My Got a Girlfriend by James Tanner

Publisher/Date: Park Bench Entertainment, May 2011
Genre: Erotica
Pages: 188

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

The Plot: In James Tanner’s MY GIRL GOT A GIRLFRIEND, main character Dontaye, a hustler born from a lesbian pimp and a gay male prostitute, capitalizes on studs and femmes by creating a lesbian brothel. There female customers can purchase illicit services from other women. It earns Dontaye money and respect in the game, something his hard-nosed mother preached to her ambitious son. Meanwhile, Dontaye falls hard for Envy, who’s shadier than a mighty oak in the summertime. Too bad he didn’t listen to Mama about women, because the young pimp finally met his match.

The Good: Not too much was great about My Girl. The sex scenes did generate slight heat; the story moves swiftly. The way it ends, there’s bound to be a sequel.

The Not-So-Good: Where do I begin? Like I said, the sex between women was okay, but repetitive in action. The entire story was narrated by Dontaye, which allowed me to get only in his head; I didn’t care for the view. While he spoils his female employees with material things, these women were sex objects to him; he saw them as a means to success and respect. Not only that, there was nothing captivating about Dontaye; at times, he was mad corny.

The Bottom Line: My Girl Got a Girlfriend is best suited to someone who enjoys unconvincing street lit. Tis all.

Reviewed February 2013

Stud by Sa’id Salaam

Publisher/Date: G Street Chronicles, Aug. 2012
Genre(s):  Bisexual, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 142

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

Head Game by G.D. Ellington and K.J. Thomas

Publisher/Date:  Saviour Publishing Inc., July 2009
Genre(s):  Contemporary Romance, Street Life
Pages:  275

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

You can’t be mad at the antics in G.D. Ellington and K.J. Thomas’ HEAD GAME. It’s the way players play in this novel of love, crime, and deception. The thing to keep in mind is that characters are not always what they seem.

Geneta, for example, is a married business woman living a comfortable, but sexually deprived life. Her husband, Steven, is into lights-off, conservative sex. Tired of her needs being ignored drives her to be satisfied by someone, anyone else.

That’s where Kai comes in. The suave stud catches Geneta’s eye, and like most women in Kai’s life, she can’t resist the appeal of a round the way Brooklyn homeboy with street-wise charm and bedroom appeal. The head of a booming entertainment company, Kai isn’t easily swayed by the many women who want a piece of her.

But something is different about Geneta. After a night at the club, Kai is determined to make the voluptuous beauty her woman. Never mind that she’s married. Kai has a plan for that – and it doesn’t matter who she uses, as long as she gets what she wants.

Geneta, on the other hand, is confused by draw to Kai. What does this mean, that she can be sexually turned on by a woman? And what about her husband, who doesn’t seem to care about his wife’s comings and goings? As the women’s affair escalates, the games get much more complicated for everyone involved.

Head Game is a read in one-sitting book. Lavish sex, gender benders, and crazy twists invest the reader until the very last page. More than anything, I’m ready to see what happens next, because I’m sure a sequel is on the horizon. Geneta and Kai can’t end here.

Reviewed February 2011

Stud Princess, Notorious Vendettas by N’Tyse

Publisher/Date:  A Million Thoughts Publishing, May 2010
Genre(s):  Romance, Street Life, Suspense
Pages: 288

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

Grace After Midnight by Felicia “Snoop” Pearson

Publisher/Date:  Grand Central Publishing, Nov. 2007
Genre(s): Lesbian Real Life, Street Life
Pages:  240

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

“I’m not making excuses and I’m not feeling sorry for myself. Don’t expect you to feel sorry for me either. Just want to tell my story while it’s fresh.”

And so begins GRACE AFTER MIDNIGHT, the striking autobiography of Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, star of the critically acclaimed HBO series, The Wire. In the short but poignant memoir written with David Ritz, Snoop recants her upbringing in the tough streets of Baltimore, the place that both raised and almost killed her.

Born with cross-eyes and crack in her system thanks to a drug-addicted mother, Snoop had much to overcome in the first moments of her life. She was no more than three pounds at birth, but surpassed the grim expectations placed on her. After years in foster care, she was taken in by a loving older couple, Cora and Levi Pearson. They offered her a good home with Christian values and worked to make sure Snoop had a better life.

Yet it didn’t stop her from taking on the streets. By her pre-teens, Snoop had her first taste as runner whose quiet strength took her far in the game. At 12 years old, she was witnessing murders, drug deals, shakedowns, and way too much for a girl her age. One of her mentors, a man known as “Uncle,” took Snoop under his wing and tried to get her abandon her dangerous behavior, but it was too little too late when Snoop ended in the Jessup State Penitentiary at 14 for murder.

Snoop recalls this night in third person and tells the story of how she ended up killing a girl in self-defense. It landed her a six-year sentence for second-degree murder, but ultimately saved her. While there she turned her life around, gaining a new appreciation for doing the right thing. With Uncle’s help, she left there feeling like she could do anything – and quickly found her good intentions weren’t worth much. That is, until she met Michael K. Williams from The Wire, landing the role of a lifetime with no acting experience.

The rest is history.

Snoop’s story is compelling and heart wrenching. You see the innocence of a child wanting her mother and a heart growing cold from rejection. You also glimpse a woman truly turning her life around, trying to obtain the grace after midnight she found in prison. And you also witness a woman true to her sexuality, being openly gay all her life.

For that, she should be applauded. Bravo, Snoop, bravo.

Reviewed May 2008

My Secrets Your Lies by N’Tyse (Mar. 2008 Pick of the Month)

Publisher/Date:  A Million Thoughts Publishing, Mar. 2007
Genre(s):  Romance, Street Life
Pages:  229

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

If you’re looking for a dramatic tale about two scandalous females, then MY SECRETS YOUR LIES will definitely fit the bill.

This delicious novel, written by author N’Tyse, is off the chain. It begins with Sand, a hustla willing to do anything to keep her lady Rene satisfied. Both hitting the streets as teens, out in the cruel world, the two became inseparable. Sand was attracted to Rene’s natural good looks and banging body, while Rene was drawn into the security her stud offered. With a little ingenuity, they manage to hold each other down for the long haul.

Everything changes one day for Rene, though. She feels stifled in her relationship and is tired of being treated differently for being gay. She begins seeing someone new (gasp, a man) behind Sand’s back, spitting more lies than President Bush at a FEMA press conference. Yet, Rene is sure her life would be better with a man as her partner than a woman.

Predictably, Rene soon learns that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. Despite her issues with being gay, she realizes where her heart truly is – with Sand – although it might be too little, too late. Too much has happened between them to go back: infidelity, kidnapping, a baby. Will there be enough love to bring them together?

N’Tyse kept me mesmerized with the love affair between Sand and Rene. My Secrets, while it has some exaggerated drama, is true to the life of some black lesbians. Urban lesbian novels are on the rise in the literary world, and N’Tyse has created one of the better ones. It’s a story I would recommend to both women in the life and straight folks who want to understand what the lifestyle is all about.

You will undoubtedly be schooled.

Reviewed March 2008

London Reign by A.C. Britt

Publisher/Date:  Ghettoheat, Sept. 2007
Genre(s):  Street Life, Young Adult
Pages:  224

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

If your back is against the wall, what do you do? Do you cower in fear or fight back?

If you’re 16-year-old London Walters, the protagonist of LONDON REIGN, you’re both a lover and a fighter. For most of her young life, London has been fighting against everything – living with an alcoholic father, surviving the inner-city Boston streets, being gay and being perceived as a man. Unbeknownst to most women she dates, London is a man trapped in a woman’s body. The love-em-and-leave-em playboy needs a special woman that can handle her and give her a reason to settle down.

London thinks she might have the one – until one night she is forced to leave home. It’s not something she wants, especially since she would have to abandon her little sister, Shantell, whom she always promised to protect. But she leaves anyway, taking a bus ride to Detroit, where she settles with little money and nowhere to stay.

She looks for employment in an auto shop, and runs into the boss’ daughter, Mercedes. London finds her attractive but hesitates because Mercedes is a bitch with a capital B; she doesn’t want to mix business with pleasure. The pair begin dating, yet it comes to a head when Mercedes learns the truth about London’s past. It jeopardizes her job and her well being.

But London’s a hustler, and has never let anyone keep her down for too long.

A.C. Britt’s London Reign takes you into the world of doing what you gotta do to stay alive. London is a real stud-thug, but you see she has heart. Good storytelling is the gift you’ll receive in reading London Reign. You’ll want to know what happens next to the bad boy, and if she makes it out.

Reviewed February 2008

Strapped by Laurinda D. Brown

Publisher/Date:  Urban Books, Oct. 2007
Genre(s):  Romance, Street Life
Pages:  223

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

When it comes to STRAPPED, the latest novel from Laurinda D. Brown, several things come to mind.

Strapped to the childhood pain that carries into adulthood…

Strapped by an identity that you’re not quite sure is you…

Strapped and ready for anything that happens…

All this and more consumes the story of Strapped, which follows Mo from Brown’s 2006 novel, Walk Like a Man. Mo used to be Monique, until a life-changing moment strips her previous feminine identity in favor of the studded-out persona Mo adopts to help her deal. Leaving her family behind, Mo takes on the streets and finds the world accepts her as a man. It gets confusing when she finds love with Laquita, and Mo has to eventually reveal her true self.

Compounding issues is Mo’s mother, Elise, who lives in deep denial about the tragedy’s in both her and Mo’s life. It’s only wearing Mo down when she doesn’t have a mother she can turn to. They each have her own healing to do, especially when Mo’s thuggish ways get her landed in some hot water; she needs her mother more than ever.

Brown’s Strapped has some major issues going on: sexuality, abuse, and parental responsibility. She has clearly channeled Mo’s pain and anger, but also her confusion about her sexuality. It’s a debate many lesbians have had amongst each other: is your sexuality intrinsic or born from childhood tragedy? While many would disavow Mo’s lesbian confusion, Brown paints the picture that this is the reality for some women.

Strap up readers, cause this is definitely a dramatic ride.

Reviewed December 2007