a girlfriend. This comes after dating him for six months and seeing future with the tall beauty. While he imagined they’d be married and having babies, she was slipping out her female lover. Nicor is incensed, hating the fact he was played like a fiddle.

Nicor is determined to find an honest woman with no lesbian tendencies. Instead he runs into female after female with a scandalous past of licking the cat. Either they’re straight forward with it (no pun intended) or play it off by claiming “that’s just my cousin.” Nicor gets fed up with lies and decides to expose these down low sistahs for what they are. He’s tired of men getting browbeaten about having DL inclinations, when women are out here wilin’ out.

His revenge occurs when Nicor writes a song about these women and catches superstar media attention. It all comes together for the befuddled brotha – until Tamar attempts to re-enter his life.

Freeman, to his credit, does give a candid male perspective to women living double lives, unbeknownst to their male partners. This behavior does happen, but is it possible that every woman he dates has a female lover? What I also didn’t care for was the explicit sex scenes Nicor had with different (read: a lot) women that didn’t add much value to the story. It offended me that he can denounce down low sistahs for their callousness, but he could sleep with woman after woman with little regard. The disrespect surely goes both ways.

The author does grab your attention – even if it’s the wrong kind.

Reviewed May 2008