The irony of a divorce-court judge getting divorced herself is not lost on Vanessa Colton-Kirk. After all, she's seen everything in her notorious Houston courtroom, where she's presided over the breakup of countless unhappy and disillusioned couples. Even her own sister, Dionne, is dealing with a relationship drama of her own, a betrayal that's left Dionne hungry for revenge on the man she hoped to marry. But when career-driven Vanessa chooses to work late on the night of her fifth wedding anniversary, her husband, Thomas, decides he's had enough of her putting work before starting the family he so desperately wants -- and he tells her he wants out.
In a last-ditch effort to save the marriage, their own judge orders Vanessa and Thomas to attend a spiritual retreat. She goes -- but not without a fight. And just when she thinks she's won, fate steps in and helps her see things in a whole new light. Now Vanessa and her sister face the toughest choices of their lives. Can Dionne untangle herself from a payback plan gone horribly wrong? Can Vanessa rebuild a bond that she had a big part in destroying? Will she learn from her own mistakes and her years of experience on the bench? Or will she need something else to keep a tide of bitterness from taking over her life?
Faith-based fiction doesn't get better than Billingsley's entertaining soaps, notable for their humor, wonderful characters and challenging life situations that many readers, Christian or not, can identify with. Her latest dramedy scores a direct hit on the ever-popular subjects of love, marriage and divorce (after The Pastor's Wife). Houston divorce court judge Vanessa Colton-Kirk and little sister Dionne have major man problems while their happily married sis, Rosolyn Frazier, appears to have it made. Vanessa's architect husband, Thomas, feels neglected and is desperate for a child. Fed up with Vanessa's workaholic ways, Thomas strays into an intense affair with a young woman who flaunts her quick pregnancy in Vanessa's face. Dionne, who's vowed to marry before turning 30, discovers her lover, Roland, still married, has been cheating on her for years. The sisters learn heavy love lessons about lies, honesty and forgiveness. Luckily, Billingsley makes some of the spiritual angst hilarious. Case in point: the sisters' venerable Aunt Ida knows her trusty Bible can also be used as a weapon when necessary. (July) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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July 14, 2008
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Excerpt from Can I Get a Witness? by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
Chapter 1 "Ain't nothing open at two in the morning but legs and liquor stores!" LaShawanna Jenkins wiggled her neck as she thrust a finger up in the air. Her golden braids swung from side to side like they were doing a sultry salsa dance. "And since he didn't come home drunk, you know where he was!" Darius Jenkins's lip turned up as he fought back a smile. "See, he thinks it's funny!" LaShawanna snapped. She threw her hands up in exasperation. "Your Honor, he got me messed up 'cuz I ain't the one." She cut her eyes at her husband of six years. "I told him, one mo' time. Just one mo' time and it was over. I guess he don't believe fat meat is greasy." Judge Vanessa Colton-Kirk sighed as she gazed at the file in front of her. Every day, it was the same thing. Some couple who was once madly in love could no longer stand the sight of each other and came before her seeking a divorce. Vanessa flipped through the stack of papers. Five kids. No assets. LaShawanna worked at a grocery store. Darius worked as an auto mechanic. Same story, different couple. Vanessa looked up from her papers. "So, Mrs. Jenkins, what is it that you are requesting?" "I want out. And I want you to make him pay child support and alimony," LaShawanna barked. "And I want him to pay for my statue, which he broke when I put him out. That was my grandma's statue." "It was a freakin' rooster, Your Honor," Darius said with a smirk. "So? It wasmyrooster!" LaShawanna screamed. Vanessa slammed down her gavel. "Please! Both of you, just be quiet." She turned toward LaShawanna. "Mrs. Jenkins, Texas is a non-alimony state, so I can't award your request for alimony. I will, however, order that Mr. Jenkins pay fourteen hundred dollars a month in child support." "Fourteen hundred dollars!" Darius cried. "I ain't got that kind of money!" Vanessa looked down at the folder again. "It says here that you bring home roughly twenty-four hundred dollars a month." "I do, but how am I supposed to live?" he huffed. Vanessa struggled to maintain her composure. She got so tired of these men who came through her courtroom and didn't want to pay child support. "Mr. Jenkins, if you don't pay to support your five children, who do you suppose will?" she asked, putting her hands underneath her chin. The smirk was definitely gone from his face now. "Man, this is messed up." He groaned, running his hand over his immaculately braided hair. "I don't even know if Darianna and Demarcus are mine." "No, you didn't!" LaShawanna shouted. "You know doggone well them your kids!" Darius folded his arms across his chest. "I don't know nothing." Vanessa took a deep breath and reminded herself that she had to endure this divorce court craziness in order to climb the ladder of her political career. "Mr. Jenkins, how old are Darianna and Demarcus?" "Seven and nine." "And did you not sign the birth certificate?" "That's beside the point." "I'm afraid it's not." Vanessa began signing the necessary paperwork to close out this case. "You have taken care of Darianna and Demarcus, along with your other three children, since their births. You have maintained that you were their father since birth." She set her pen down and looked up. "So as far as the courts are concerned, you are the father of each and every one of them. My order stands at fourteen hundred dollars a month." "Yeah!" LaShawanna sang as she did a victory dance. "That's what you get. Tell your little bimbo that y'all gon' have to make do on a thousand dollars a month. 'Cuz the minute you're late, I'ma have your sorry butt thrown in jail!" "Mrs. Jenkins!" Vanessa snapped. LaShawanna covered her mouth, though she was still delighted. "I'm sorry, Your Honor." Vanessa shook her head. "Whatever," she mumbled. "Divorce is granted." She pounded her gavel one more time as she stood, grabbed her folders, and headed back to her chambers. Her secretary, Nicole, was waiti