My mother's family is from the South--Kentucky, to be exact. Actually her ancestors came to Florida in the 1600's and were refugees from France when Catherine de Medici was persecuting Protestants after the Reformation. Decades later they moved into the Carolinas and then to Tennessee and eventually to Kentucky--Union County. So I know all about the prejudices that remain embedded in families and communities, and we were always aware that there was an entire society on "the other side of the tracks", no matter which side one lived on. That being said, it is amazing how decades of family history continue to tell of old wounds and old hurts. It was just this way in Brenda Jackson's new novel.
The setting is Hattersville, Ohio, a small community just like hundreds throughout the United States that is having its problems. Some want to keep preserving the "old" while the newer generations want to bring in new policies, new growth, new stuff in general. The families in this story harbor some of the same emotional scars as most families and this novel is about love, sex, revenge, old hurts and angers. And the two main characters are best friends, two African American young women who live on opposite sides of "the tracks." One--Erica-- is from one of Hattersville's most wealthy and prominent families. April was raised by a single mother and she really doesn't know the identity of her father. Yet she is beautiful and she has used her physical assets to rise high in the modeling world. In spite of Erica's family prejudice against April, her family deficiencies, and her lower soci0-economical class, their friendship stays true, no matter what. Erica's mother has tried to get her to marry the son of another prominent family and it just hasn't worked. They are also best friends but they knew long ago that they didn't love each other. Instead, Erica is engaged to be married to a very handsome and successful attorney and their wedding is only weeks away when the novel begins. April has someone she has always loved, but he doesn't know about her feelings. She has kept them safely tucked away most of her life.
This is an involved novel that has some historical mysteries that don't want to be revealed, families that manipulate and pull some fairly evil stunts to accomplish their social goals, and some surprising twists and turns that will keep readers guessing. Erica's relationship with her fiance is seriously put in jeopardy by her own mother for some really convoluted reasons, most of which are rooted in some old beliefs that have assumed the shape of a family curse in the mom's thinking.
Yet, this novel is, in the final analysis, about the tensile strength of a love that "beareth all things, endureth all things." It is about the strength of friendship--a friendship that will not cave in to prejudice or snobbery. And it is novel that warms the heart as the reader is brought into the inner circle of relationships that are loving, sexy, enduring, and whose participants think highly of one another and of the authenticity of their love that they are willing to fight for their future together.
Ms Jackson has a list of published works that is quite impressive, and she continues to give readers stories of African-American individuals and families that help all of us appreciate the richness they bring to our culture and society. Some of her novels are better than others, and I happen to think this is one of her really good ones. I was fascinated with the family "curse" and the mystery that surrounded it. I think I read the book in one sitting. There are many layers to the story and some very colorful characters. The reader has to exercise some brain power to keep the story in mind as the various scenes shift--what good fiction should be.
So I recommend this to Brenda Jackson fans, romance fans, or those who have never read one of her stories. I think most of you will find it to be a worthwhile use of your time. I give it a 4.25 out of 5 rating.
This novel was released on 22 February 2011 by Harlequin/Kimani Press.