Tag Archives: African Americans

Tyora Moody. When Perfection Fails. Wyandanch, NY: Urban Fiction, 2014.

whenperfectionReverend Jonathan Freeman and his wife Lenora have been married for twenty years and they are the couple that other couples look up to in Charlotte, North Carolina. Lenora owns her own bridal shop where she plans extravagant weddings and provides the wedding dresses. Her husband Jonathan is just as successful, and has recently became the pastor of Victory Gospel Church. Victory Gospel Church was his father’s church and is one of the premier black churches in Charlotte. With the passing of the elder Reverend Freeman, Jonathan has inherited the church and responsibilities that come along with being the pastor of a prominent church family. However, there is even more greatness in store for Jonathan. The mayor has asked that Jonathan run for Charlotte City Council District 2 seat. The lives these two lead seem like ones to envy, but outsiders don’t get to see the turmoil that takes place behind closed doors.

Jonathan is struggling with his new role as pastor of a “mega-church,” and whether to take the mayor up on running for the city council seat. He hasn’t even brought it up with Lenora yet as he knows that she is busy adjusting to becoming the first lady of such a big church. Jonathan just doesn’t know if his marriage will be able withstand an entrance into politics. When Lenora learns of Jonathan’s political aspirations from another source, will she stand by his side as their family is pulled even more into the spotlight?

Lenora is dealing with her own secret – a secret that has been buried for decades. Lenora feels the strain that her marriage has taken and knows that revealing this secret will only place more burdens upon her relationship with her husband. Nevertheless, when faced with the reality that keeping this secret is threatening her life and her family, Lenora knows she must come clean in order to protect the man she has loved for years and the blessed life that God has given her. Will Lenora’s revelation cause more harm to her family and her relationship with her husband than keeping the secret? Is Jonathan willing to stand with Lenora just as he constantly requires her to stand with him?

When Perfection Fails is the third novel in the Victory Gospel Series. If you are new to the series, check out our blog post on the first novel, When Rain Falls.

Check out this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Mecklenburg, Moody, Tyora, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

LaToya Hankins. SBF Seeking … Glen Allen, VA: JMS Books, 2012.

sbfAt twenty-five, Yvette Thurman seems to have her life mapped out.  She’s a journalist for a statewide magazine based in Raleigh, she has a nice circle of friends, and she’s engaged to marry a good-looking, stable man she’s known since college.  But Yvette is restless.  Not really knowing what it is that’s bothering her, she decides she’d like a little sexual fling–with a white man.  An ad on a dating site leads her to a willing partner.  It’s a nothing-special experience, but from it Yvette learns that she is just not ready to get married.

Yvette’s mother and her twin sister support her decision, as do her friends who go out of their way to include Yvette in the fun–and drama–of their lives.  But it’s not until a co-worker’s sister and her partner move into Yvette’s apartment complex that Yvette begins to reconsider how she’s always thought her life would be.  Yvette soon spends a good bit of her free time with Erica and Linda–especially Linda–and finds herself opening up to romantic relationship with another woman.  SBF Seeking follows Yvette during three years in which her heart leads her down a unexpected new path.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Hankins, LaToya, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship, Wake

Michele Andrea Bowen. Pastor Needs a Boo. New York: St. Martin’s, 2014.

pastorneedsabooReverend Denzelle Flowers is faced with a tough dilemma when three of his parishioners in New Jerusalem Gospel United Church in Raleigh, North Carolina lose their jobs. What can he do to help his flock? The only thing Denzelle can think of is to use money from the Pastor’s Aid fund. But, that money can only be used to fund activities for the Pastor’s Aid Club. Reinstating this club may be difficult since the past head of the organization, Mrs. Clara Mae Davidson, did not leave church members with a fond memory of her or the Pastor’s Aid Club. Nonetheless, re-instituting the club will solve the employment problem for these three parishioners and also help Denzelle to get started on his newest endeavor. However, for that to happen, Veronica Washington, Keisha Jackson, and Marsha Metcalf must be willing to serve on the committee. Convincing the three ladies that running the Pastor’s Aid Club is a worthy cause isn’t easy, but Denzelle gets them on board. The turning factor is that they’ll actually be helping run Reverend Flowers’ campaign for bishop.

Pastor Denzelle may have solved the problem of jobs for his unemployed church members, but he has another problem on his hands. This problem comes in the form of the lovely Marsha Metcalf. How in the world is he supposed to fight the desire to turn in his playah’s card and “get “booed” up” with the epitome of a Proverbs 31 woman? Denzelle hasn’t slept around since getting saved and rededicating his life to the Lord, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to put his heart into the hands of one woman for the rest of his life. He did that once and ended up with a woman who was a bigger player than he ever was.

Reverend Flowers has some experience running away from what God has planned for him. As a young man, Denzelle pledged Kappa Alpha Psi in college and enjoyed great times with his fraternity brothers filled with drinking, beautiful women and anything else a handsome young man could get into. When God called on him to become a preacher, Denzelle instead wanted to go after his dream of becoming an FBI agent. Denzelle did get his dream of becoming an FBI agent but also found out that you can’t run from God and ended up a preacher as well. He soon retired and focused on pastoring. But, Denzelle hadn’t fully mastered the ability to hear and follow the plan the God has for his life. Denzelle married a gorgeous woman named Tatiana, against the advice of those who cared for him. Tatiana outplayed the playah and actually cheated on Denzelle; it turns out that she was just a gold digger who doesn’t have the ability to love anyone but herself. Now in his forties, you would think Denzelle knows better than to think he can set God’s plans aside until he’s ready to follow them. Yet, this pastor is avoiding the virtuous woman that God has placed in his path as if  she’s a snake in the grass.

Nevertheless, Marsha isn’t Denzelle’s biggest difficulty. He will face a multitude of obstacles in his run for bishop. Denzelle has made enemies among the corrupt clergy who will do anything to have their candidate win the one bishop spot that is coming open. Their plotting consists of imposing a new rule that would make it impossible for a divorced preacher to become bishop. Also, Denzelle’s ex-wife is back in the game and sleeping with Denzelle’s enemies in the hopes of gaining power and prestige for herself, as well as hurting Denzelle along the way. With enemies surrounding him, Denzelle needs a “boo” to stand by his side. Will Denzelle be able to put aside his playah’s card and fear of a good woman in order to receive the blessing God has planned for him?

Pastor Needs a Boo is a funny and exciting tale of what can go on in the African American church scene. The author keeps it real, but also tasteful, in this story of a smooth Kappa man and ex-FBI agent turned preacher and the spurned but still faith-filled woman God has made for him.

Check out this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Bowen, Michele Andrea, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship, Wake

Sherry Richburg. Love, Lies and Betrayal. Denver, CO: Outskirts Press, 2009.

lovelies&betrayal In this novel, we follow our protagonist, known on the streets as India, from age twelve until her mid-20s. Early on in the tale India, at age fourteen, leaves home for the streets and a reckless lifestyle. India immerses herself in a world of drugs by dating one of the most well-known drug dealers in the area, having no qualms about using her womanly wiles to get what she wants. By doing so, India quickly becomes widely known and respected on the streets. But, she hides all of this from her family. India claims to be living with her best friend when she is actually living with a man fifteen years older than her.

Throughout the novel India is confronted with the challenges her lifestyle brings about and she must make some tough decisions. However, she continually displays her strength and determination to be her own woman and run things her way. Everything seems to be going great for India; she has dodged several violent episodes and many confrontations with the law, even while others of her team are brought down. Then one day someone tries to rob her crew and everything goes downhill from there. Was it someone they trusted? Will India be able to overcome this challenge as she has done all others? Will her well-built team support her or turn on her?

Love, Lies and Betrayal is based on a true story and provides an explicit look into India’s lifestyle.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library Catalog

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Piedmont, Richberg, Sherry, Urban Fiction, Wake

Shelia P. Moses. The Sittin’ Up. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014.

The Sittin' UpStanbury “Bean” Jones Jr. is excited to take part in his first “sittin’ up.” Now that he’s twelve, his parents agree that he’s old enough to be a part of the custom. A “sittin’ up” is equivalent to a wake. Novelist Shelia P. Moses explains in an author’s note that this tradition occurred in the town of Rich Square, North Carolina because after embalming, the undertaker would not keep the bodies of deceased black townspeople, so they were taken home the night before the funeral. The ritual of bringing the body home was phased out over time, however, the ritual of gathering of family and friends to honor the deceased remained.  A “sittin’ up,” according to Moses, is held for the sake of living, to comfort those left behind and suffering from the loss of loved ones.

The year is 1940, and the people of Low Meadows are still struggling with the economic fallout of the Great Depression. The novel opens with Bro. Wiley on his death bed. At the ripe old age of about 100, Bro. Wiley is at peace that his death is drawing near. He is ready to join his forebears in the so-called “Slave Grave.” That sentiment is not shared with the rest of the community. News of Bro. Wiley’s passing weighs heavy with grief and sadness.

Although Bean is interested in the prospect of participating in his first “sittin’ up,” he feels regret that Bro. Wiley had to die. The novel focuses upon the process of preparing for Bro. Wiley’s sittin’ up. What should normally be a routine custom though goes awry with an impending storm that threatens to disrupt arrangements for the sittin’ up. No matter the forecast, Bro Wiley’s sittin’ up ends up being a transformative experience for Bean and the rest of Low Meadows.

Moses’ story is driven by characters, their culture, and a strong sense of place. She covers plenty of ground in 226 pages. The Sittin’ Up addresses a number of small-scale community dynamics from the local outcasts like the town drunk, Real Kill, and Florenza, a flirty bootlegger who is busy making sweet eyes at Reverend Hornbuckle, to tensions between Bean’s father Stanbury and his lazy, lying brother-in-law, Uncle Goat. The novel touches upon historical elements like the enduring effects of the Great Depression and the economic and social environment of sharecropping. Moses also creates additional tension with the town school teacher, Mr. Creecy, who refuses to excuse his students, and Mr. Thomas Wiley, the landowner who wants the children to stay home and harvest crops. Racial tensions between whites and blacks are featured.

Moses balances death and tragedy with life and new beginnings, and she explores the close bond between Bean and his friend Martha Rose “Pole” Cofield, and Bean’s maturation as a young adult. Moses includes an author note at the conclusion of the book, referenced at the beginning of this post. Read it first (there aren’t any spoilers) because it gives great context to the novel and it shows Moses’ personal experience as a native of Rich Square, North Carolina. In 2008, UNC-TV featured Moses on a half-hour Bookwatch segment. Read past blog posts on Moses’ work here.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Children & Young Adults, Coastal Plain, Historical, Moses, Shelia P., Northampton

Monique Miller. Redemption Lake. New York: Kensington Books, 2012.

Redemption LakeAnd it was all relative when she thought about it; a person’s perception was truly their reality.

Marriage is a two-way street, and it takes plenty of effort and patience to resolve disputes and stave off conflict. Problems can erupt from a single source and branch off to create additional complications. Often, it’s tough to definitively pinpoint who is right and who is wrong. Redemption Lake covers three couples struggling to support their marriages. The spouses here have been pushed so far they can barely manage to talk to each other without contempt or anger, let alone hear what the other person is saying.

Readers of Miller’s work will recognize Phillip and Shelby Tomlinson, characters from her first novel, Secret Sisterhood. In Secret Sisterhood, Shelby and Phillip confronted their marital difficulties. After attending a marriage counseling retreat and helping with the couples’ ministry, Phillip has been tasked with leading a week-long retreat at a mountain resort for three couples, and Shelby has come along to help. Phillip is worried that he isn’t skilled enough to facilitate effective communication between the couples and guide them through their problems to a successful resolution. Based on the general profiles of each couple, this isn’t going to be an easy week for anyone.

Charlotte Knight has been collecting proof of her husband Xavier’s infidelities meticulously. She knows, in secret, that Xavier visits a number of diverse sources to stray, from the Internet to a neighbor down the street. The news of her positive STD test was the final piece of evidence that pushed her over the edge. Beryl Highgate is fed up with her lazy husband Travis. He promises to find a job and pull his weight, but he never delivers. She’s exhausted from taking care of their children, their finances, and him. Something has to change. Beryl can’t take his excuses any longer. Pastor George Jones was surprised and embarrassed to learn of his wife Nina’s hidden gambling problem. Recently, he’s found out that her addiction has affected not only their finances, but also those of his church in Greenville, North Carolina. He has to find a remedy before her gambling destroys both of their lives.

Phillip knows that there are always three sides to any story: “his side, her side, and the truth.” Novelist Monique Miller structured Redemption Lake so that readers will see the stories of the three couples from all angles. The novel is organized with brief prologue documenting the surface grievances of each couple. The remainder is largely broken up in chapters that rotate between the three husbands and Phillip, followed by the three wives and Shelby. Miller concludes with “the truth” as seen through Phillip’s eyes, observing the end of the retreat and the final outcomes among the couples. Miller doesn’t gloss over her characters and write a neat, happy ending for every couple. She sticks closer to the side of realism, where sometimes things work out but sometimes things are too far gone to fix.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under Coastal Plain, Miller, Monique, Mountains, Pitt, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

J. J. Murray. A Good Man. New York: Kensington Books, 2013.

goodmanSonya Richardson likes a quiet life.  After ten years in the WNBA and some wise investments, Sonya has a nice income stream and a lovely home in Charlotte. But she’s living in that big house by herself and feeling a bit lonely and bored.  Out of the blue, her publicist calls to ask her to star in  “Hunk or Punk,” a reality TV show in which a bachelorette must pick a partner from dozen men vying for her hand.  Sonya knows better than to get involved, but when her publicist signs the contract, Sonya has no choice but to be “the Nubian princess” at the center of the show.

But Sonya is her own person.  Her unscripted behavior–taking off her uncomfortable shoes in the first episode, the odd “challenges” she gives the men, her unwillingness to dump suitors on schedule–make for interesting viewing. And Sonya is not the only surprisingly element in the show.  John Bond, a widower from Burnt Corn, Alabama, is the token white suitor.  John is an assistant deacon at the AME church in Burnt Corn, a deeply religious man who has been mourning his late wife for fifteen years.  He and Sonya connect in ways that the producers could not anticipate.

A Good Man takes readers behind the scene of reality TV with funny situations and crisp dialogue. It’s clear that Sonya and John are strangers in that strange land, but their faith and their self-knowledge guide them, and even some of the people around them, to a true happily-ever-after.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Mecklenburg, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Monique Miller. Secret Sisterhood. Deer Park, NY: Urban Books, 2010.

Secret SisterhoodInfertility can be all-consuming. It’s a devastating setback for couples ready to start their families. Novelist Monique Miller writes a story of three women from different backgrounds united by their struggles with infertility.

At first Shelby Tomlinson loved her job as a registered nurse with the Silvermont Women’s Center. Her patients’ happiness at their good news rubbed off on Shelby. She felt excited to come to work in such a positive atmosphere. That elation has fizzled out ever since Shelby and her husband Phillip started trying for a baby. They’ve tried for two years without any luck. Now, whenever Shelby deals with prenatal patients their good fortune depresses her. Suddenly, she feels a stronger bond with the patients who suffer from infertility too. However, her anxiety attacks, a lifelong problem, are increasing and Phillip has been distant whenever she broaches the topic of children. Shelby can’t figure out his odd behavior. Does he have a secret he’s hiding? In the face of all this stress, Shelby manages to find some hope when a patient struggling with infertility gets pregnant. Maybe Shelby still stands a chance at beating her infertility.

Crystal Shaw wants to open a day care center of her own one day. She also wants to have a baby, but it doesn’t look like that dream is going to come true any time soon. Crystal is envious of the pregnant women around her, especially those who don’t seem worthy in her eyes. Everyone around her is getting pregnant, including her sister Shanice, who already has a baby with another man and refuses to work, relying on public assistance and her “Man of the Quarter” instead.  Crystal is tired of breezily claiming that she’s not quite ready for kids. Even her work toward establishing a day care center is difficult. Spending all her time around children only reminds Crystal how she and her husband Warren, her childhood sweetheart, haven’t been able to conceive despite trying for years. Crystal starts thinking how nice a desk job might be so she could stop confronting the harsh reality of her childlessness.

When she was young, Vivian Parker made a promise to her grandmother, Eva – a promise that she has managed to fulfill, and then some. Eva emphasized the importance of an education as a priceless investment. Once Vivian earned an education, she insisted, it could never be taken away. After Eva passed away, Vivian focused all her energy on her grades and her career. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s, eventually becoming a successful and esteemed architect with careful planning and hard work. But she’s behind on her plans for her personal life. By thirty she assumed she would be married, and then a child or two would follow shortly thereafter. Instead, Vivian didn’t get married until thirty-eight. Her husband Roland is the CEO of the company Vivian works for. Together, they’re a powerful couple professionally. But now that they’re more serious about having a baby, they learn that even though they can bankroll expensive procedures like in vitro fertilization, they still might not be able to fight time.

Faith is a central element to Secret Sisterhood. Shelby, Crystal, and Vivian turn to their religion to strengthen themselves in the midst of hardships. Miller breaks the story up, chapter by chapter, alternating the perspectives of the three main characters, although she also creates some areas of overlap and interconnection between the women during their journey to become mothers.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Miller, Monique, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Monique Miller. Nobody’s Angel. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2013.

nobodyCi Ci Jackson really is no angel.  As soon as she finished high school she jumped into a hasty marriage to a man who had no intention of being a steady husband to her and father to their children.  When that marriage broke up and Ci Ci lost custody of her children, she left rural Duplin County heading for the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, planning to start over.

And start over she did–with a new name, a new husband, and the habit of weighing all relationships based on what she can get out of them.  But she still carries a lot of hurt and anger from her earlier life and this spills out from time-to-time.  As Nobody’s Angel opens, Ci Ci (now calling herself Morgan Tracy) is about to be arrested for attempting to murder her new husband, Will.  While in jail awaiting trial, another prisoner, Desiree, offers Ci Ci/Morgan her friendship and Will visits to say that he has forgiven her, but she rebuffs their kindnesses and the religious sentiments attached to them.  Once she is again a free woman, Morgan resumes her ways, searching with a cold determination for the things that money can buy and a man to provide them.  Only when she meets her match does she come to realize that the path that Desiree, Will, and their church friends follow is the better way.

Nobody’s Angel is the latest book in Miller’s series of novels set in on near the fiction city of Silvermont, North Carolina.  For the earlier novel in the series, see The Marrying Kind and Quiet As It’s Kept.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Miller, Monique, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Monique Miller. Quiet as It’s Kept. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2011.

Quiet as It's KeptA pretty face, a great body, and a chaste attitude? Morgan Tracy seems too good to be true. Her new husband Will can’t believe his good luck in landing his dream woman. He wonders if Morgan was a god-sent blessing — after all they first met at church. Following a quick romance, Will and Morgan raced to the altar and immediately, but by accident, welcomed a baby son named Isaiah nine months after their wedding. Will doesn’t mind the jump from husband to husband and father. He’s elated when he sets eyes on newborn Isaiah. But there’s trouble lingering over him that casts a dark cloud over his happiness. Three weeks before Isaiah was born, Will got laid off from his successful, six-figure job.

Afraid that he might upset Morgan during the end of her three-month long bed rest, Will decides to delay sharing the unfortunate information with his wife who has been increasingly moody during her pregnancy. Besides, Will is hopeful that he will secure another job before he has to tell Morgan the bad news. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, Will struggles to find a position to replace his lost income.

With Will’s unemployment, Morgan is forced to support the Tracy household, which she reminds Will every day. Seven months after Isaiah’s birth, Will is still out of a job and Morgan is just as temperamental as she was during her pregnancy. But Will attributes her continued sourness to stress at work and their financial strain. He spends his days and nights caring for Isaiah and searching desperately for a job. The toll of his marital discontent in addition to his unemployment and his constant work as a temporary stay-at-home-dad has weighed heavily on Will.

Will accepts more than his fair share of the blame for Morgan’s hostile attitude and her snide behavior toward him. Since being laid off, it seems that Will can’t make Morgan happy. Anything from his attempt to revise the family budget to leaving lights on around the house sets Morgan off.  But when her behavior grows suspicious and even dangerous, Will questions his wife’s intentions. After a few strange accidents, Will realizes that he doesn’t know all that much about his wife’s background. She’s remained closemouthed on the details of her home town and her deceased parents. Maybe Morgan Tracy is too good to be true.

Novelist Monique Miller covers topics of domestic violence, female-on-male violence, and childhood abuse. Miller’s story emphasizes Christian faith. Will is a devout Christian who attends church regularly and prays about the difficulties and troubles in his life. Although tested, Will’s faith is one element that helps him through his ordeal of unemployment, fatherhood, and marital strife. Quiet as It’s Kept delivers plenty of suspense and an interesting twist on a familiar plot line about abuse and deception. Miller is a North Carolina native who graduated from North Carolina Central University and resides in the Raleigh/Durham area.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Miller, Monique, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Suspense/Thriller