And are we going to have to play twenty questions and end up late for our facials, or are you going to give it up easily to me this morning just like you did last night…? …I wanna know just how high that vanilla cone stacked up after a lifetime of chocolate.
—Marisol In Chapter One
Craving a delicious and delightful summer read? Hell, an anytime-of-the-year escape from the unfathomable recent rulings of the Supreme Court and um, all the other atrocities around the globe? In the words of legendary soul singers, Dennis Edwards and Siedah Garrett—don’t look any further. Ha! My favorite writing duo, the wonderful Alli Frank and Asha Youmans serve up yet another get-out-your-head-and-into-this-colorful-world of fly women juggling life and love with laughter and learning in their third novel ☛THE BETTER HALF [pub: Mindy’s Book Studio/Amazon].
God I hope my thighs are looking more J. Lo than Jell-O.
—Nina In Chapter One
I adore not only Alli and Asha’s comedic writing, but their world building. Once again, they deliver laugh-out-loud one-liners while centering women, sisterhood, family and community. In The Better Half, Nina Morgan Clarke is the first Black and first female head of a prestigious, private, preparatory school. Before she starts her new gig, her tell-like-it-is bestie Marisol scoops her away in her drop-top for a proper girlfriends getaway. Protect Marisol at all costs, ’cause had it not been for this trip—without giving away any real spoilers—let’s just say Nina’s life would be way less swirly. The 43-year-old divorcee is also the loving mother of Xandra—a smart, yet temperamental teenage daughter at a boarding school 3,000 miles away. Not to mention, Nina’s proud Jamaican father Fitzroy spends more time at her house in Pasadena, California than he does in his own Queens, New York home these days. Plus, our braided beauty winds up as a handsome gentleman’s “summer surprise,” which is way more, hmmm…, shall we say fulfilling than a fling. Combine all of these unpredictable variables together, and you’ve got the formula for a smart romantic dramedy that lingers in your mind like a flirtatious, yet meaningful conversation days after it’s done.
I went from working hard to please my parents to busting ass to please my husband.
—Nina In Chapter 11
“It’s a rare occurrence that I meet another woman in my same occupation, let alone a sister, so I knew Josie was serving me the truth,” says Nina in chapter three. My loyal reader heart swelled with familiarity at the mention of Josie Bordelon (the head of school at Fairchild Country Day in San Francisco) from Alli and Asha’s debut novel ☛TINY IMPERFECTIONS. Nina hires Roan, also from the first book, at Josie’s assurance. It’s a full circle moment. Full disclosure: One of my dearest friends is the first Black head of schools at an all-girls school on the east coast, so Nina “meticulously laying the groundwork for years” to become the head of school resonates with me personally. I’ve observed one of my best friends ascend the ranks at prestigious schools on both coasts while nurturing her students and her own family. It is a long, deliberate, orchestrated, focused, committed, yet winding path with more than its fair share of compromises and sacrifices. I wept tears of joy at my friend’s investiture last fall. I digress. It’s no small feat for Nina to run a school, periodt, nevermind as a “first.” Fuse that with a wise and widowed dad now spending more time at your home than his for some reason, a problematic, yet charming, handsome new Black hire who insists on trying your authority, a pesky parent with board aspirations and the money to buy her spot, a rather snarky ex-husband who could make co-parenting a lot easier, and a sexy love affair that takes a bit of a serious turn and well, you won’t want to put this book down.
My week, my rules. The girls are doing their own thing. Besides, aren’t you off playing family with your Ken doll? I hear blond is the new Black.
—Graham In Chapter Eighteen
I must give the “literary soulmates” their props for mastering both authentic and snappy dialogue, especially between girlfriends, oh, and exes too, and also parents and children, school administrators and parents, ok, all the damn dialogue between everybody. In fact, I need to interview Alli and Asha to find out if they practice reading their lines, err dialogue—pardon my not-so Freudian slip as I’ve already visualized the novel’s small screen feature adaptation. Nina’s ex-husband Graham actually delivers some of my favorite zingers. When Nina suggests to Graham that he get flowers for their daughter’s performance he replies, “I happen to know Xandra would prefer a VISA gift card for her efforts. Is Brad coming to hold your purse?” And Nina responds, “His name’s not Brad. It’s Leo.” The shade honey! I almost choked on my morning coffee.
I wish I could share more of my favorite quotes and reveal more of the storyline. Perhaps I’ll host a book club and do just that! Let me just say this though, the predicament Nina finds herself in around chapter eight, made me want to throw my hardcover over my fourth floor patio (soft landing, yet still retrievable). Oh, and one more thing, the next half is indeed The Better Half.
Announcement! 📢 I’m introducing suggested pairings with my book reviews now. So if you’re over 21, responsible and reading The Better Half outside at the beach, park, pool or patio, I highly recommend House Wines Brut Bubbles. Not only is this can of bubbly a yummy and dry sparkling wine, but if you knock it over whilst laughing so hard, you won’t fret over broken glass. Simply sit your chilled can right back up and continue sipping. Now if you’re reading indoors or you just prefer cocktails, margaritas all the way baby! It’s our matchmaker Marisol’s drink of choice and also one of my faves. Let’s Get Lit!
Don’t Look Any Further By The Aforementioned Dennis Edwards and Siedah Garrett 🕺🏽💃🏾
The Better Half Synopsis From Mindy’s Book Studio:
After a difficult five years, at age forty-three, Nina Morgan Clarke’s time has finally arrived. With an ex-husband relocated across the country, her father bouncing back after the loss of his beloved wife, and her daughter, Xandra, thriving at boarding school, Nina is stepping into her dream job as a trifecta: a first-generation, Black female head of the storied Royal-Hawkins School. To mark the moment, Nina and her best friend, Marisol, take a long-overdue girls’ trip to celebrate the second half of Nina’s life—which is shaping up to be the best part of her life.
As Nina’s school year gets underway, all seems to be progressing as planned. Before long, wunder-hire Jared Jones, two hundred pounds of Harvard-educated ego, relentlessly pushes Nina to her ethical limits. Soon after, dutiful Xandra accuses one of her teachers of misconduct. And most alarming, the repercussions of her trip with Marisol force Nina into a life-altering choice. Time is of the essence, and Nina must decide if she will embrace a future she never could have predicted.
Tiny Imperfections Synopsis From Penguin Random House:
All’s fair in love and kindergarten admissions. At thirty-nine, Josie Bordelon’s modeling career as the “it” black beauty of the ’90s is far behind her. Now director of admissions at San Francisco’s most sought after private school, she’s chic, single, and determined to keep her seventeen-year-old daughter, Etta, from making the same mistakes she did. But Etta has plans of her own–and their beloved matriarch, Aunt Viv, has Etta’s back. If only Josie could manage Etta’s future as well as she manages the shenanigans of the over-anxious, over-eager parents at school–or her best friend’s attempts to coax Josie out of her sex sabbatical and back onto the dating scene. As admissions season heats up, Josie discovers that when it comes to matters of the heart–and the office–the biggest surprises lie closest to home.
Never Meant To Meet You Synopsis From Montlake:
Self-appointed fixer of other people’s woes Marjette Lewis is uncharacteristically determined to keep to her side of the driveway when it comes to her flawless neighbor Noa Abrams. Professionally, Marjette has her hands full as she prepares for a new class of kindergarteners and her first year of teaching without her best friend, Judy, as campus “Black-up.” And at home, her son’s budding manhood challenges her expectations, and her vexing ex-husband continues to be a thorn in her side.
But when tragedy strikes Marjette’s street, and an unexpected child shows up on the first day of school with an uncle who has all the class moms aflutter, Marjette is forced to contend with both her neighbor and her own heartache over losing the life she once thought was guaranteed. Through laughter, tears, and the gift of found family, Marjette and Noa navigate the rituals of loss together and discover the strength to remake their lives—whether they meant to or not.