Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sinners & Saints With Devilish Delight

Rachel Jackson Adams, first lady of the Houston-based Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church, could barely keep her composure when she first learned that her husband, Rev. Lester Adams, would be the Southern region nominee to lead the American Baptist Coalition. It was the largest African-American religious organization in the nation.

He was sure to win. And the only thing more exciting than seeing him win was knowing that she would become first lady of the American Baptist Coalition, a position of prestige that came with invitations to White House dinners, the Grammys, and television talk shows like The View.

Rachel would have been right too. But 1,600 miles away, another first lady was having the same vision. Jasmine Larson Bush, married to Pastor Hosea Bush and first lady of the City of Lights Church in New York City, had just received a call. Disenchanted with the slate of nominees that the Northern region had received, Pastor Earl Griffith urged Pastor Bush to submit his resume.

Unlike Lester Adams, however, Hosea Bush seems a little less certain about even bothering to run. And Jasmine knows, right then and there, she needs more than divine intervention to make sure he doesn't let the opportunity pass by. She needs her friend, Mae Francis. Mae knows everyone.

Sinners & Saints: A Novel is a blistering political smackdown without gloves.

Given the street smart backgrounds of both feisty characters — Jasmine, created by Victoria Christopher Murray, and Rachel, created by ReShonda Tate Billingsley — the collaboration has drawn some exceptionally curious categorizations, ranging from romance to urban fiction. It's neither.

Sinners & Saints: A Novel is as fiery as a political campaign without any of the boredom of political bias. On the front end, there is nothing but two ambitious women who are equally eager to plow a path to victory for their infinitely more humble husbands. Simply stated: They are in it to win it.

Never mind that Jasmine Bush and Rachel Adams have graced the pages of four and three novels, respectively. Anyone can pick up this collaboration and immediately fall in with the mischievous women. From the onset, it's almost like reading two authors sitting down for a chess match, each attempting to out plot the other as their respective heroines amuse, frustrate, shock, and surprise each other.

Cancel transportation reservations from the airport? Check. Bait with innuendo and subtle insult to illicit a primal reaction? Check. Make wild promises that may or not be kept? Check. Dig up dirt and throw stones from glass houses? Check. Suck up to influencers to curry favors? Check. Ambush someone with a face from a more promiscuous past? Check. Frame someone for a crime they didn't commit? Check. And all of it, unbelievably, is only a warm up.

The two women become so embroiled in one-upping each other, that neither one of them is quick to see that there are other conspiracies underfoot. Not everyone, not even their respective allies, have either woman's best interests or the interests of the American Baptist Coalition at heart.

Two talented award-winning writers tell a remarkably fluid page turner.

Victoria Christopher Murray is the author of nine bestselling novels, six-time winner of the African-American Literary Award for Fiction, and recently named Author of the Year (Female). Although she always knew she would become an author, the Queens native first opened and managed a financial services agency for ten years before she returned to writing. Today, she divides her time between writing and speaking in Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

ReShonda Tate Billingsley is a bestselling author of 21 titles (both adult and teen novels) and her work has landed as a #1 national bestseller more than once. Although she always enjoyed making up stories and crafting poetry, the former Texas-based television and radio news reporter still works as a journalist, speaker, and radio talk show host in between writing novels, including one that won the Gold Pen Award.

Together, they turned in one of the finest collaborations between two authors using existing, well-defined characters. In some instances, there are character similarities as if they were cut from the same cloth. And in others, their differences, including age and wisdom, set them apart. Even their husbands, especially if you heard either women tell it, are content in who they are and who they serve.

Sinners & Saints by Murray and Billingsley Riles 9.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

While the book sometimes carries enough comedic drama to make the characters feel younger and more soapish than they really are, Murray and Billingsley succeed in delivering a genre buster that anyone might enjoy. There are parallels to political drama, comedic satire, mystery, and crime woven throughout.

And yet, anyone who has spent any time near a political campaign or organizational shakeup will immediately recognize the lengths people might go to win an election. As unbelievable as the book sounds at times, those who know can attest that truth still remains stranger than fiction.

Sinners & Saints: A Novel by Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley is available on Amazon. The novel is also available at Barnes & Noble. You can download the book from iBooks. The audiobook is brilliantly read by Patricia R. Floyd, who breathes life into every character, especially the principal women, their closest allies, and unseen detractors.
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