Would I Lie to You? (Thomas)

Would I Lie to You?
Trisha R. Thomas, 2004
Crown Publishing
304 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781400049035

Spirited, successful Venus Johnston is back—in the long-awaited sequel to Nappily Ever After.

Venus feels history repeating itself, and she’s not loving it. She ended a relationship with Clint because he couldn’t commit, cut off her long, processed hair, and started on a new path with a new boyfriend. But she’s been with Airic for more than two years, and they still haven’t set a wedding date. When a temporary project takes her to Los Angeles, Venus welcomes the opportunity to spend some time with her family in California and to see if a little absence makes Airic’s heart grow fonder.

But in L.A., savvy, ambitious Venus runs head-on into a new complication—the equally savvy and ambitious Jake Parsons, a former rap star turned clothing designer. Jake’s as suave as he is successful, and ten years her junior. Venus’s job is to create a marketing campaign for his urban wear. Jake’s job, it seems, is to distract her from her long-distance romance with Airic.

When Venus’s mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, her entire world seems to crumble. Everything she thought would make her happy—her new look, her successful career, her fiance—can’t fix the sadness and emptiness she feels. But before she throws in the towel, she’s offered one more chance, a chance for change, for growth, and maybe even for a new love. Will she take it? Or give in to the notion that her life will always be close but no cigar? Moving, romantic and inspiring, Would I Lie to You? is one woman’s happy, lighthearted story of giving in instead of giving up. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1966
Where—San Diego, California, USA
Education—California State University, Los Angeles
Awards—Finalist: Gold Pen Best New Fiction Writer; NAACP
Image Award; Essence Magazine Story Teller of the Year
Currently—lives in Riverside, California

Trisha R. Thomas was born in San Diego, California, and now lives in Riverside, happily ever after, with her husband and two children. She is the author of six novels, including Nappily Ever After (2000), Roadrunner (2002), Would I Lie to You? (2004) Nappily Married (2007), Nappily Faithful (2008), and Nappily in Bloom (2009). (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
Venus is a likable heroine: She has an interesting job assisting corporations with multicultural marketing, she is refreshingly bright, and her love interest—one of three, actually—is an ex-rapper turned clothing mogul.
Susan Coll - Washington Post

A soulful, romantic story that will make the reader fall in love with love again.
Black Issues Book Review

Thomas's enjoyable but flawed novel continues the story of Venus Johnston, begun in Nappily Ever After. Now 36, Venus has become the director of a Washington, D.C., marketing firm. Sent to Los Angeles to revive JPWear, the clothing brand of former rap artist Jake Parson, Venus is surprised by her powerful instant attraction to Jake. She works hard to ignore her emotions, especially because her long-time fiance, Airic, a self-made businessman, awaits her return to D.C. Jake, attracted to Venus and undeterred by her engagement, begins to weaken her resolve, until the sudden hospitalization of Venus's mother forces her to step back and carefully examine her own life. It also brings her into contact with her old flame Dr. Clint Fairchild, allowing her to express her long-held anger at their sudden breakup. She remains ambivalent about Jake's role in her life until her best friend visits Los Angeles with the disturbing news that Airic is under investigation for securities fraud. With her successful project nearly complete, Venus decides to return to Washington—more out of duty than love, though she won't admit it. Airic's case is favorably resolved, but Venus decides to end their relationship, even though she is pregnant with his child. Jake, still on the West Coast, has stayed in close touch with Venus; finally, he can be hers—but will he want to make a life with Venus and another man's child? Readers may be distracted by the plethora of bit players, and too much is crammed into the final few pages. Nonetheless, Thomas's new novel will please her fans and perhaps win new ones as well. Though a sequel, this novel easily stands alone, and compares favorably to others in the genre. Look for Thomas's numbers to rise.
Publishers Weekly

Venus Johnston picks up where she left off after ending her relationship with Clint. Although she supported him while he attended medical school, he wouldn't commit to marriage.... Readers who enjoyed Thomas' Nappily Ever After (2000) will enjoy this sequel. —Vanessa Bush

Venus Johnston is back-and she's gotta make up her mind. After she quit fussing with her processed hair and chopped it all off in Nappily Ever After (2000), Venus dumped pediatrician Clint and met Airic, a handsome, workaholic dot-com entrepreneur putting together his first IPO. He sure looks like Mr. Right, and they've been together for two years, but they just can't seem to set a date for the wedding. Well, whatever, she's 36 and that's not old enough to worry about being an old maid, not these days. Venus ignores her mama's unsubtle nagging—especially the suggestion about freezing some eggs just in case. When a new man enters her life, Venus is flummoxed. Ex-rapper turned clothing designer Jake Parsons ain't so special—except for his deep, phone-sex voice, gentlemanly manners, good looks, style, and immense personal fortune. She feels a little guilty daydreaming about Jake when Airic works so hard and seems so devoted—but when it comes right down to it, he just won't commit. Hired to freshen up the JPWear line, Venus spends a lot of time with Jake, fighting the powerful attraction he has. She just can't cheat on Airic, not after the way Clint cheated on her, but .... And her mother's diagnosis of breast cancer teaches Venus the hard truth that life is sometimes a lot shorter than we want it to be. When she finds out she's pregnant, however, Airic isn't happy at all. Relegated to a greeting-card relationship with his two kids by a difficult ex-wife, he still doesn't want to marry, and he doesn't want to be just a checkbook daddy, either. Vowing to go it alone, Venus gives birth to a girl, Mya. Will Jake want her and another man's baby? Happy ending awaits, with a can-I-get-a-witness choir backing up her one and only as he pledges eternal love. Briskly written sequel, very likable heroine.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. The novel opens with Venus' recurring nightmare: she is abandoned on her wedding day when Clint is lured away by a glamorous actress who tells him, "You know you need a real woman, someone who's going to love you and take care of you and put you first at all times." Is Venus afraid that she is truly incapable of putting someone first, or merely afraid that Clint thinks so? Why do you think this dream features Clint rather than Airic as the groom?

2. Venus does not hesitate to take the job in LosAngeles, and, in fact, is packed and ready to roll when she springs the news on Airic. However, she is irritated that Airic does not put up a fight. He is "a little too excited for her taste.…Part of her wanted him to throw drama, plead for her to stay, maybe even pout a little. What would it hurt to show that he cared, needed her? He didn't always have to be so understanding, so mature." What does this double standard tell you about Venus? Would she have cancelled her plans if Airic had begged her to?

3. How much of Jake's allure is due to the fact that he is a refreshing, baggage-free distraction from Venus' family crisis? How does Thomas set up tension with her descriptions of Jake? Are you surprised to find him a trustworthy, loveable character by the end?

4. Venus is deeply conflicted about her career: "What was she doing here in Los Angeles? She'd asked herself that question numerous times. Her answer always straight from the pages of Essence, O, and New Woman…unleashing her career potential, setting goals and overcoming fears. She was, after all, the Millennium woman…Underneath it all, she simply wanted to be loved...A husband, a baby, a home with a cuddly little dog." Is Thomas suggesting that some women are pressured by the media to strive for career success against their own gut instincts? To what extent do you think magazines like Essence and O affect women's ideas, both positively and negatively, about what they should be doing with their lives?

5. How do you explain Venus' fury at her mother's doctor? Are her feelings directed at the illness itself? The medical field for being inadequate to the task? Her mother for being mortal, or possibly passing a flawed gene on to her? Is any of this emotion aimed at Clint?

6. Alienated from her parents and confused about her men, Venus ends up relying on the kindness of strangers. Who helps her in unexpected ways? What point do you think Thomas is making with these encounters?

7. What is the significance of Venus' memory about her college boyfriend, Tony, and the tumultuous end of their relationship? What fears about herself does this memory dredge up?

8. When Jake turns on the charm during their first meeting, Venus acknowledges, "the fun was always in the chase." When she feels overwhelmed by his ardor, she admits, "She was used to doing the chasing, being the one who wanted more than she would ever receive." And when she is late to visit her mother at the hospital, she berates herself: "Always a step behind…a true sign that she was never going to catch whatever she was chasing." Discuss Venus' obsession with "the chase." Is she able to let go of this cat-and-mouse mentality in the end?

9. Venus tells Jake, "I learned a long time ago not to blame others for my unhappiness, or happiness for that matter. Either way it's my responsibility." Has she internalized this lesson? Where do you see examples of her having achieved this clarity?

10. Henry and Wendy offer Venus clashing advice about her relationship. Henry insists that liking someone (Jake, for instance) takes precedence over loyalty or even love. He tells her that "life is full of risk and danger but living is much more fun," and urges her to "start taking some chances or you gonna end up unhappy and alone." Wendy urges her to stay loyal to Airic. "You'd give up a man you've known and loved for someone who just happened to be there to pick up the pieces when you were vulnerable?…[Airic] was there for you…Now you have to stick by him." Both Henry and Wendy claim to be happily married. Whose advice do you agree with?

11. When Venus confronts Airic about his agonizing secret, she turns the conversation toward herself, rather than comfort him: "I wanted to finally be right, to finally be the person that someone could count on, through thick and thin. I wanted to be that person for you, Airic…Conviction, forgiveness, compassion, whatever it's called. I thought you saw that in me. I thought you loved me the same way I loved you. I thought you trusted me." Is Venus being fair? Is she honestly feeling injured here, or has this situation merely provided her with an easy "out" from the relationship?

12. After all her hard work on the JPWear account, Venus capitulates to "the dynamic duo" during their last meeting in LA, but not until she has a temper tantrum and balls out Legend. This is not her first loss of control in a professional setting. How do you feel about Venus abandoning her career ambitions so quickly, and in such a firestorm?

13. Discuss Airic's assessment: "Most people saw what they wanted instead of what was really there. Venus was most people."

14. Venus is delighted by the sabotage wedding that closes the novel. Is this what she has needed all along in order to make a decision—a forced, public accounting of her own feelings? How would the novel have been different if Venus had freely chosen the timing and circumstance of her wedding?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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