Eric Jerome Dickey has been in my upper echelon of favorite of fave authors for more than a decade. His style is so accessible and provocative, for me, his novels always feel like a master class in romantic realism. The stories aren’t traditionally romantic, each couple’s journey to HEA is never easily linear boy meets girl- obvious misunderstanding- realization of faults to love declarations. In an EJD tale, characters live in bold and sometimes cold, color. More often than not, their choices challenge the reader to check their own moral compass and “what-would-I-do-isms” at the door. I look forward to any spring when I get to once again get lost in Dickey land.
All is fair in love and lust in LA…
Unlike their younger brother, André, whose star as a comedian is rising, neither Dwayne nor Brick Duquesne is having luck with his career – and they’re unluckier still in love. Former child star Dwayne has just been fired from his latest acting role and barely has enough money to get by after paying child support to his spiteful former lover, while Brick struggles to return to his uninspiring white-collar job after suffering the dual blows of a health emergency and a nasty breakup with the woman he still loves.
Neither brother is looking to get entangled with a woman anytime soon, but love – and lust – has a way of twisting the best-laid plans. When Dwayne tries to reconnect with his teenage son, he finds himself fighting to separate his animosity from his attraction for his son’s mother, Frenchie. And Brick’s latest source of income – chauffeur and bodyguard to three smart, independent women temporarily working as escorts in order to get back on their feet – opens a world of possibility in both love and money. Penny, Christiana, and Mocha Latte know plenty of female johns who would pay top dollar for a few hours with a man like Brick…if he can let go of his past, embrace his unconventional new family, and allow strangers to become lovers.
6. California Love…
Set in Los Angeles California, the city as much a living part of the story as any character, The Business of Lovers gives a view into the lives of three brothers and three sex-workers whose lives all coincide against the LA backdrop to create one hell of a mosaic. If you’re from LA, you’re right at home and if you’ve never been- you definitely want to- badly!
5. Progressive respect for sex workers, woman empowerment and men holding men accountable.
All three themes are threaded through The Business of Lovers- and not in a hunted at- round about, subversive kind of way. It was refreshing to read such themes in all of their clear, blunt authenticity.
I saw Christiana as a little girl who had grown into a woman who happened to have been an attorney in a foreign land, not as what she did on this pit stop between her successes. Same as I saw Penny as a USC student figuring out how to rule the world. I didn’t see people as occupations, as cogs in the wheel. Christiana was soft on the outside, focused and hard within. I took no offense at what she had done and didn’t expect more. She was a human being. Once upon a time, Maya Angelou worked as a prostitute. The poet of all poets, the Grammy-winning, calypso-dancing streetcar conductor in San Francisco. The friend to Malcolm X, the woman who had been a teen mother, the legend who delivered a powerful poem at the presidential inauguration for the first black president, had once been a female pimp. I read in a book that even Malcolm X had been in the same momentary quick-money occupation. For survival. Judge not in the moment, not while we are works in progress, but hold all verdicts until the end.
4. Behold- a man who does not mansplain.
…If I’d abandoned my son and had gone off to pursue my passion, if I had taken that call to go tour, or had snagged a part in a Broadway show, as a woman with a kid, as a mother, I’d be called all sorts of names, least of all being a suck-ass parent… your brother is a suck-ass parent. No shade. I will tell him that to his face.”
When she was done venting, I said, simply, “I’m not going to try to argue with that or defend him.”
“He drops a check once a month, late most of the time, and walks away like he’s done enough.”
“You know your truth and how you feel. I’d never mansplain or challenge that.”
3. Mutual Accountability is sexy.
Much of this non-traditional romantic drama is a story of men and women standing in their truths, learning from their mistakes and ultimately taking accountability for their actions. Each character has to grapple with the consequences of their choices and realization that impact is sometimes all that matters- intentions be damned.
2. This exchange.
“We’re being honest here?”
“Yeah. We’re being honest.”
“Okay. I don’t like you but still have feelings for you. My desire for you is stronger than the dislike, and I hate that. I almost told you that tonight when we were at Islands. Almost was foolish enough to say that out loud.”
“You looked so good that day at the beach.”
“So did you.”…..
“Sometimes I touch myself, just to feel me, and imagine me filling you to my balls.”
“Sometimes I drink too much and imagine you down my throat.”
“Jesus.” She swallowed. “Get a condom and get here.”
1. Representation Matters. (Especially when it’s organic).
Eric Jerome Dickey is a Black author who writes multi-cultural characters impeccably. Outside of that, he writes underrepresented characters exceptionally well. A love interest is differently abled and it’s the least of her storyline. She is desirable and desires. She has agency over her body and her life and she isn’t waiting to be rescued or jaded to love. I loved that. As a parent of a special needs child, it was heart meltingly pleasing for me to see that she too is a star in romantic themes. People of color thrive, fail, and preserve. Non-POCs thrive, fail and persevere. The common denominator- humanity. That human X- factor, where you relate because you are human – and have been though some crap in life- is what I adore most about this novel. It gets me and I got it.