It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
***Special thanks to Mallika Dattatreya and Ashley Hewlett of Touchstone/Fireside Publicity Simon & Schuster, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***
Victoria Christopher Murray always knew she would become an author, even as she was taking an unlikely path to that destination. A native of Queens, Victoria first left New York to attend Hampton University where she majored in Communication Disorders. After graduating, Victoria attended New York University where she received her MBA.
Victoria spent ten years in Corporate America before she tested her entrepreneurial spirit. She opened a Financial Services Agency for Aegon, USA where she managed the number one division for nine consecutive years. However, Victoria never lost the dream to write and when the “bug” hit her again in 1997, she answered the call.
Victoria originally self published Temptation. “I wanted to write a book as entertaining as any book on the market, put God in the middle, and have the book still be a page-turner. I wasn’t writing to any particular genre – I didn’t even know Christian fiction existed. I just wanted to write about people I knew and characters I could relate to.”
In 2000, Time Warner published Temptation. Temptation made numerous best sellers list and remained on the Essence bestsellers list for nine consecutive months. In 2001, Temptation was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in Outstanding Literature.
Since Temptation, Victoria has written six other novels: JOY, Truth Be Told, Grown Folks Business, A Sin and a Shame, The Ex Files, and Too Little, Too Late. She was a contributor to the first Christian fiction anthology, Blessed Assurance and the Contributing Editor for the Aspire Women of Color Bible published by Zondervan. All of her novels have continued to be Essence bestsellers. In addition, Victoria has received numerous awards including the Golden Pen Award for Best Inspirational Fiction and the Phyllis Wheatley Trailblazer Award for being the pioneer in African American Christian Fiction. In 2008, Victoria won the African American Literary Award for best novel (Too Little, Too Late) and Female Author of the Year.
In 2008, Victoria’s first novels in her Christian fiction teen series – The Divine Divas – were published. “I was concerned with what our young ladies were reading. I decided to do something about that – give them stories full of drama, but with a message.” The Divine Divas has already been optioned to become a television series.
Victoria splits her time between Los Angeles and Washington D.C. In Los Angeles, she attends Bible Enrichment Fellowship International Church under the spiritual tutelage of Dr. Beverly “BAM” Crawford and in Washington, D.C., she fellowships at Metropolitan Baptist Church under Dr. H. Beecher Hicks, Jr. She is also a member of the Long Beach Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Visit the author’s website.
List Price: $15.00
Paperback: 379 pages
Publisher: Touchstone; Original edition (June 1, 2010)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Jasmine scooped her toddler into her arms. “You do love your mama, don’t you?” She laughed.
Mae Frances rolled her eyes as Jasmine smothered her son’s cheeks with kisses.
“Don’t make no kind of sense, Jasmine Larson,” her best friend said. “Teaching that baby to say that.”
“What’s wrong with him loving his mama?” But before Mae Frances could answer, Jasmine stood straight up and scanned the crowd that packed the new mall. In just seconds, her gaze locked on her daughter, crouched in front of the pet store window. “Jacqueline!”
The girl’s brown curls bounced when she jumped up, startled, and skipped back to Jasmine and Mae Frances.
With a firm hand, Jasmine grasped her daughter’s wrist. “I told you to stay where Nama and I could see you.”
Jacqueline bowed her head. “But Mama,” she sighed, “I could see you.”
“Well, I couldn’t see you, so why don’t you sit down for a moment and cool off,” Jasmine said as she wiped the thin line of perspiration that dampened her daughter’s hairline.
“I’m not hot,” Jacqueline protested. It was the look on her mother’s face that made Jacqueline wiggle onto the bench next to Mae Frances. With her eyes on Jasmine, she buried her head on the shoulder of the woman who, years before, had been nothing more than a friend of the family, but was now so close to the Bushes that Jacqueline thought of her as her grandmother. When Mae Frances put her arms around Jacqueline, the girl glared at Jasmine as if she never planned to love her again.
Jasmine shook her head, then her eyes widened when her rambunctious daughter rolled her eyes.
No, she didn’t.
Jacqueline had never done that before, and Jasmine opened her mouth to scold her, then just as quickly changed her mind. When her daughter peeked back at her, Jasmine rolled her eyes. Jacqueline giggled, and Jasmine laughed, too. But when Jacqueline moved to get up again, Jasmine stared her back down.
Jacqueline pouted and bounced hard against the back of the bench, but the silent tantrum didn’t faze Jasmine. She planned to let her four-year-old (or fourteen-year-old, depending on the day) sit and think about how she’d run off.
“Are you ready to go home?” Mae Frances grumbled.
As Christmas Muzak piped through speakers above, Jasmine realized this trip to the mall wasn’t the best idea she’d ever had. But how could she have missed this day?
The new Harlem mall had been open for only two weeks, and this was the first big shopping day of the season; she had to make her own contribution to Black Friday. Now as she looked at Mae Frances and Jacqueline–a set of ornery twins, with their arms folded and their lips poked out–she wished she had thought this all the way through. Because if she had, she would have come alone.
“I wanna go home, too!” Jacqueline exclaimed, as if she was in charge of something.
Looking at her son, Jasmine shook her head. “You don’t want to go home, do you, Zaya?” she asked, calling him by the name that Jacqueline had given to him two years ago when he had been born. Hosea had been too difficult for her to say, and no one wanted to call him Junior.
“No, no, no!” Zaya followed his mother’s lead before he toddled over to his sister. “Yaki, Yaki, Yaki!” He called her by his own made-up name.
Mae Frances sucked her teeth and tightened the collar of the thirty-five-year-old mink that she loved. “Don’t make no kind of sense, the way you manipulate that boy.”
“He’s my baby. He’s supposed to be manipulated.”
“Get away from me, Zaya!” Jacqueline exclaimed, and pushed the toddler away.
“Don’t do that to your brother,” Jasmine scolded.
Jacqueline stood up, put one hand on her side as if she had hips, and, with the other, squeezed her nose. “He! Stinks!”
Jasmine sniffed, then hoisted her son up into her arms. “Your sister’s right.” She grabbed the diaper bag from the stroller and reached for Jacqueline’s hand. “Come on, we’ve got to change Zaya’s diaper.”
Jacqueline folded her arms and sat back down next to Mae Frances. “I don’t wanna go.” With a pout, she pointed toward the pet store. “I wanna see the puppies.”
“We’ll see the puppies after,” Jasmine said, still reaching for her daughter.
“Leave her with me.” Mae Frances put her arms around Jacqueline. “No need for her to have to go with you when I’m here.”
Jasmine’s hesitation waned after just a moment. “Stay right there next to Nama,” she demanded sternly. “And then we’ll go see the puppies, okay?”
Jacqueline nodded as she scooted back on the bench. With wide eyes and an even wider smile, she blew Jasmine a kiss. “I love you, Mama.”
Jasmine laughed. Her precious little girl–always the drama queen.
Inside the restroom, Jasmine twisted through the long line of waiting women, and as she made her way to the changing station, her cell phone rang. But just as she pulled her phone from her bag, it stopped.
She glanced at the screen. “That was your daddy,” she told her son as she laid him on his back.
He giggled and reached for her cell.
“No,” she said, taking it from his grasp.
His laughter stopped. His bottom lip trembled. His body began to shake. And before the first shriek came, the phone was back in Zaya’s hands.
“Love Mama,” Zaya cooed as he pushed buttons.
Jasmine laughed. God had blessed her with a drama queen and a drama king.
That thought made her pause in wonder. Who would have ever thought that she–Jasmine Cox Larson Bush–would end up in this place? She–the ex-stripper, ex-man stealer, ex-liar, cheater, thief. The jealous girl who’d done everything she could to sabotage the success of her best friend, Kyla. The unsatisfied wife who’d badgered her first husband until he’d finally left her.
The lonely woman who lived to tear husbands away from their wives. There was hardly a sin that she hadn’t committed. But that life, those abominations, were far behind her.
Today, she was a proud wife and mother–the first lady of one of the most influential churches in the city. Today, her life was filled with leisure–it was difficult to call the work she did as first lady and the time she spent with the Young Adults Ministry a job. Today, each of her needs and every one of her desires were met. And she had a Central Park South apartment, a closet full of endless racks of designer clothes, and an upcoming New Year’s family vacation in Cannes to prove it.
This life was God’s reward for her having turned away from her transgressions. As she glanced at her reflection in the mirror, her lips spread into a slow smile. Bountiful blessings. All she could say was, “Thank you, Father.”
Seconds later, Zaya was back on her hip, her cell was back in her bag, and she was back in the mall. But then, her steps became measured as she moved toward Mae Frances. Her friend’s head was down as she pushed buttons on her cell.
Jasmine’s voice was as deep as her frown as she yelled, “Mae Frances?”
She looked up. “Did you just call me?”
Jasmine let the diaper bag slip down her arm. “Where’s Jacquie?”
Mae Frances waved her hands. “She’s right over there. With the puppies. Did you just call me?”
Before Mae Frances had finished, Jasmine’s eyes were searching the crowd. With Zaya still in her arms, she pushed through the mass of men and women, arms filled with packages, children close at their sides.
“Where’s Jacquie?” The question trembled from her lips to a young boy in front of the pet store. “The little girl who was here–where is she?”
His face was pressed against the glass as he answered, “She’s gone.”
There was no time to question him further. A woman, two giant steps away, grabbed the boy’s hand.
“Didn’t I tell you not to talk to strangers?” the woman admonished as she dragged the boy from the window.
Jasmine’s eyes were wide as she spun around, clutching Zaya to her chest, searching the space around her. It had been only a minute, but terror was already crawling up and down her skin.
“Jacquie!” she screamed through the holiday din.
She tried to keep herself in check as she gripped Zaya and barged through the pet store’s doors. The stench of the animals did nothing to cover the fear that was already surging from her pores.
“Jacquie!” she shouted. She kept telling herself that this was nothing: Jacqueline had just wandered off.
Pressing up one aisle, then rushing down the next, she hunted through the crowd.
“Jacquie!” she yelled.
Jasmine grabbed a pink-apron-wearing teenager who was crouched down in front of the cages. “Please,” she said to the young man, obviously one of the store’s employees. “Have you seen my daughter?”
The blond spiked-hair boy glanced at Jasmine and then looked around the store, his expression telling Jasmine that her question didn’t make much sense to him. “There’ve been a lot of kids here today,” he answered before he returned to feeding the kittens.
“Jacquie!” she screamed one last time as she rushed back through the doors.
Outside, in the middle of the passing crowd, Jasmine turned slowly, exploring each face, searching every space.
Her distress went unnoticed; the holiday shoppers were
buried under their own cares.
“Jacquie!” Now her heart banged against her chest.
Both she and Zaya were crying by the time she hurried back to the bench. In the eyes of the woman she called her friend, Jasmine saw the same unadulterated horror that was in her heart.
“Where’s Jacquie?” she screamed at Mae Frances.
Mae Frances shook her head. “She . . . she was . . . right there,” she cried as she pointed back to the store.
But Jasmine didn’t bother to turn around. She didn’t need to look at the store or anywhere else in the mall. Because in the space inside of her where truth lay, she knew.
As “Joy to the World” squeaked out from the speakers above, Jasmine knew that her daughter was gone.
If I had been in the store looking at books and came across this one, chances are I wouldn’t have bought this book. But, upon reading it, I was rather pleased with the story. It is a story that will tug your heart, pull you in from the start and not let you go until the end. Literally. I read this book in a day. It is an easy read, though filled with lots of emotions from heartache, to happiness, to spiritaul issues.
I will say that in this book there is talk of lots of sin, as well as a few R rated scenes (nothing too illicit though!) and could be considered questionable along the Christian line. I’m not talking about just a curse word here or there. It’s a story line that shows a young mother who has lead a life of wrong choices and sins, but, she over came those struggles and found the Lord, wanting to live a better life. Added to this is the suspense that Murray uses to really capture the reader. I wanted to find out what happened next and it left me unable to put it down. I remember feeling alot of the same things that Jasmine felt…but I also remember God’s love an grace when MY sins were washed away. That message of His love and saving grace is strong throughout.
So, with Murray’s wonderful seasoned talent, I suggest you get this book. It is a 4 star book worthy of praises and recommendations. Two thumbs up to Victoria Christopher Murray for creating a story that has a powerful ,powerful message from God!