The soap opera never stops in the latest installment of Thomas’s Venus Johnston series (Nappily Married, 2007, etc.).
Venus, now Johnston-Parson, and husband Jake Parson surface in Atlanta, having survived the murder charges (and more) that chased them from L.A. But their new life with Venus’s beloved daughter Mya is already under threat. Venus’s ex, Airic Fisher, whom all believe to be Mya’s biological father, has married gospel singer Trevelle Doval. The TV and recording superstar believes her life won’t be complete until she and Airic have a daughter, and since she’s unable to conceive she’s set her sights on Mya. Framing this battle, which will bring up Jake’s rap past and Venus’s emotional tribulations as possible proof of parental unfitness, is the story of Judge Delma Hawkins. More than qualified for a higher position, she’s stuck handling routine domestic cases by virtue of her gender. She’s lonely, despite the companionship of Hudson, her handsome clerk, and she’s living with the secret of how she adopted her adored daughter Keisha. Thomas neatly weaves issues of family, parental and social responsibility into the domestic dramas, padding a skimpy story. She manages to give reasonably distinct voices to the major players, who alternately narrate events. But when things start to heat up, enjoyable African-American chick-lit degenerates into bad romance. The mix of down-home and steamy gets downright silly when Thomas has the judge confess that the “hypnotic glory of one man’s big long richness [made] her do things she was shamed to say out loud.” The fun runs out long before the plot devices do, and they’re hardly worth bothering with, since the resolution is trumpeted far in advance.
A popular series shows strain.