Brown revisits the Winstons of her debut, The Shirt Off His Back (2001); the tight-knit family must once again battle queen bitch Catherine Hawkins.
Seven years ago, Catherine fought Terry Winston for child custody (really just a ploy to improve her image—yes, the woman’s that cold). She lost and has rarely seen her twin girls Alisa and Ariana since. Having raised the girls single-handedly since their birth, Terry is now married to Jackie, and the family includes her twins and Terry and Jackie’s own son. They are a happy, prosperous African-American family in Dallas, but just wait until Catherine gets back on the scene to ruin everything. In the intervening years she has parlayed her business success into a multinational empire, backstabbing and dirty dealing all the way into an L.A. mansion, a private jet and boy toys at the ready. But now Catherine needs a kidney transplant, and while money can’t cure her, her daughters can. She shows up on the girls’ prom night to share the special occasion, but really to see which of the two she can manipulate into becoming a donor. Proud, furious Alisa speaks her mind, but softer Ariana agrees to become a donor, secretly hoping that this act of filial selflessness will inspire Catherine’s love. Fat chance, and everyone knows it (especially outraged Jackie), but it can’t be denied that Ariana’s kindness is inspiring. A few subplots are tossed into the drama: Catherine is planning on major layoffs and outsourcing, making a couple of dangerous enemies, and Jackie, feeling less than the mother she’s always been to the girls, suspects that Catherine may have secrets that could further damage the family. Though the writing lacks subtlety and the plot is a soap opera told in broad strokes—Catherine is BAD, Terry is GOOD—Brown does offer some keen insight in her depiction of Jackie: conflicted, jealous and devoted to keeping her family together. When it’s discovered that Ariana has a malformed kidney, Catherine’s salvation rests on Alisa’s shoulders—will she come through for her much-hated mother?
A guilty-pleasure page-turner despite its obvious flaws.