The seventh book in The Good Girlz series from national bestselling author ReShonda Tate Billingsley
She’s in the spotlight . . .
The Good Girlz have always known their girlfriend Camille is a gifted dancer. But when she wins the Search for a Star talent competition, it’s her incredible singing voice that blows them away—why didn’t she tell them she could sing like Beyoncé and Ciara rolled into one? And when Camille lands a spot in rap superstar Sisco’s new music video, Jasmine, Angel, and Alexis discover yet another side to their friend—total diva!
Will it get too hot too soon?
With her new hair weave, trendy clothes, and too-cool attitude, Camille is working everyone’s nerves, even her boyfriend Xavier’s. But when a photo of Camille and Sisco causes a tabloid scandal, the wannabe starlet gets a taste of unwanted fame. Meanwhile Alexis, upset over her wealthy parents’ divorce, suddenly disappears. . . . With more than enough drama to go around, what will it take to bring the girlfriends together and keep Camille grounded while reaching for the stars?
About the Author
ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s #1 nationally bestselling novels include Let the Church Say Amen, I Know I’ve Been Changed, and Say Amen, Again, winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. Her collaboration with Victoria Christopher Murray has produced four hit novels, Sinners & Saints, Friends & Foes, A Blessing & a Curse, and Fortune & Fame. BET released a movie in 2013 based on ReShonda’s book Let the Church Say Amen in which she had a minor role. She also had a role in the made-for-TV movie The Secret She Kept based on her book of the same title. Visit ReShondaTateBillingsley.com, meet the author on Facebook at ReShondaTateBillingsley, or follow her on Twitter @ReShondaT.
Read an Excerpt
Caught Up in the Drama
By ReShonda Tate Billingsley
GalleryCopyright © 2010 ReShonda Tate Billingsley
All right reserved.
I so could not believe my eyes. That was actually my girl, my best friend, up on that stage, and she was on fire! She sounded like Beyonc?, Rihanna and Ciara rolled up into one.
I wasn?t the only one who was shocked. I glanced over at my other best friends, Jasmine and Angel. Both of their mouths hung wide open as well.
?Did you know Camille could sing like that?? I whispered. We were at the Search for a Star talent show, and we?d been real nervous ever since Camille had announced she would be singing instead of dancing. That?s because we?d had no idea she could sing that great!
Angel shook her head, leaving Jasmine to reply. ?I mean, she?s always humming and singing some song, but I had no idea she could blow like that.?
Not only were we stunned at how totally fierce Camille sounded but I think we were also a little hurt that she could sing like that and none of us had known it. After all, we?d been best friends since joining the Good Girlz two years ago.
The Good Girlz was a community service group formed by Rachel Jackson Adams, the first lady of Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church. It was just four of us?me, Jasmine, Angel and Camille. Miss Rachel had started the group as part of a youth outreach program. Even though her daddy was a preacher, Miss Rachel had been buck wild as a teenager, and she?d wanted to do something to help teens who were headed down the wrong path like she?d been.
A lot of people hear Good Girlz and think we?re some Dolly Do Right type of girls. Shoot, I wish. Try as we might, trouble just seemed to follow us around. First, Camille had gotten in trouble because she?d hidden her thuggish convict boyfriend at her grandmother?s house. She thought he?d been released from jail, but the fool had broken out, and Camille had gotten arrested for ?harboring a fugitive.? That?s why she?d come to the Good Girlz. It had either been that or juvie.
Jasmine had joined because she?d always been fighting. She came from a big family and had grown up that way. She?d been kicked out of so many schools because she used to have a bad attitude. I say used to, because my girl really made progress over the last year. Granted, she would still tell you off in a minute, but she was a whole lot better than she used to be.
As for Angel, she was the quiet and sweet one of the group. Getting pregnant at fifteen made her grow up pretty fast. Her mom made sure she lived up to her responsibilities, but she was holding her own, especially now that her triflin? baby?s daddy had decided to help her take care of their daughter, Angelica.
Everybody liked to tease me as ?the rich girl of the group? just because my daddy owned a couple of hotels and we lived in an eight-thousand-square-foot home. They just don?t know that I?d trade all the money just for some of my parents? time. They both were so busy, especially my dad. But that?s a whole other story.
Not only were we in the Good Girlz together but now we all attended school together at Madison High School. After weeks of begging and pouting, I?d finally gotten my parents to agree to let me finish my senior year at Madison with my friends. I had gone to a private school called St. Pius, and since I?d already received an early acceptance letter to three colleges and finished all of my required coursework a year early, they?d let me transfer so I could graduate with my friends and enroll in extracurricular activities that we didn?t have at St. Pius.
That was the best move I could?ve ever made. Not only was I having so much fun on the drill team with Camille but all four of us were growing tighter. We?d been through a lot together, and we knew each other inside and out.
At least I thought we did.
?Does my boo look good or what?? Xavier?s voice snapped me out of my thoughts.
I had been so caught up that I had forgotten about Xavier Gant, Camille?s new boyfriend. All four of us had come to watch Camille in the citywide talent show. We knew she could dance. After all, she was the captain of our high school drill team. But when she?d announced yesterday that she was going to sing instead, well, let?s just say we?d immediately had visions of those people who suck on American Idol. And since we hadn?t wanted our girl to be the one they talked about on the radio the next morning, we?d tried to talk her out of singing. But Camille had just grinned slyly and told us to trust her.
I guess when you have a voice like that, you can have all the confidence in the world.
??.?.?.?and you?re gonna love meeeeee!? Camille finished up her song, bringing the crowd to their feet. I mean, folks were going wild. Camille actually sounded better than Jennifer did in Dreamgirls, and I?m not just saying that because she?s my best friend.
We snapped out of our trance and started cheering wildly along with everyone else.
?That?s my girl!? Jasmine shouted from our third-row seats.
Camille smiled confidently, but she wasn?t cocky. She just had a glimmer in her eye that said she knew she had rocked it.
We didn?t waste any time. All of us, Xavier included, took off backstage.
?Girl, I cannot believe you!? I squealed. She looked so cute, standing there looking like the actress Kyla Pratt. She had her hair in cute ringlets that hung to her shoulders. Her layered rhinestone tee and cropped jacket blended together perfectly with her skinny jeans.
?Yeah,? Jasmine echoed. ?How come we didn?t know you could sing like that??
?It?s just a little somethin?, somethin? I do,? she said playfully.
?There wasn?t anything little about that, babe,? Xavier said, leaning in and giving her a big bear hug. ?That was off the chain!?
?I?m serious,? I said, playfully pushing her shoulder. ?What?s up with not letting us know you had it goin? on like that? I mean, we?ve only been your best friends for what, two years??
Camille shrugged. ?Y?all know dancing is my thing. I just never really thought much about singing.? She looked lovingly at Xavier. They?d been dating for three months now, and Camille swore he was the one. But then, every boy Camille dated was ?the one.?
?It was actually Xavier?s idea,? she continued. ?He heard me singing and pushed me to enter the singing part of the competition instead of the dancing.?
We all turned to Xavier, who looked even prouder than we did. They looked perfect together. They both were the same smooth chocolate color, with flawless skin and athletic builds. But I didn?t know whether to be happy or a little ticked that he knew something about our girl that we didn?t. I decided to let it slide.
?Well, you won the show, hands down,? Angel said.
?I hope so.? Camille crossed her fingers. ?Do you know what I would do with a thousand dollars??
Both Jasmine?s and Angel?s eyes lit up. Both of them pretty much came from struggling families, so a thousand dollars was a big deal.
?Hey, I think they?re about to announce the winners,? Jasmine said, pointing at the emcee, Nnete, a local radio personality from 97.9, who was leaning over to get an envelope from the three judges at the table in front.
?You got this,? I said, giving Camille a quick hug.
All her confidence was gone now. Camille was literally shaking. Xavier wrapped his arm around her waist as she clutched her hands in front of her mouth, no doubt praying that she?d win.
I held my breath as Nnete called the third-place winner, some strange-looking girl who?d sounded okay singing Jazmine Sullivan?s ?Bust the Window Out Your Car.? When they announced that second place was going to a group that had sung an old Boys II Men song a capella, I relaxed. Because as good as they were, they still didn?t have a thing on Camille.
?Before I announce first place,? Nnete continued, ?I have a very special announcement. You all knew that the winner of tonight?s talent show was going to get a thousand dollars.? She paused as the crowd cheered. ?Well, not only will they get that money, but?.?.?.? She paused again for effect. ?Are y?all ready for this??
?I wish she?d go on already,? Jasmine huffed.
?How many of you guys have heard of Sisco?? Nnete asked.
The crowd went wild. That was a dumb question. Everybody in Houston knew who Sisco was. Shoot, everyone in the country knew who he was. He was only the hottest young rapper out there. His first album had won two Grammys. He was popular not only because, at six-feet-two, with a washboard chest, light hazel eyes and wavy hair, he was fine as all get out, but he had also made a name for himself by not being all over the top with his raps and by staying out of trouble. He didn?t curse or talk dirty, but he still managed to spit some tight rhymes. He was a proud Houstonian and was always boasting about H-town.
Nnete was just about to say something else when a voice from the other side of the stage said, ?Awww, that?s all the love y?all got for me??
Right then, Sisco walked out from the wings. I swear I thought everyone was going to bum-rush the stage, Angel and Jasmine included.
After security pushed everyone back and got the crowd to calm down, Sisco continued. ?Dang, y?all, chill.? He laughed. ?We still gotta announce the winner.? He gave the crowd a minute to settle down. ?I know some of you are wondering why I?m here,? he said when it was quiet enough for him to continue.
?We don?t care why you?re here, we?re just glad you are!? someone screamed.
?I love you, Sisco!? someone else yelled.
?I love you back!? Sisco said. ?But I?m here tonight to help announce the winner of tonight?s talent show and tell her, or him, that in addition to the money, they are going to get to perform a cameo in my video that we?re shooting in two weeks right here in H-town.?
Once again the crowd broke out in a frenzy, and Angel, Jasmine and I were screaming right along with them. Camille stood there frozen, too stunned to speak. She loved Sisco, knew every song he?d ever written, so I could only imagine what must?ve been going through her head.
?I know you guys are tired of waiting, so let?s get to it.? He took the envelope from Nnete. ?The winner of tonight?s talent show, and the person who will be appearing with yo? boy in my next video, is??he read the paper??Camille Harris!?
We jumped up and down, screaming and hugging each other. I had to quickly catch myself when I noticed Sisco looking around like he was searching for Camille. ?Girl, go,? I said, pushing her toward the stage.
Camille didn?t need much prompting. She ran onto the stage and dang near jumped into Sisco?s arms. If I hadn?t been so happy, I probably would?ve been embarrassed that my girl was acting a fool like that. But under the circumstances, I was going to give her a pass on that one.
As Camille posed for photos with Sisco and the other winners, we couldn?t contain our excitement. I don?t know how long we?d been going crazy, but I finally looked over at Xavier, who was standing off to the side of the stage by himself. He was the only person not smiling. As he carefully watched Sisco?s every move, I could tell that he wasn?t too happy about Camille?s win.
? 2010 ReShonda Tate Billingsley
Excerpted from Caught Up in the Drama by ReShonda Tate Billingsley Copyright © 2010 by ReShonda Tate Billingsley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Say Amen, Again includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author ReShonda Tate Billingsley. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Rachel Adams is trying to find a way to forgive her husband, Pastor Lester Adams, for having an affair. Her task is made all the more difficult by the reappearance of his former mistress, Mary Richardson, in their family’s church. Now pregnant, Mary claims that Lester is the child’s father and is intent on seducing him away from Rachel. Meanwhile, a tragedy rocks the foundation of the Adams family and everyone involved is confronted with an ultimate decision of forgiveness.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. What does Rachel’s dream in the novel’s opening chapter reveal about her fears? How is she able to overcome these fears by the end of the book?
2. Despite Lester’s continual refusal of her affections, Mary protests that the love she feels for him is real. Do you think this is true?
3. Rachel fears that her anger is interfering with her growth as a Christian. Do you agree with her decision to leave the church until Mary is removed? Likewise, do you think Mary should be removed from the church—or do you agree with Deacon Jacobs’s assessment that “if they kicked one transgressor out, they had to kick them all out” (p. 14)?
4. Mary’s visit from her mother, Margaret, is unwelcome and reinforces why Mary removed Margaret from her life in the first place. How does Mary feel when she sees her mother? How do you think Mary’s relationship with her mother has influenced her as a person?
5. Mary’s dealing ex-boyfriend, Craig, is another unwelcome visitor who brings “nothing but trouble” when he comes around. Is there anything Mary could have done to rid Craig from her life and leave her past behind? Or do you think her past was always destined to follow her?
6. Fed up with Aunt Minnie’s constant judgment of his family, Simon reveals a few of her deepest secrets to prove that she’s not as perfect as she pretends to be. As Simon says, do you think she “had that coming”?
7. Although Bobby never makes an appearance in this novel, Rachel can’t help but think about him from time to time. She wonders if chasing after him in the past influenced Lester’s affair with Mary. Do you feel that Rachel is right to take on part of the blame for Lester’s affair?
8. After Rachel’s interaction with Pastor Terrance Ellis at Lily Grove Church, she felt humiliated for having misunderstood the pastor’s intentions. Did you also think Pastor Ellis was coming on to Rachel? How did you react to her reasoning that having an affair of her own would help her recover from Lester’s affair? Have you ever felt a similar urge to seek some kind of revenge?
9. Did Roderick’s suicide take you by surprise? Teenage bullying due to sexual orientation is a prominent topic in the media today. How does Roderick’s story echo other tragedies you’ve read or heard about?
10. Rachel’s father offers words of advice after Lester is arrested: “Baby girl, God is in the blessing business. He’s not in the punishing business. . . . Just know that God doesn’t give us more than we can bear” (p. 197). Do you agree? Has there ever been a time in your life that you felt you were being tested beyond what you could bear?
11. What did you think of Rachel’s decision to keep Mary’s son, despite him being a constant reminder of Lester’s indiscretion? Would you have made the same decision? Similarly, how would Rachel’s decision have been different if it had turned out that Lester was, in fact, the boy’s father?
12. How did your opinion of Mary change as you read the book? By the end of the novel, did you find yourself sympathizing with her situation? Or did you think she got what she deserved?
13. How does the role of forgiveness impact both the characters and the events in the novel? Is Rachel truly able to forgive Lester for his indiscretion by the end of the book? Do you think Jonathan will ever be able to forgive himself for what happened to Roderick?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Let the Church Say Amen, the first in ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s Say Amen series, is currently being produced as a feature film. If you were in charge of casting, who would you cast as Rachel? Lester? Mary?
2. Roderick’s suicide, like many other teenage suicides committed by those who do not feel accepted by their families and/or communities, came as a saddening shock to those who loved him. If you’d like to help troubled teens in your area, consider taking part in one of the following campaigns:
• The It Gets Better Project, a worldwide movement of hope for LGBT youth: www.itgetsbetter.org
• To Write Love on Her Arms, a movement dedicated to helping those who struggle with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide: www.twloha.com
• The Trevor Project, a campaign for a future where all youth have the same opportunities, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity: www.thetrevorproject.org
3. Say Amen, Again is the third book in ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s series about Rachel and her family. If your book group hasn’t yet read the first two books in the series, consider Let the Church Say Amen or Everybody Say Amen for your next discussion.
4. You can learn more about ReShonda Tate Billingsley and her books on her official website (www.reshondatatebillingsley.com). You can also follow her on Twitter (twitter.com/ReShondaT).
A Conversation with ReShonda Tate Billingsley
Say Amen, Again is the third book in the Say Amen series. Which character do you think has grown the most since Let the Church Say Amen, the first in the series?
It would definitely have to be Rachel. I mean, did you ever imagine the Rachel we first met would be capable of adopting the child of her husband’s mistress?
Do you have any plans to write another book about Rachel and her family? What’s next for the Jacksons and the Adamses?
Rachel is one of those characters that won’t let me tuck her away. I never planned to write the first sequel, and she demanded that her story continue. Next up, she’ll meet up with Jasmine Larson Bush, the main character from author Victoria Christopher Murray’s Jasmine series. The two women are so much alike and so different and they’ll clash as both try to get their husbands elected to a prestigious position in a national organization. That book is called Saints and Sinners and comes out in 2012.
Before you began writing Say Amen, Again, did you know how it would end? Was Rachel always going to accept Mary’s baby into her life?
Oh, I never know how my books are going to end. That’s why it’s so hard for me to write an outline. My characters take over and they tell me the direction in which they want to go. So, I had no idea if the baby was going to even be Lester’s, let alone Rachel’s plan for the child.
Roderick’s suicide is undoubtedly one of the novel’s saddest moments. Why did you feel this was important to include?
I just wanted to show the tragic side of what can happen when our young people feel like they can’t talk to anyone. I don’t even know whether Roderick was gay, but the simple fact that he was conflicted was cause for concern. Yet, for various reasons, he had nowhere to turn.
When it comes to writing, what would you say is your greatest challenge?
Whew, I guess it would be I can’t write fast enough, and I write pretty fast! There are so many unchartered territories I’d like to venture into, but my plate is pretty full. Some people would think that time might be a challenge, but I believe that you find time for your passion and writing is my passion, so time has never been an issue for me.
In its starred review of Let the Church Say Amen, Library Journal raves about your ability to infuse your text with “just the right dose of humor to balance the novel’s serious events.” Do you find it difficult to strike this balance in your writing?
I don’t. At all. People are always telling me how funny I am and I just don’t see it. I guess it’s because I’m not trying to be. It’s just a part of me; so naturally it’s reflected in my writing.
When you write, do you craft your novels with a mostly Christian audience in mind? Or do you aim to reach a wider readership?
Well, I’m a Christian who writes fiction, but that’s about the scope of my target. I mean, of course I want Christians to enjoy my book, but I also want nonbelievers, people of other religions, anyone and everyone to be able to pick up my book and enjoy it. And more than anything, get a message out of the book. In fact, my greatest joy in writing comes from those who found themselves growing closer to God, stronger in their faith, because of something I wrote. But at the end of the day, my message is for the masses. I believe that’s what God has called me to do.
What most inspires you to write?
A pure, simple passion for telling stories.
If one of your readers wanted to write a novel of his or her own, what would be the first piece of advice you would offer?
Don’t just talk about writing, write. And every minute you spend talking about what you don’t have time to do could be spent doing it. So many people don’t get their book finished because they let that get in the way. Something will always get in the way. The road to success is paved with tempting parking spaces. Don’t take a detour in trying to reach your dream. And finally, set small, attainable goals. I started with three pages a day, five days a week. No matter what, I committed to that. Well, before I knew it, three turned to thirty and I was able to finish my book.
What would you say is the most important thing for your readers to take away from Say Amen, Again?
The power of forgiveness and moving past your anger. I also hope that the book helps people reflect on how judging someone is something that should be left up to God.