No longer anyone’s knight in shining armor, Briggs Stokes always had a soft spot for Esther. She was in his blood, and he didn’t want a transfusion. When he returns to Detroit, he decides that nothing will keep him from her door. Well, nothing . . . but the once reformed bad girl, Monica Stokes Hawthorne, Briggs’s ex, who wants to be his—give me one more chance, again—wife. The resulting tug-of-war that ensues may be the catalyst that destroys the person they both love the most.
More than one household is upset when the prison doors swing open and a “rehabilitated” Roger, Esther’s ex, returns home. Following Roger is a sinister force so malicious that no one in their community will be left untouched.
When truth is held hostage by lies, mayhem ensues. And when it does, the lives of Esther, Briggs, Monica, and Roger are forever changed.
Don’t blink—pray—these shenanigans are too shocking to miss . . .
It was dead cold. The air crackled with the sound of ice-covered tree branches crashing onto cement sidewalks; it was an unnatural arctic day, even for Harlem. There were motorists stranded on every major highway as an epic ice storm settled over the length of New York City. And while the air over those highways was filled with road rage, explicit language, and hunger pains, the contrasting hush of the opulent brownstones on 132nd Street was shattered by an eerie scream that filled the bitter air.
Monica Hawthorne, the ex-Mrs. Briggs Stokes, stood shaking uncontrollably. Her beloved, risked-everything she-had-to-have-him husband of one month, Randall, lay in a pool of blood on their imported Brazilian cherry kitchen floor. If Randall could, he would have stood up and told her for the tenth time that ten thousand dollars for a floor was too much, and just because she could buy it didn’t mean she had to. But Randall couldn’t utter a word. She watched horrified as his blood seeped into the natural grooves of the wood, giving credence to the fact that maybe the cost was too much.
Monica blinked, but he wasn’t getting up or giving her advice about her newly acquired wealth, because standing over him was his newly divorced wife, the ex-Mrs. Meredith Hawthorne. This She-Spawn-from-the-Pits, with her six hundred-dollar hairdo mussed, her designer clothes askew, and her chest heaving in spastic breaths, clutched the knife that once protruded from Randall’s chest. Words of explanation weren’t necessary; the vivid picture painted its own morbid story.
Monica was spellbound. She was in her own home. The ordeal of leaving one husband to claim another’s was behind her. The guilt had been laid aside. The shame stamped down, at least temporarily. It was Randall and her against the world. But it had all just changed drastically.
Snapping to, Monica shrieked, “Oh sweet Jesus! What have you done? You crazy—!”
Her cries were halted by the demented gleam in the ex-Mrs. Hawthorne’s eyes. The maniac’s focus switched from Randall to her, then back to Randall. Mrs. Hawthorne had gone mad, crazy, bonkers, cray cray.
Monica’s head hurt at the thought that she was still addressing this woman by what was rightfully her new name. It bore psychological study that she could only think of the witch as Mrs. Hawthorne. For over three years the woman had railed it at her, negating Monica’s right to ever wear the title. She’d stood in haughty arrogance and promised in divorce court that she would never relinquish it. At the time, Monica didn’t care; she felt Mrs. Hawthorne could keep the last name, as long as she had the man. Now she felt she had been short-sighted. If in the middle of a bloody rampage, she thought of her that way, then who was she?
The murderous interloper looked on in glee as blood bubbled out of Randall’s mouth. Monica observed her spiteful approval as Randall’s hand feebly stretched over his wound, but failed in mustering the strength to staunch the flow of his river of life. His eyelids fluttered—pausing, fighting to focus as he scanned beyond Mrs. Hawthorne’s face. His eyes settled on Monica’s outstretched hands.
“Randall,” Monica whispered. She swayed in agony.
Time was grinding to a stop, like an old-fashioned watch discarded in a moth-eaten hope chest, it would soon end, and Randall would be done. She needed a way to get close to him, but Mrs. Hawthorne stood as she had for the last three years, directly in her path.
Always . . . in my way.
Rage bubbled into a go-for-broke moment. Monica launched forward and charged Mrs. Hawthorne with a Joan of Arc warrior’s roar. The sound of the impact and responding grunt was dulled by the body that crumpled to the floor. Monica gambled . . . and lost. Her body fell inches from Randall’s.
Her hands bloodied, Mrs. Hawthorne rocked in despair. She had meant to take her time with the slut, but her offensive attack had taken her by surprise.
Then . . . Monica moved. What she was witnessing had
Mrs. Hawthorne’s keening wail ricochet throughout the spacious brownstone. She glowered in anguish, howling as Monica’s fingers inched toward Randall’s, and they entwined even in their near-death status.
She watched in ghoulish repulsion as the almost loving tableau played out before her. Her eyebrows arched as she made out Monica’s pleading words, “Jesus, help us.”
A rattle of air descended from Randall . . . and then stillness.
In slow motion, Mrs. Hawthorne turned in robotic movements away from the scene. Her steps faltered when she heard Monica’s fading voice, “Father, why hast thou forsaken me?”
The prophetic words washed over her as she stood in cold resolution. Shaking it off, she strutted away from the two people who had humiliated her in public and had caused her heart to bleed dry for three unbearable years.
Randall had won his freedom, imprisoning her in her own madness in the process.
She had sworn to Randall’s dying mother, there would be no divorce. Tears gathered at the end of her hawkish nose, dribbling onto her twice-a-week, spa-waxed upper lip, then streamed down her cosmetic-tightened neck.
She was Mrs. Meredith Hawthorne, of the Hawthornes, and failure was foreign to her. In agony, she backtracked, and stumbled, tumbling over the bodies. Blindly, Meredith wiped her eyes, reared back, and spit in Monica’s face. Still feeling empty and unfulfilled, she stared, craving the ability to wake Monica and kill her again.
Rising, she noted Randall’s discarded, prized Civil War-era, matching pearl- and jewel-handled knives. She blew a kiss at him, and left the knives there. It was only fitting Randall have ownership of what he demanded in the divorce decree. What better way to deliver his bounty, then to use it as the method of obliteration for both he and his tramp?
Mrs. Hawthorne reached into her purse and pulled out her derringer. Acting as a lover whose desire is close to fulfillment, she caressed it. Her insides churning, she panted, taking one last glance at the co-conspirators to her destruction. She could answer Monica’s final question. God had forsaken Monica because she was a Delilah home wrecker. What Mrs. Hawthorne wanted to know, was why He had forsaken her.
She lay the letters for her children—who never called—on the solid mahogany credenza, then her purse. All she’d had was the facade of a happy life. She’d paid for it in an avalanche of tears as she played dumb blonde to Randall’s neglect and numerous indiscretions over the years, anything to keep him home. And how had he repaid her? By falling for a nasty, ashy-prone, ghetto rat. The slut’s resulting pregnancy, and his request for a divorce, “so he could be happy” was the Joker’s wild card. How many wrongs was she expected to endure?
She looked around and hiccupped laughter—a great-granddaughter of the confederacy ending up in a brownstone in Harlem? Well, rise up every long-buried plantation owner and move over. I’m coming in, and from this gaudy, overpriced slum.
In the middle of her cynical chuckle, she bit her lip. She was stalling and knew it. The gun shook in her hands as she placed the barrel to her temple; lips pressed together, she focused on the brightness of the moon, brilliant against the frigid dark sky. The trigger was pulled, and the gun clattered to the ground. Once again blood seeped into the Brazilian cherry hardwood floor.
It should now have been quiet in the apartment. Instead, after the booming sound of the gunshot, you could hear through the intercom three things: the startled cries of a newborn, a phone ringing, and a feeble whimper.
The air was clear and sweet with the aroma of citrus floral and the essence of myrrh. Large winged inhabitants fluttered about on missions of supreme purpose. Above, two hovered in midflight, one apparently holding the other from takeoff.
“Why do you hold me, Zadkiel? I must go. Did you not hear Monica scream? I am hers, and she is mine. Monica thinks that God has forsaken her. I am here,” he bemoaned. What the guardian angel saw split him in two. He could not linger.
The dominion angel, Zadkiel pulled the guardian back, his wings clutched, and held him firm through the struggle. “Stand down. She cries out in fear, not faith. We are not charged to react to tears, but we are rewarders of faith. What is occurring is heartbreaking, but you have not been given leave to interfere.”
The guardian wanted to push at Zadkiel’s wings, but that would have been disrespectful. “Oh, why do the humans act this way? Must they torment and cause such pain to each other? They have left a child and though Monica has not been innocent for many years, her screams of pain bring too many hurtful emotions to the forefront. How can you float above it all?”
“I am not above anything, but we must be obedient to our Lord of Hosts. He has not given us permission to intervene; a greater good must be coming.” Zadkiel then telepathically shared with him how he kept the sounds of Randall’s and Monica’s pain in the background of his thoughts. “I am empathetic to your feelings. I have learned that our God knows all and His will is the only way. He did not create this mess, but He will make a way out for the innocent babe. Go sing a song of praise. It will ease your soul.”
Large expansive wings flapped in decisive strokes as a voice of power and beauty soared over majestic heads. As other voices joined in song, the angelic choir trumpeted the holiness and sovereignty of God. Contrary to the chaos, He continued to reign.
In another realm, the gates of hell rattled in anticipation of the eventual capture and consumption of the new souls. It was a two-course meal: adulterer and murderer, their favorites.
She’s a wife, mother, author and playwright. A Detroit native, she currently calls Ohio home. She holds a master’s and is a Director of Social Services. Writing with humor and compassion to engage and minister to the human heart. Her motto is: whatever you do, do it “for love alone.”
Her novel, Tell The Truth; The Devil Won’t is filled with wisdom and humor. This adventurous love story goes where Ms. Harrell loves to tread, down an unbeaten path. No millionaires rescuing damsels in distress—although she enjoys these reads herself—but real people, falling and getting back up.
The Devil Made Me Do It was her debut novel. It was nominated for First Fiction for the Phyllis Wheatley Book Award from the QBR/The Black Book Review and the Harlem Book Fair.
Her sophomore novel, Tell The Truth, The Devil Won’t will cement her as an author to watch.
Get to know Colette:
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing background?
I’m really happy to be writing. I’m in that midlife second-career change we are sometimes known to pursue. You become a certain age, and in certain areas of your life you become fearless. Your internal clock starts ticking, and you decide that if you are ever going to birth your passion, it better be now. I have always written poetry, short stories, and in the last nine years, I have co-written several local stage plays. This is my sophomore novel.
What fact about yourself would really surprise people?
I think most of us have things about us nobody else knows. Who’s really an open book? Let’s see, how transparent should I get? Well . . . I’m claustrophobic—give me an MRI—and you do it at your own peril. It’s no-holds-barred.
What makes you do the happy dance?
When I can stay in the moment. It gets hard sometimes, you know? But, if I can just sit and enjoy the journey, take solace in a perfect slice of time, I get elated. And then I catch myself and I stop and say, “I’m not worried about tomorrow. Bills are paid, no one’s in trouble or sick, and people’s opinions are far away.” . . . that makes for a golden, happy, satisfied sigh.
What about this journey is the hardest?
This answer is reminiscent of the joke concerning the man who fell out of the fiftieth-floor window of a building. On his way down, at each floor, he could be heard yelling, “So far, so good!” When I was writing the book, there were days it flowed like a symphonic orchestra; other days, I wanted to slam my computer against the wall. Then before I was published—pure angst. Now, I’m in the marketing stage . . . Can you see me sweat? What I learned along the way . . . Whatever is behind you is no longer impossible. It’s a done deal.
What do you do in your down time?
I read—I read profusely. I read in bed, when I’m a passenger in the car, on lunch hour . . . I’m like Dr. Seuss’s Sam I Am. I do it everywhere!
After successfully publishing The Devil Made Me Do It what did this book teach you?
I learned that fear can’t hold me. We can get real caught up in what people may or may not say about us or our work. So much so, that it ends up crippling our ability to move. I learned to talk myself off the ledge and by placing myself into the fray by doing each step by faith. I can tell you this, sometimes the crocodile tears tried to limit my vision, but guess what? I stuck my hand out there and felt my way through.
We’ve enjoyed learning about Colette R Harrell, author. Tell us about your book Tell The Truth; The Devil Won’t.
It’s a continuation of the characters that originated in my first novel, The Devil Made Me Do It. I felt like the characters in the novel weren’t finished telling their story. Tell The Truth; The Devil Won’t is filled with romance, suspense, humor and a twist of the super natural.
The story centers around two college sweethearts, Esther and Briggs who have taken different paths in life. Their romantic journey was disrupted by a life changing tragedy and they both lose their way. In the first book they settle for what they believe is the best course for their lives. But is it? Then there is Monica and Roger. These two were the people we love to hate. What is their real story? Are there certain people just born evil? Woven throughout the story, I love to sprinkle my stories with humor and a back drop of the supernatural. And, I never want people to guess what’s coming next. I love what one of my readers said, “seat belts should be worn”.
Your readers should pick up a copy today. I promise it’s just plain page turning fun! I’m just saying . . .
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Tell The Truth; The Devil Won’t
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