Love so Strongby Norman-Bellamy
If there was such thing as a perfect marriage, Bryan and Nicole Walker had it. Even without the child they desire after five years of marriage, their love for one another is solid. But then, without warning, the very thing they wanted threatens to tear them apart. Tricia Smart, a woman from Bryan's past, introduces a child who has Bryan's eyes and smile. Nicole is
If there was such thing as a perfect marriage, Bryan and Nicole Walker had it. Even without the child they desire after five years of marriage, their love for one another is solid. But then, without warning, the very thing they wanted threatens to tear them apart. Tricia Smart, a woman from Bryan's past, introduces a child who has Bryan's eyes and smile. Nicole is devastated, Bryan is blindsided and Tricia is unsympathetic. A marriage that was once unshakeable is put to the ultimate test.
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A Love So Strong
By KENDRA NORMAN-BELLAMY
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2004 Kendra M. Norman-Bellamy
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe sunlight broke through the window blinds as Nicole stirred beneath her satin sheets. She opened her eyes as she felt the emptiness beside her. Slowly sitting up, she looked beyond the vase of drooping roses that her husband had given her for Valentine's Day one week earlier and glanced at the clock on her nightstand. She realized that she had somehow overslept. It was 10:00 AM. She had slept four hours longer than she had planned.
"Bryan," she whispered with a chuckle.
Just the night before, she had told her husband of five years that she was going to get up early Saturday morning and go to church to help the other members who would be there cleaning and getting the sanctuary prepared for Sunday's appreciation service. He had made it clear that he didn't want her to be overworked.
"You're always working," he'd said. "Let some of the others do the work sometimes. You've worked late into the night, and now you're talking about going back again tomorrow morning? You're trying to do too much, baby. I don't need you getting sick or burning out. I'll make some phone calls and make sure everything is handled. You get your rest."
Looking at the clock more closely, she noticed the alarm that she had set the night before was turned off. Bryan was such a sweetheart. She really did desire to help prepare the church for the upcoming appreciation service, but he was right. She had needed the extra sleep.
The service was to honor one person in each of the church's ministries. The honorees were voted upon and chosen by the more than five-hundred-member congregation. In some ways, Nicole felt obligated to help out as much as possible since Bryan had been chosen as the honoree of the Ministerial Counseling Ministry. He'd been a part of the ministry for nearly the past ten years, becoming the youngest counselor when he joined the ministry at the age of twenty-one.
"Good morning, beautiful," Bryan said as he opened the bedroom door carrying a tray with a delicious-smelling breakfast that he'd prepared.
"Good morning." Nicole beamed as he sat the tray on the bed and bent in close to kiss her gently. "You let me oversleep," she said as he sat next to her.
"Guilty as charged," he said without apology. "Do you feel rested?"
"Yes, but I really needed to be there this morning."
"No, you didn't," he said as he uncovered the plate of grits, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and sausage links. A small saucer on the side was filled with fresh-cut strawberries. He disappeared for a few seconds and returned with a glass of orange juice. "Hope you're hungry."
"Thank you." She kissed him again. "I am, but I'm sure that I can't eat all of this."
"I know. That's why I brought two forks"-he smiled as he held the second fork up in the air-"and two straws," he concluded.
Even after five years of marriage, his presence still stirred deep emotions in her.
"I told the others last night that I'd be there to help them again today. I keep my word, you know, Bryan."
"I called Sharon this morning and told her that you were going to sleep in," he said as he fed her a sausage link and sipped from one of the straws. "She told me that she'd make sure everything was covered and that they could handle it without you. Whether or not you're dependable isn't the issue here. You needed your rest."
"I should have known you'd get Sharon on your side." Nicole laughed as she spoke of her best friend and joined Bryan in enjoying the food.
"She agreed with me," he said. "She said that you stayed after everybody was gone last night. An hour after she and Melvin had gone home, she called and found out that you were still there. They actually came back to the church and insisted that you leave."
"It's a special service, baby," Nicole defended. "I just want everything to be perfect on Sunday. Everybody is just so slow about getting the annex cleaned and the sanctuary decorated."
"Nicole," Bryan said as he placed one finger on her lips to silence her. "There are eight honorees for the service. All eight of us have family and friends. You don't have to try and do it all. Melvin and some of the fellas are taking care of the yard work today, and Sharon said that several of the ladies are helping her set up in the annex, pulpit, and choir stand."
"I know, but ..."
"Nicole." He stopped her again. "I know you want everything to be flawless because your husband is being honored, and I love you so much for that. But I needed you here with me today. Maybe I'm just being selfish."
"So that's the real reason." Nicole smiled as she relaxed her head against his shoulder. "You wanted us to spend some time together."
"Like I said," he said as he kissed the top of her head, "call me selfish. We've both been so busy lately. You've been managing the day care center, and I've been spending days at the bonding company and evenings counseling. It's been a while since we both were home on a Saturday. I thought maybe we could take advantage of the opportunity."
"Mmmmm," Nicole murmured softly. "I like the way your mind thinks, Mr. Walker. That's why I married you."
"For my mind, huh?" Bryan removed the tray of half-eaten food from the bed and placed it on the nightstand. "I thought you married me because I was tall, dark, and handsome."
"To me, you're all that, baby," Nicole flirted as he slipped under the covers with her.
"No, sweetheart, not to you," he whispered. He looked at her lovingly as she lay looking up at him. "Because of you, I am all that. You make me the man I am."
"Then somebody ought to give me a medal," Nicole whispered back as the lips of the man she loved covered hers passionately.
Bryan and Nicole Walker shared a beautiful marriage. As with any marriage, they had the usual problems along the way, but their union never lacked love, communication, and fresh passion. Every year seemed to bring them closer and make their love and desire for one another stronger. When she moved from Orlando to Jacksonville, Florida, six years ago, Nicole never imagined her world would be turned inside out by one of the church's most eligible and sought-after bachelors. Nicole and her friend Sharon Baker attended college together at Florida State University in Tallahassee. They earned their degrees in early childhood education and, upon graduation, moved to Orlando and opened their own day care center.
With a lot of prayer and hard work, the business was successful. It was really hard on Nicole when Sharon and Melvin Gibbs, who had worked with the construction team that built the day care center, decided to get married after a year and a half of courtship. Melvin and Sharon decided to move back to his hometown of Jacksonville so that he could accept a partnership in a thriving construction company.
Nicole carried on the day care center for another year but found it impossible to turn down the offer to join her friend in Jacksonville after Melvin and his construction team built a brand-new center. Not wanting the responsibility of two centers, Nicole sold the Orlando business and partnered with Sharon in Jacksonville.
Just as in Orlando, in Jacksonville she found herself having to start a new life. This time, though, life was given a whole new meaning. She struggled with getting used to the new church she joined in Orlando, but the Christ Center of Hope was heaven-sent. Having been a part of small churches all of her life, including the mission her father pastored when she was a child, the Christ Center with its hundreds of worshipers was a new experience.
She remembered the conversation that she had with Sharon as she and Melvin were helping her move her belongings into her small one-bedroom apartment.
"Girl, do I have the man for you," Sharon had announced.
"Sharon, I didn't move here to find a man. I didn't like the one you set me up with in Orlando, and I'm sure I won't like this one. Don't get me wrong. It's nothing really wrong with the men. I'm just not looking."
"I know, but I have one for you anyway," she insisted. "He's everything you've ever said that you wanted in a husband."
"But I don't want a husband. At least not right now. I'm only twenty-four years old, and I'm not getting married before I'm thirty. My calendar is planned, and there's no room to pencil in a man for a good while. I want to travel and maybe even go back to school-I'm not sure. But for certain, I'm not looking to settle down."
"Tell her, Melvin," Sharon said as if to totally ignore Nicole's speech. "Tell her about Bryan Walker."
"Sharon," Nicole whined.
"Well," Melvin started, "what can I say? Bryan's a cool guy. He's saved, responsible, athletic, and he works with the counseling ministry. He's twenty-six years old, and a lot of the women have their eye on him, according to Pastor Gaines."
"So, what do I want with a playboy?" Nicole asked. "I don't need a man who thinks everybody wants him. I'm sorry. I'm not interested in this Bryan Walker."
"You've got it all wrong, Nicole," Sharon said. "See how you've sized him up already? Bryan's not a playboy at all. He doesn't even pay attention to any of those girls who chase after him. Tell her, Melvin."
"That's true," Melvin agreed as he completed the hookup of Nicole's television. "In the year that we've been attending the church, I've never seen him take out or go after any of the women who chase after him. And before you think it," he continued, "let me say that some of these women look pretty nice too."
"Maybe something's wrong with him," Nicole mumbled.
"See, that's why you're by yourself," Sharon said. "Ain't nothing wrong with him! He's quite the looker. He's a great catch, and you better believe he is all man."
"Hey!" Melvin tossed a pillow at her playfully. "I am in the room, you know."
"But not half the man that you are," she added as she blew a kiss across the room at her husband.
"Oh, stop it." Nicole laughed.
"Seriously," Melvin said. "He says that when the time is right, God will send the right girl his way."
"Well, that's a good way for him to think," Nicole said. "He's waiting on God as he should, so I think you two should stay out of it, Mr. and Mrs. Matchmaker."
"I ain't trying to match make," Melvin defended. "I'm just agreeing with the truth."
"Besides, if he's such a find, he would be taken by now."
"Not if God is keeping him just for you," Sharon pointed out. "It won't hurt to meet him."
"If he's a friend of yours, I'm sure I'll meet him at some point. However, if and when I do, I don't want you trying to bring us together. I mean that. Especially you, Sharon. I'm not interested in any relationship right now. Not with Bryan and not with anyone else. Do I make myself clear?"
Even now, Sharon would throw those words back at Nicole every chance she got. When Nicole did meet Bryan, it changed everything. Her priorities changed completely as her instant attraction to the handsome, brown-eyed bail bondsman and his instant captivation with her took a front-row-center seat.
The courtship blossomed quickly and became serious almost overnight. Nicole loved Chinese food, and eleven months into their relationship, Bryan took her to a Chinese restaurant and reserved one of the private dining rooms. He had arranged for a special band to play her favorite love song. After they had enjoyed their meal, the band played and Bryan looked into her eyes and said, "A lifetime of love, peace, and happiness will be yours if you say yes."
With tears in her eyes, she looked on as Bryan opened a small box that was in his hand.
"Will you?" he asked as the one-and-a-quarter-carat diamond sparkled from its casing.
"Will I, what?" Nicole whispered knowingly as tears streamed down her face.
"Spend a lifetime of love, peace, and happiness with me."
"You want to marry me?" She knew they loved each other, but what about her calendar? Marriage was still more than five years away.
"I want to marry you more than anything else I've wanted in a long time," he said as he looked deep into her tear-filled eyes. "Will you marry me?"
"Yes," she mouthed silently as her voice escaped her. He understood, and she watched and trembled as he slipped the ring on her finger.
The waiters, waitresses, and even the kitchen help came out to applaud and congratulate them as Nicole silently fell into his arms and wept uncontrollably. Bryan fought back his own tears as he held her close and whispered, "I love you," over and over again in her ear.
From their first meeting to the day of their wedding was a short fifteen months. She and her new husband shared a lingering kiss at the altar after being pronounced husband and wife.
"Go on, girl!" someone yelled from the audience as the couple still embraced. "We ain't mad at you!"
The remark even brought laughter from the newlyweds as they released one another and walked from the church linked hand in hand, dipping their heads to dodge the rice that was being thrown from well-wishers before being whisked away in a beautifully adorned horse-drawn carriage.
They didn't even make it to their own reception. Being brought up in the church all of her life, and accepting Christ as a young teenager, Nicole had never been sexually intimate with a man. The wedding night brought fear as well as excitement to her. Though Bryan couldn't share that same testimony of virginity, he understood and made sure that the night was as enjoyable for her as he knew it would be for him.
Five years later, their intimacy was as passionate and fulfilling as it had been that night in their honeymoon suite. Nicole awoke and brushed her neatly weaved braids away from her face as she watched her king, as she liked to refer to him, lying asleep beside her. The breakfast that they had only nibbled on a couple hours earlier was now cold, still on the tray.
"I love you," she whispered as she kissed his neck gently.
She smiled as he let out a soft moan. She quietly eased from under the covers and out of the bed. Wrapping herself in Bryan's vacated robe and stepping into his bedroom slippers, she picked up the tray from the nightstand and took it to the kitchen to clean up. The time was passing quickly. It was 1:00 in the afternoon.
She quickly rushed to pick up the ringing phone so that it wouldn't wake up her Bryan.
"I didn't want anything in particular; I was just calling."
"Are you still at the church?" Nicole asked.
"No. We finished up an hour ago."
"So everything is set for tomorrow?"
"Sure is, and we finished it without your help. See, we can do something without you!"
"I never said you all were stupid, Sharon."
"I know, girl. I'm just teasing.
Excerpted from A Love So Strong by KENDRA NORMAN-BELLAMY Copyright © 2004 by Kendra M. Norman-Bellamy. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
KENDRA NORMAN-BELLAMY is a national best-selling author and the founder of KNB Publications LLC. Her award-winning titles have been featured in Essence, Upscale, EKG Literary, and HOPE for Women magazines. She has been a contributing writer for Precious Times and Global Woman magazines, among others. Kendra is also a motivational speaker, the organizer of Visions In Print and The Writer¿s Hut, and the founder of Cruisin¿ in Christ. Kendra is the author of One Prayer Away, Crossing Jhordan¿s River, and A Love So Strong. A native of West Palm Beach, Florida, Kendra now resides in Stone Mountain, Georgia with her family. For more information, visit www.knb-publications.com.
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I really enjoyed this story! Here is another author to add to my list.
Kendra you are great I always enjoy reading your books. I just started this one but so far its great.
I absolutely love this book. I have read it probably 5 times and it still brings me to tears.
This book is one of the BEST christian fiction books I have ever read. The storyline in gripping, the characters are interesting and the authors writing style is easy to follow. This book is a definite "must read" and I would highly recomend it.
This book was extremely well written. Ms. Norman-Bellamy creation of the character, Nicole, gives resurrection of the ultimate faith one should have. I had to admit there were a 'few' downpoints where it was boring and dull however those were just the author creating imagery and building a backbone for the story. I read this book less than a day and have continually read over. The characters created make you fall in love with them, especially the character Brian and Nicole's best friend, Sharon. Also God's will and work is expressed magnicifently.
This book was truly a blessing! The story was truly touched inspired by God Himself! It was a work of art! Taking from the canvas blueprint of the way things often work out in our lives according to God's plan. Though we can't see it, doesn't mean it ain't there or going on under our noses best describes one of the could and should be best seller for 2005!
I never read any of her books before but this book had me in tears, smiles and some of every emotion that I've known. This author definately earns far more than 5 stars for this book. Is there a sequal?if not then there should be because this lady is talented until its no more talent left. Most books I read have crsing and what not or young girls with drama... but to my surprise I loved this one the most I plan to read more of her books ...I kn ow I will be amazed.
I happened to see this author having a signing recently and although I'd never read her stuff before or even heard of her for that matter, I bought the book. This was a great buy. I loved this inspirational story so much that I read it all in one day. That was a first for me with a book of this size. I would recommend this book to any one of any age. So far, it's the best book I've read this year.
A Love So Strong is a magnificent story of love and devotion. In a time when it's hard to find a wholesome story that is also filled with drama and keeps you glued to the pages, A Love So Strong was a breath of fresh air. Wish I could give it more stars!
This was an old story told many times over. Stale, boring, longwinded and downright unbelievable characters. It is the worst Christian fiction story I've ever read. Katy P. from Brooklyn
I loved this book. Read it quicky and enjoyed every page. The twist is worked into the story in such a fashion that you probably won't get it until it's revealed. This is a very warm love story that I think any reader would enjoy but it's also dancing on the edge of drama. The combination of the two is mixed well in this novel. I'm definitely a new fan.
I read A Love So Strong after reading this author's other book, For Love And Grace. I think the world of reading has found a new Christian fiction superstar. I love the style of writing that this author possesses and I can't help but rejoice in the way she embraces and reflects black men. In For Love And Grace, Greg captured a part of my heart that will forever belong to him. In A Love So Strong, Bryan did the same. Although these books are fiction, the stories are so real and so entrancing that they absorb you and pull you in to the point that you feel you know the characters and can feel their emotions. Another thing I love is how deep the friendships in these books run. The books are very romancy in nature, but they also send a strong message about platonic friends. In For Love And Grace, it was the friendship between Greg and Derrick that was captured so perfectly. Even in the rough times, the love was never really lost. In A Love So Strong, it the friendship of Nicole and Sharon that I loved. Sharon was willing to make some great sacrifices for Nicole plus she was ready at any time to kick Tricia's crazy behind for messing with her girl and that's what real sisterhood is about. I can't wait to get my hands on whatever is next from this new author.
'A Love So Strong' makes me want to read more books with characters like Bryan. All of us aren't uneducated, abusive, deadbeat dads. So why is that usually the case when we read books for us, about us? Why are the negative male characters perceived as realistic in our books? Then a novel like 'A Love So Strong' comes along and it is perceived as 'sugary' or 'unrealistic.' Thank you Mrs. Bellamy for showcasing Godly African American male characters who remind me of the men in my family-my father, grandfather and brothers. I like the quote on your website that says Kendra Norman-Bellamy has put the 'MAN back in RoMANce!' We are not just loving our women but taking care of our seeds as well. The real bruthas are still out there and an Inspirational Romance (female) writer has given us a voice. Kudos!
How much stress would it take to tear a solid marriage apart? In A Love So Strong, though Nicole is almost portrayed as weak and frail, she is really a very strong woman who endures the heartache of not being able to have a baby with her husband. When it is coupled with a vendictive, psychotic woman who bursts into Nicole's life telling her that her husband got her pregnant and left her to care for the child on her own, Nicole could easily break under the pressure and walk away. Instead she fights for her marriage and tries to make the best of a sometimes tormenting situation. But this book is more than about a woman's strong love for her husband; it is also about a man's strong love for his wife. Nicole isn't the only one fighting for this marriage. Bryan is doing all he can to make the transition as stress-free as possible for his wife and his patience with 'the other woman' runs quite thin at times. The faith that both Nicole and Bryan have in the God they serve is displayed throughout this grinding process. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I cheered out loud at the unexpected twist. Well worth my time and money!
A Love So Strong is a book that shows the black family from a positive, though not perfect, angle. From page one to page 362, this novel held my attention with its strong dialogue and captivating scenes. At first I thought it was going to be just the typical sappy romance, but when 'the one night stand' made her appearance, the story took off. My heart went out to Nicole, my heart belonged to Bryan, and my heart despised Tricia. My emotions ran high with this book at times, but in a good way. To read about a black man who would go to the ends of the earth for his woman as well as step up and take responsibility for a child who was just presented to him out of the blue was a very pleasant change from the normal African American fiction. My favorite character was Sharon. She was real and I could relate to her as she burned with a desire to kick Tricia's behind! If I could change one thing about this novel, I'd donate one page to Sharon just beating the living daylight out of Tricia and to keep it Christian fiction, I'd have her to repent for it afterwards. But for just one page, she would have laid her religion down for the cause. Nicole didn't have the personality to do it, but Sharon did. I hope to see more from this author in the future. And if there is going to be a sequel to this book, PLEASE take my suggestion into consideration. THANKS!
So far this is the best book I've read this year! I purchased this book because I thought it was a great price for the size of the novel, but when I read it, I loved it so much that I went back to the store and had them to order the author's first book as well. The first book was excellent too....very touching and heartwarming, but I think this one was my favorite. I thought that the idea of a loving couple having to deal with an outside child and his b**** of a mother was an outstanding angle for a Christian novel. One of the previous reviewers called the story 'predictable', but for me, it wasn't at all. I was drinking a soda at the time I read the twist in the plot and I almost choked! Not only did I like the story, but I like the authors writing style. The dialog was so engaging and it made the book an easy read. It almost had the feel of a made-for-tv movie (starring Terrance Howard and Nia Long)! I can't wait for the next book!
I agree with Publisher's Weekly review. This story is a 'tired plot.' I read her last book, For Love and Grace which was too sugary for me. I tried to give this author another chance by reading A Love So Strong. I found this story to be old and worn but some of the scenes are fresh. Under the circumstances, if the story was different, the ratings would be higher. Her writing style fits the typical clone-like BET christian label like so many of their other authors.
This novel is enjoyable from start to finish. My favorite characters were Nicole and Bryan. I greatly disagree with the critics, there is 'much available in the African-American faith fiction market'. I can hardly wait to read the sequel.