A Good Man Is Hard to Find

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About The Book

#1 national bestselling author ReShonda Tate Billingsley takes off on an adventure of romance, passion, and just a touch of suspense . . . set in one of the world’s most exotic locales.

After her company is bought out by a tabloid magazine, career-driven journalist Ava Cole is less than thrilled to be covering celebrity fluff stories—even if her first assignment sends her to Aruba for the high-profile wedding of pop star India Wright. Maybe a solo excursion far from home will help her forget about her crazy family and her suddenly ex-boyfriend, who seems to have trouble with two simple words: “I do.”

It doesn’t take long for the steamy island atmosphere to work its magic, and Ava finds herself enjoying a sexy flirtation with Cliff, the photographer shooting the singer’s nuptials. Just as their attraction heats up, Ava uncovers a bombshell of blackmail, deadly deceptions, and international intrigue that will all but destroy India Wright. With ominous threats closing in after the story leaks, whom can Ava trust with her explosive information, her heart—and her life?

Excerpt

A Good Man is Hard to Find
1

Your days are numbered . . .

The slightly wrinkled paper trembled in her hand. The words were written in big, bold stencil letters. Normally, Ava Cole blew off such threats. After all, as an investigative reporter who had built a solid reputation for bringing down corrupt politicians and businessmen, she had no shortage of people who would like to see her head on a platter. Usually, though, they were just harmless disgruntled people who understood that at the end of the day, she was simply doing her job. But this was the fourth message she’d received in the past two weeks.

Your days are numbered . . .

“Excuse me, are you all right?”

Ava jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She spun around to see a tall, muscular man standing over her. He had light brown eyes and wore his dark hair cut low and neatly trimmed. He looked ruggedly handsome in a pair of jeans and a New York Knicks jersey.

“What did you say?” Ava said.

“I said, are you all right?” he repeated with a look of genuine concern.

Ava shook herself out of her daze. She recognized the man from somewhere, but she couldn’t remember where. Was he the letter-writing type?

“Yeah, I’m . . . I’m fine,” she stammered, instinctively pulling the paper close to her. A homeless man had walked up to her as she returned from her lunch break, thrust the letter in her hand, then darted off.

“You don’t look fine,” he replied.

“Well, I am,” she snapped as she quickly stuffed the note down into her purse, out of sight.

The man took a step back, raising his hands in innocence. “Whoa, I didn’t mean to get you upset. It’s just that you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“No, I’m fine,” Ava said. In fact, she was quite rattled, but she didn’t need to share her fears with someone she didn’t know.

“Well, I didn’t mean to pry into your affairs. I was just walking by and noticed the distressed look on your face.”

Ava hadn’t even realized she was standing on the sidewalk in front of her office building, looking petrified. “Well, I’m fine, okay?” She didn’t bother hiding her aggravation.

He was looking at her like she had escaped from a mental hospital. “Okay, you’re fine.” He sighed. “Maybe I should start over. I’m Clifton Edwards, but my friends call me Cliff.” He extended his hand.

Ava didn’t bother taking it. “Thank you for your concern, Clifton.” She shifted her purse to her other shoulder. “But you can go spy on someone else.”

Ava wasn’t normally a rude person, but this letter had her nerves on edge. Each one she’d received talked about her dying. In the past she’d gotten letters telling her to go to hell, or calling her every name under the sun. She’d even had a couple wishing her ill will, but nothing ever like this.

“Ava, isn’t it?” he said as she brushed past him.

She sighed, wishing he would just go away. “Yes, it’s Ava.” She turned back to face him. He seemed perfectly nice. There really was no need to be nasty to him. “Ava Cole,” she said, smiling.

“I work there,” he said, pointing to the tall glass edifice next to her office building. They were connected by a glass skyway, but she seldom ventured over to that side. “At the National Star,” he continued.

Ava couldn’t stop a disgusted look from crossing her face.

He smiled like he was used to that reaction. “Well, it’s obvious you’re fine. I just wanted to make sure.” He backed away. “You have a good day,” he added as he walked off.

Ava debated stopping him just to apologize for her behavior, but she needed to get going. She was late for a very important meeting with her boss. I’ll apologize to him some other time, she thought as she hurried inside the building. Her boss had sent her a text saying she needed to come see him as soon as she got back from her lunch break. She’d run over to a shoe sale at Saks with her girlfriend, and even though she hadn’t bought anything, it had taken a lot longer than she’d expected.

Ava made up her mind that she would turn this letter over to the police. She hadn’t reported the others, but her gut was telling her it was time. Four was getting to be excessive.

Ava dropped her purse off at her desk, grabbed a cup of coffee, and headed to her boss’s office. She took a seat in front of Sebastian Mourning’s desk. “So, what’s so urgent?”

Two minutes later, her mouth was hanging wide open.

“Tell me that this is some cruel, cruel joke,” she muttered as she tried to process what Sebastian had just said.

He didn’t crack a smile.

“Sorry, Ava, you know I like you. You’re a damn good journalist, but it’s either this or move you to doing the obituaries for the New York News,” he said.

Ava stared at him in disbelief. “You want me to go work for a tabloid magazine? You want me to join the paparazzi?” She’d worked at the esteemed Newswire magazine for five years, and Sebastian actually expected her to go work for their sister publication, the tabloid magazine the National Star? Her thoughts flashed to Clifton—Cliff, she reminded herself.

“Don’t say it like that,” Sebastian quipped. “You’re still a reporter.”

“You can try to sugarcoat it all you want, but I’d be a tabloid reporter! I graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism and you want me to chase after celebrities?” she asked incredulously.

“I’m well aware of your credentials, Ava,” Sebastian said, rubbing his temples. “But I’m not left with much choice. They’re shutting down the investigative division here, so that means we are all being forced out. All of the media outlets are cutting out their investigative divisions, so the chances of you finding something else is slim to none.” He sighed heavily. “Now, I’m taking the retirement package. It’s time for me to get out of the game. No one cares about serious journalism anymore.” He held up a folder. “These are all the folks that I have to let go altogether. At least we were able to find a spot to move you to.” He dropped the folder onto his cluttered desk. “You can take the contract home and review it,” he said, sliding a legal-size piece of paper toward her. “Take it or leave it.”

Ava no doubt wanted to leave it. But then she thought about the seven-hundred-dollar-a-month note on her Lexus (even though she seldom drove it, she loved having her own car), the twenty-nine-hundred-dollar-a-month mortgage payment on her brownstone, and the countless other bills she’d stacked up since moving to New York five years ago. She knew she didn’t have a choice—she had to take it.

“Don’t look like that,” Sebastian said, trying to sound comforting, although he wasn’t succeeding. He released a sigh and slid another folder her way. “Your first gig is a doozy.”

Ava groaned as she accepted the folder. “What, Elvis returned from the dead and got Michelle Obama pregnant? Oh wait, Martians have invaded the White House?”

“Joke all you want, this is your career now,” he said matter-of-factly.

Ava rolled her eyes as she flipped the folder open. “India Wright?” She frowned as she stared at the eight-by-ten glossy of the country’s hottest pop star. She was bigger than Beyoncé, had sold more records than Celine Dion, and was now blowing up the big screen as well as the charts. “Who is this?” Ava held up a picture of a model-handsome man that had been nestled behind India’s picture. He gave new meaning to the term “tall, dark, and gorgeous.”

Sebastian stood and started gathering things off his desk. “That’s Fredericko de la Cruz, India’s soon-to-be husband. Look, I’m cleaning out my office, then I’m going to get drunk with some old colleagues so we can remember the way things used to be back when we still pounded out the news on typewriters. Your new editor, Eli Lacy, will fill you in on all the details tomorrow. They just wanted me to get you started.”

“Started on what?”

“Your assignment. India is getting married next week and you’re all over it.”

She jumped from her seat. “A wedding? You want me to cover a wedding?” He had to be kidding her. She’d won an Emmy for her exposé on a toxic waste plant. She’d been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox for her coverage of the 2008 presidential election, and these people expected her to cover a wedding?

“I don’t want you to do anything. Your new bosses do. And judging by the garbage”—he stopped himself—“umm, I mean, the stuff they put in that magazine, they want much more than a simple ‘here comes the bride’ story. They want some dirt. Something that will have the magazine flying off the shelves.”

“And why do they think I’m the person to do it?”

He smiled for the first time since she’d stepped into his office. “You didn’t win those Emmys for investigative journalism for nothing.”

“What about my assignment today? I’m about to blow the whistle on that corrupt New Jersey banker. I meet with my contact over there this evening.”

Sebastian shook his head. “Unless that contact can give you some insight into India’s wedding, cancel it. As of today, there’s no more investigate unit at Newswire magazine.”

“But, Sebastian—”

He held up his hand to cut her off. “I feel your pain. I really do. But it’s not my problem anymore.” He looked at his watch. “As of four minutes and thirty-nine seconds ago, I am no longer employed by Rhodes News Corporation.” He tossed a picture frame into a box. “Oh, screw it. I’ll come back tomorrow and finish this. I need a drink.” He looked at her sympathetically. “I’m sorry, Ava, but the ride is over.” He paused, and a hint of his usual newsman’s curiosity showed in his expression. “I will tell you this. India is hot, but she’s hiding something. And they want you to find out what that is.”

“But—”

“But, I suggest you do it. If anyone can dig it up, you can. You’ll do it if you want to keep your job—your six-figure job—and I don’t need to remind you that six-figure jobs are very hard to come by these days.”

With that, Sebastian Mourning slung his coat over his shoulder and walked out of the office.

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.

Introduction

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.

About The Author

Photograph by Rochelle Scott

ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s #1 national 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 and 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.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (March 2011)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439183502

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