Elevate Difference

Love, Honor, and Betray

Before I started to read it, this book held lots of promise; the cover tells of the author’s previous books being on the New York Times bestseller list. Unfortunately, I had not had the pleasure of reading any other of Kimberla Lawson Roby’s books. Since reading Love, Honor, and Betray, I have come to realize that one of its characters, the Reverend Curtis Black, was at the centre of a series of an eight books by the same author. This series forms a sort of soap opera narrative around this character and his family that has apparently had quite a bit of success. Lawson Roby is certainly a very prolific writer, having published fifteen books since 1997 and been the recipient of many prizes at the African American Literary Awards Show. Her books have a cult following.

Since reading the book, I have realized that I am perhaps not the best person to critique it. My feminist bent is too strong to not be offended by much of what the novel contains. The easy good versus evil dichotomy is maintained throughout the novel, with the main character, Charlotte, painted as a despicable woman and completely vilified by the author to suit the narrative that centers on the “good” Reverend. For example, when the Reverend’s ex-fling passes away, he wants to take in his baby daughter, Curtina, and raise her in his family. However, his wife Charlotte openly hates this child and spends the entire book treating her badly, until the end when she realizes she may lose her husband. While multiple women chase after the handsome Reverend, he stays faithful to his wife while she cheats on him with not just one stranger picked up in a bar, but with a former lover whom she reconnects with on Facebook.

The action in the novel never stops. There are naughty photos of Charlotte sent by cell phone to blackmail her into a subservient sexual relationship. There is a crazed paedophile holding teenagers hostage in a high school. There is a spectacular car crash that almost costs the Reverend his life.

All the characters are attractive one-dimensional mannequins who live an opulent way of life. This lifestyle is probably eons away from any of Lawson Roby’s readers. Charlotte gets back at her husband by maxing out his credit cards ($25,000) at the shopping centre, her son with the Reverend, Matthew drives a brand new luxury car at the age of seventeen, and they have a fulltime housekeeper. The ultimate cliché was the Obama-style fist bump the Reverend and Matthew give each other often in the novel.

Perhaps if I had read the previous novels, this would be a more interesting story; I have been known to follow soap operas in the past. But, the only thing that kept me turning the pages was the fact that I couldn’t believe that it could be any worse. Towards the end of the book, I was able to conceive of a redemptive factor through the fact that Lawson Roby’s publisher had included discussion questions for reading groups. Perhaps the purpose of the book is to discuss its transparent dichotomy and its one-dimensional characters?

Written by: Sophie M. Lavoie, March 15th 2011