One Better

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The hardships encountered by a Detroit restaurateur in her determination to see her children succeed.

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Overview

The hardships encountered by a Detroit restaurateur in her determination to see her children succeed.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
At first glance, the cast of McMillan's soap-operatic second novel (after Knowing) might belong in a Cosby Show spinoff: Spice Witherspoon is a successful restaurateur and philanthropist, and her elder daughter, an airline pilot, is a pioneer in a field traditionally hostile to black women. But not all is well in their suburban life. Spice's resentful younger daughter is hooked on drugs and bad men, and all three women must struggle to find love, acceptance, happiness and sexual fulfillment in a world that expects them to fail. Their lives are filled with as much disappointment as success, the most poignant having to do with their relationships to one another. Unfortunately, McMillan never develops these women beyond stereotypes, slips into gooeyness at the first stirrings of sex and too often seems seduced by the surface glamoureven the brand namesthat entrance her most troubled characters. In its all-out effort to establish the Witherspoons' bourgeois status, the plot leaves too many questions unanswered. It's never clear how the restaurant grew from a mom-and-pop joint into an $8-million business, or how Spice's older daughter became an airline pilot despite competition from people with twice her experienceor why a savvy, self-respecting businesswoman like Spice would hop into bed with a treacherous young employee. There's no shortage of confrontational scenes, startling revelations or earthshaking sex; what's missing from this novel is the fiber that could turn these characters into people, their stories into lives. Simultaneous Time Warner audio. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Best-selling author McMillan goes One Better than her popular sister, Terry, with this follow-up to Knowing.
Kirkus Reviews
This McMillan is no Terry, but her second effort (Knowing, 1996)—though fresh and original it's not—has a certain appeal.

Spice Witherspoon is a matriarch to be reckoned with and the owner of Southern Spice, the most popular restaurant in greater Detroit. Spice's two daughters have suffered in different ways from their mother's devotion to her business; and after her husband David died when the girls were teenagers, the situation got still worse. Mink, the older, is a perfectionist, driven to succeed. After years of hard work, she becomes one of the first African- American commercial pilots. But in her quest for even greater success, she neglects her family, her loving husband Dwight and beautiful daughter Azure, and launches an affair with an egomaniac that nearly destroys her. Sterling is even more blatantly self- destructive. Addicted to drugs and sex, she's the classic bad girl. When her ex-fiancé, notorious drug dealer and philanderer Bennie, gets her to make some drug runs for him, she seems headed for disaster. As for Spice herself, her love life's a mess; her brother-in-law Otis has loved her for years, but Spice feels strange dating David's brother. Then she meets Golden Witherspoon, a preacher and community activist who seems to be the man she's been waiting for. Meanwhile, Spice's best friend, Carmen, is an alcoholic: When she goes into rehab, she's forced to come to terms with the true nature of her relationship to Spice and one of her daughters, leading to a surprising but wholly unconvincing conclusion. An overwrought, cliché-laden style doesn't help. By the close, which involves the death of one of the Witherspoons, the intricacies of the family have paled in comparison to the melodrama.

Not a wash—the restaurant details are realistic and engaging, and Spice is a complex character—but, overall, far from a must- read.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446605991
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/24/2009
  • Edition description: REISSUE
  • Pages: 404
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Read an Excerpt


Excerpt


SPICE


Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.
— OSCAR WILDE


Dozens of cars were lined up for the valet service at the corner of University Drive and Pine Street in downtown Rochester, Michigan. By 8:30 A.M. BMWs, Mercedes, and Acuras began being parked by the finest red-jacketed valets money could hire. By 8:50 A.M. the lot was packed. Anyone new in town would have thought there was a party going on.

Locals knew that 9:00 A.M. was when the four-star, multimillion-dollar gourmet restaurant Southern Spice, known for its superb southern cooking, opened for breakfast. The five-story, 27,000-square-foot Victorian mansion that housed the restaurant was originally constructed with sixty-three rooms, thirteen bathrooms, two hundred and thirty-two windows, and twenty-two fireplaces. Its Gothic exterior featured a dramatic gable roof and decorative tiles in different shapes and colors. The same tiles were repeated above doorways and over the tops of the dozens of bay windows. The roof's steeply pitched sides, topped with pointed spires and turrets, added to the exaggerated opulence. "Southern Spice" was inscribed in beige script over the grand brick-tiled entranceway.

Once inside, the scintillating aromas from the kitchen would cause many a belly to rumble. Orange and pineapple juice were freshly squeezed every morning. Country-cured ham from Virginia, bacon with the rind on, and egg-white shrimp omelets with a tropical citrus butter sauce were some of thehouse favorites on the breakfast menu.

People went out of their way to dine at Southern Spice because the food and service were both unparalleled. There was always something different on a menu that changed with the seasons. Southern Spice was elegant enough to serve Russian Seruga caviar and down-home enough to have fresh catfish for breakfast.

It was also a place where the Pistons' Grant Hill and Joe Dumars and legendary superstars such as Aretha Franklin and Anita Baker could eat without interruption from people asking for their autographs.

"Rosa Parks, the Winans, Mayor Quincy Cole ... hmmm," Spice read to her friend Carmen from the morning paper as she sipped her coffee. "There's quite a few more black folks on the list this year."

Taking a break from preparing a celebratory brunch for her elder daughter in her private apartment upstairs from the restaurant, Spice was reading the Detroit News's "Michiganians of the Year" list. The honor roll had begun in 1978, and for the third year in a row Spice Witherspoon was among the lauded Michiganians. As owner of the renowned restaurant, Spice had received numerous culinary, civic, and philanthropic awards over the past ten years.

Even though Spice knew she made the Michiganians list because of her achievements as a restaurateur, she was still most proud of the fact that her efforts in the community were appreciated. Hard work and charity were virtues she lived by.

The two women were two floors above the restaurant, preparing a small feast in Spice's personal kitchen. The left side of the huge room was a well-equipped commercial kitchen with a double glass-door Traulsen refrigerator and the La Cornue $14,000 range with twin smoked-glass ovens. The far corner was filled with a wide butcher's block curio cabinet that held an assortment of All-Clad pots and pans. Arranged along the cream Corian counters above dozens of stained-glass cabinets were various sizes of cutlery and the latest Cuisinart and mixers. In the center of the room was a long island, with back-to-back twin black porcelain sinks and a wine rack. On the right-hand wall was an arched barbecue pit and brick fireplace, with a low fire, now softly scenting the air with hickory, and right next to it floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves filled with cookbooks. The kitchen was Spice's favorite space in her two-story duplex, carved and refurbished from fourteen of the mansion's original rooms.

As Spice read the paper, the aroma of smoking meat brought her mind back to when her daughters were in school. She'd loved preparing large breakfasts and then walking her children to the bus stop on the corner. By living upstairs in the converted mansion, she'd been able to stay close to work without compromising the amount of time she spent with her children.

Of Spice's two daughters, Mink, the straight-A student, had always been organized, with daily homework assignments ready for her mother to check and sign. But her younger daughter, Sterling, was another matter altogether. Though Sterling's grades mirrored Mink's, her priority, even at age six, had always been her appearance.

Only David, Spice's now deceased husband, thought Sterling's obsession with her looks was cute. Everyone else saw it as saying a lot about Sterling's future character.

Spice and David were married on June 9, 1972, at the court-house in Midnight, Mississippi. David, at twenty-six, was eight years Spice's senior, and Spice could still recall how badly his hands were shaking as they stood before the minister.

"Having second thoughts?" Spice remembered asking David.

There were tears in his eyes when he answered her. "Of course not. I love you."

David knew that when she agreed to marry him, Spice hadn't loved him. With two small children she needed a husband, security, and a home; David offered all three. Looking back now, Spice remembered the exact moment when her feelings had shifted.

Spice remembered the grueling eighteen-hour days that she and David used to work in the early years of the restaurant. Spice was the head chef then, and with the help of only three waitresses, David had to manage everything else. One evening, while David was cleaning the kitchen after the restaurant had closed, Spice looked over at him. Suddenly a warm pool of feeling filled her insides, and she realized then and there that he was the only man she would ever love.

"Baby, you're exhausted. I'll finish." She kissed him lightly on the neck. "You go on upstairs."

"No. You're exhausted, too." He loosened her apron and wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tightly. "I'm okay. Now go on. I'll be up in about an hour."

Hesitantly Spice walked away. Just before opening the door, she stopped and turned back. As softly as a shadow she said, "I love you, David."

"I know," he answered, smiling.

For twenty years, their marriage had been perfect. Spice's love had grown so deep for David that it surprised her. With the girls entering college, Spice and David had begun fantasizing about grandchildren and how they would fit into their potentially glorious future.

But it was not to be. On his way home from a weekend trip to Midnight, David had fallen asleep on the freeway and run into the back of a semi. He'd been killed instantly, he and his white Lincoln crunched up like an accordion. To protect her, David's brother, Otis, begged Spice to let him identify the body.

Now, widowed for five years, Spice knew that she would never again feel such an honest love as the one that she'd shared with David.

"Who else made the list, Spice?" Carmen asked, wiping a piece of loose hair from her forehead. After dipping the wooden spoon back inside the bowl, she finished sprinkling English toffee over the top of the caramel pie cooling at the stove and then placed it inside the refrigerator.

In eight months Carmen would be forty-five. Her small body, with tiny breasts and hips, and even her full head of naturally curly hair, cut in a sixties shag, resembled a child's. Carmen wasn't just thin; she looked undernourished. The bones of her gentle, latte-colored hands looked like trembling branches. It hurt Spice to see her friend's frailty.

Spice called off five more names, listed alphabetically, and stopped at the last entry: Reverend Golden Westbrook. "I'm not familiar with that name. I wonder—"

"Mr. Westbrook is the pastor at Divinity Baptist in Detroit. He's the president of the Detroit chapter of the National Alliance for the Advancement of the Black Race. He's been getting a lot of attention because of the NAABR elections this fall," Carmen explained as she began to pace the kitchen floor.

"Really? I wonder if he's looking for a wife." Spice continued reading the morning paper and sipping her coffee. "Now that's the kind of man Sterling should be dating."

"Sterling?"

"She may be needing a husband sometime soon." There was a bitter tone in Spice's voice. "She'll be twenty-six the end of February, and she's still costing me a fortune every month. I'll support her for one—" Spice stopped. She was becoming increasingly irritated by Carmen's pacing back and forth. "I'm starting to feel a breeze across my face from you walking so fast. You're making me nervous, Carmen," she said as she flexed the paper forward. "Sit down and take a break, will you? We've got plenty of time." She waited until Carmen was seated. "I'll pay her bills for one more year, until she gets her degree. If she gets a degree, which I doubt. Degree or not, one year, then she's on her own."

Carmen uttered a short laugh. "I can just see Sterling with a preacher." She removed a flask from her apron and took a quick sip of vodka.

Spice turned her mouth up in a half smile. "I think it's time for Sterling to make some changes, don't you?" she said, putting the paper away.

"What about you, Spice?" Carmen smiled. "Are you going to make some changes? When are you getting married again?"

"I'm not ready." Spice watched Carmen's smile fade. "April marks the fifth anniversary of David's death. And to be perfectly honest with you, I enjoy my freedom and making all the business decisions around here." Her voice was emotionless. "I married David because I needed a man to take care of me and my kids. My kids are grown now. I've since learned how to take care of myself. I don't need a husband anymore."

Although their friendship spanned decades, Carmen had never questioned Spice's motives. Spice missed David terribly at times but could not afford to reveal her vulnerability. Though few people knew it, Southern Spice was opening a second restaurant in downtown Royal Oak. And with it Spice was being launched into the rough-and-tumble world of business development. She had to appear as a woman with a man's strength and a woman's creativity.

When the timer went off, Spice removed the roast from the oven. Immediately the kitchen filled with the fresh scents of apricots, pecans, and thyme. She added a splash of bourbon to the robust sauce simmering on the range, the last step in the preparation of the succulent apricot-pecan-stuffed pork loin. Soft steam formed on the windows, clouding the outside view as the women worked. With the subject of husbands dropped, the two women moved on to a safer topic— food.

"Don't you think this is a lot of food for four people?" Carmen asked while stirring three pounds of fresh jumbo shrimp and lobster into the bubbling red pot of gumbo on the stove's front burner.

"Of course not! It's time for a celebration." Spice paused. "How often does a mother see her black child promoted to captain with a major airline? And a female child at that." She expertly sliced the piping hot pork roll and began arranging the dual circles of meat over a circular base platter of roasted new potatoes, leeks, and baby carrots. "However," she added, "whatever food is left over, we can wrap up and deliver to Mother Maybelle's Soup Kitchen downtown in the morning." As she poured a hefty amount of the hot glaze into a separate dish, Spice brought a finger to her lips and gingerly sampled the tangy bourbon sauce. "Mmmm," she said, "perfect."

Carmen gave the gumbo one final stir, then replaced the cover on the pot, lowering the flame. "Everything for the brunch should be ready in about fifteen minutes."

Spice moved to the refrigerator and looked inside at its contents once again. On the top shelf, a spinach salad with apple-onion vinaigrette glistened in a glass bowl. She checked Carmen's work of art on the lower shelf: five lotus-shaped stemware pieces filled with peach Melba.

"I haven't even worked my usual shift, and I'm exhausted," Carmen said, sitting down, putting her feet in the opposite chair, and once again removing her small flask from her apron pocket.

Spice and Carmen had been cooking since 6:00 that morning. It was now 11:12 A.M. and the brunch was set to begin in just under two hours.

As she spoke, Spice's voice was inflected with the hurt she felt inside. "Carmen, I'm really having a problem with you not taking part in today's celebration." She slipped on a pair of oven mitts and lifted one of the chafing dishes filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage. The center island and counters in the kitchen were covered with eggs Benedict, ham, corned-beef hash, biscuits and gravy, homemade waffles with strawberries and whipped cream topping, and fresh Danishes completing today's meal. "You know how important you are to this family. It won't be the same without you."

"Not today, Spice." Carmen placed the dish she'd transferred from the kitchen beside Spice's in the living room. Stepping back, she automatically smoothed the swirled gold moiré skirt draping the buffet table that she and Spice had lavished with gold silk bows. Ornate Russian Fabergé silverware was laid out next to red china. Ivory linen napkins were rolled through cylinders of jewel-studded bracelets. "However," Carmen said teasingly, "if you'd like to offer me a bottle of your private cognac, I could be persuaded into accepting one of those."

"Of course," Spice said, moving hesitantly toward the bar.

Reflected in the mirror along the well-lighted bar was an elegant black lacquer Yamaha piano facing the south wall. Spice's most prized possessions were two papier-mâché gilt, mother-of-pearl, and cane side chairs with a similarly painted papier-mâché mother-of-pearl cave à liqueurs that were carefully positioned beside the piano for a stunning effect that added to the flamboyance of the room. Though she rarely drank, Spice kept the bar well stocked. There were several bottles of Dom Pérignon and Cristal along with the usual variety of liquors.

But what Spice was particularly proud of was the case of Louis XIII cognac, valued at $1,355 a bottle, that had been given to her by David on their fifteenth anniversary.

"Now, Spice," Carmen said, resting her hands on her narrow hips, "I was just kidding about the cognac, girl." She chuckled. "I could have sworn you'd say no, knowing how much those bottles mean to you."

Spice exhaled and felt her body relax. Truly, she would have given Carmen anything she wanted, but she was thankful that her friend didn't feel the need to test her loyalty that way. She hugged Carmen's tiny body, then said seriously, "If you change your mind ..."

"Spice, I know I'm family, but today should be a celebration for kin, your brother-in-law, and your daughters. Anyway, it's been a while—"

"Since I've seen Mink and Sterling. I know," she said softly. "Otis called yesterday and said that he wanted to talk to Sterling about something. It might have been about a job." She shrugged it off. "Anyway, I've forgotten the conversation, I've been so busy with this new project."

She removed her apron and gloves and sat at the kitchen table. Carmen joined her and listened as Spice told her about her latest entrepreneurial adventure.

Foxphasia, the $38 million hotel and office center, was located on the northeast corner of I-696 and Woodward in Royal Oak on a 6.8-acre site. Along with two other investors, Spice had founded the Foxphasia Corporation to develop three office buildings of three, five, and fifteen stories, respectively, a five-story condominium, and a three-story cultural children's museum with a pedestrian bridge that would be built between the Detroit Zoo and the 154-bed office-hotel that housed Southern Spice's sister restaurant on the first level. When Spice finished explaining her version of the completed project to Carmen, she clapped her hands like a child and exclaimed, "It's getting exciting, I can tell you that, girl!"

"I'd like to see it one day."

"Why wouldn't you? Anytime, kiddo." Then Spice added, "Even though my daughter is talented, I made a mistake in commissioning her to design the children's cultural museum."

"Sterling?"

"Yes. It took all of Otis's and my pull to get her hired temporarily at Zuller Architectural Firm. She had to work through one of their senior architects because she's not licensed yet. And she still hasn't finished the plans. She seemed so excited about it last summer. Now she's a month behind for the bank's deadline for approval of the plans. And the cold shoulder I've received lately from Zuller might never thaw."

"Don't worry, she'll come through." Reaching across the table, Carmen touched Spice's hand. "You need someone to help you with all this."

"Otis has offered many times to help me. But I don't want him involved. I see him enough already. Daily contact would be too much." She leaned back in her chair and turned to gaze outside. "I had planned on discussing my future plans for the development with the girls. You know, let them see the possible benefits of building a family empire. Otherwise, it just doesn't make any sense to work so hard for much longer."

"Marriage is still an option."

"As I said earlier, I'm still not ready." Spice turned to face her friend. "So it's not. But if I can convince Sterling of the importance of her career, and how it'll tie in with our Foxphasia Corporation projects, maybe she'll get serious. You know how Sterling thinks soul food is another name for slave food and refuses to eat it. She feels no matter how you fix it, or serve it up, it's still slave food, which is why I decided not to encourage her to take an active role in the restaurant part of the business."

"Sterling knows how to get to you, Spice. But she'll come through."

"I'm not so sure anymore about anything. In twenty years I'd like to know that at least a son-in-law or a grandchild is being groomed to take over."

"Spice, I don't think you're being fair to yourself or the girls by not get—"

"I'll tell you what. I won't discuss anything that serious today. We're just going to eat heartily and have a laughter-filled afternoon." Spice forced a smile that faded quickly.

With her hand still in the center of the table, Carmen touched her friend's arm. "Is there something you're not telling me?" she asked.

Spice looked Carmen squarely in the eye and held it before saying, "No."

"You've been acting funny ever since your birthday." Carmen turned her head to the side. "Personally, I partied through most of that year. So I really can't remember how I felt. But I've heard that turning forty-three is worse than turning forty."

Spice could smell the liquor on Carmen's breath as she spoke. "I'm not a believer in that myth," she said, turning away and hearing but not seeing Carmen take another sip from the flask. "It's never the physical that concerns me most. It's my mental attitude— staying on top of things, being in control. Life has been good to me, but I don't want the girls to make the same mistakes that I made."

"Mistakes teach us about life, Spice."

"David and I worked hard to build this business, and we assumed they would want to keep it going." Spice removed the bread pudding from the oven and placed it on the butcher block to cool. "Mink's got her own career—" She added quickly, "Of course I'm happy for her. But Sterling ... Sterling ..." She shook her head. "What am I going to do with her?"

"She'll learn."

"When? Sterling doesn't care about anything but shopping." Spice sighed. "I keep making excuses for her not delivering the plans at the bank, but I'm running out of lies. I didn't raise her to be a loser. I know I made some mistakes early on, but—"

"You did what you had to do, Spice."

Their eyes locked, and the silent understanding they shared was enough right now. "I'm surprised that Otis hasn't arrived yet. He loves to catch me off guard."

"Nervous?"

"No," Spice lied. "Yes. Otis has been pressuring me a lot lately about dating again. He feels it's time I moved on with my life. I'm certain dating isn't like it used to be back in our day." She felt Carmen's smile on her back as she checked the clock above the double ovens: fifteen minutes before twelve. "They'll be here pretty soon—"

"And you'd better get dressed." Carmen scrambled from the chair and began stacking the dishwasher. "I'm just about to leave for home, but I'll call you later to see how everything went."

Spice whispered a warm "Thanks" in Carmen's ear, then ruffled her curly locks before leaving the kitchen.


* * *


Sterling arrived first. Using her key to Spice's private-access elevator and residence, she entered the duplex and hung up her coat in the front closet. "Spice?" she called out to her mother. "Spice," she said louder, "it's me, Sterling."

"Hi, baby. I'll be down in a few minutes," Spice yelled from her bedroom doorway. "Open a bottle of champagne while you wait."

Sterling checked out the spread of food and sampled a piece of toffee before removing one of three chilled bottles of champagne on ice. She took it upstairs to the library. Just as she was settling into a relaxing glass of champagne, she heard the elevator stop, followed by the sound of a key unlocking the door.

A few seconds later Mink peeked into the library. "Hello, Sterling," she said, giving her sister a hug. After setting her purse on the lower shelf of a bookcase, she asked Sterling, "Where's Spice?"

"She's still dressing, and Otis hasn't arrived yet." Sterling sighed. "Join me in a glass of champagne," she said, reaching inside the liquor cabinet for another crystal goblet. She poured a drink for her sister, then toasted her, saying with a smile, "Congratulations on your promotion."

"Thanks."

"I'll be back in a sec," Sterling said, setting down her empty glass. "Gotta take a trip to the bathroom." As she stood, she smoothed and adjusted her cuffed sleeves just so. Every gesture showed that she knew how she shimmered in her stunning ivory Christian Lacroix pantsuit with three rows of lustrous bubble-gum-sized pearls hanging from her neck. Wearing all muted opalescent tones, poised and lovely in pastel nylons, pumps, and a softly painted mouth, she didn't need anyone to tell her that she looked terrific.

As beautiful as both women were, they couldn't have looked more different. Mink stood five feet nine to Sterling's five feet one. Sterling wore her hair long, in waves of autumn gold; Mink wore a perfectly shaped half-inch afro. Sterling's complexion was ivory, like a delicate lily; Mink's flawless skin was a rich chocolate brown. Sterling's eyes, a striking gray that at first glance appeared blue, made many people think of the goddess Athena; Mink's eyes were a deep sepia that mirrored the stars in midnight waters. The stunning high arch of Mink's sculpted cheekbones, her broad nose and full lips, called attention to her exotic appeal; Sterling's high, sophisticated forehead, sleek brows, aristocratic nose, and narrow lips gave her a classical, 1930s beauty.

Throughout Sterling's and Mink's lives, their hobbies, choices in men, and recently their career paths were as dissimilar as their physical features. It was obvious they had different fathers, though neither woman thought much about it— and that was lucky for Spice.

The master suite was decorated in the same theme as the rest of the apartment: rich creams, taupes, brass and glass in the furniture, thick white carpeting, and bold, black velvet walls. Leaning over her dressing table, Spice reapplied her makeup for the third time. She'd underestimated how nervous she'd be and couldn't get her hands to stop shaking. Consequently, at 1:22 P.M., she still hadn't finished dressing.

Finally, expelling a last sigh in a futile effort to calm herself, she left her room and headed toward the familiar sound of her daughters' voices. She hesitated for a moment and took a deep breath just outside the entrance to the library. Just as she was ready to go in, she was stopped in her tracks by the catty tone in Sterling's voice as she spoke to her elder sister.

"You'll probably hear about it next week," Sterling said loftily. "The dean's wife caught her husband and me together."

"Did she catch you in his bed or yours?" Mink's voice practically roared. "Never mind, I don't want to hear the vulgar details."

"Neither," Sterling answered with what sounded like pride. "In the backseat of his car in the school's parking lot."

"Jesus!" Mink exploded. "How stupid can you get? How stupid could he get?"

As Sterling began detailing how their affair had begun, there was no remorse in her voice.

Steadying herself, Spice walked into the room. "Hello, girls," she said, kissing Mink and then Sterling on the cheek. As she stood back to appraise them, she said, "You both look stunning."

"So do you, Spice." Mink poured her mother a glass of champagne.

"Thank you," she said, accepting the drink from Mink. And with her eyes fastened on Sterling, she said, "Finish your story," then took a seat on the velvet couch.

Mink took a seat beside Spice and patted her on the knee.

"Anyway, the wife called security, and since a half gram of cocaine was found in the car, the university decided to suspend me."

Spice had learned long ago not to react to Sterling's outlandish, self-destructive behavior. The more she showed she cared, the more her younger child rubbed her nose in her failure as a mother. When the telephone rang, Spice jumped, tipping the bubbly beverage over onto her lap, staining her silk dress.

"Hello," she said angrily while reaching for a handful of tissues to dry her soiled dress. She listened to her head chef explain why he'd called. "What kind of emergency, Travis?" From the corner of her eye, she could see Sterling lighting a cigarette and listening to her every word. "I'll be right down." She slammed down the receiver and rolled her eyes at Sterling.

"I've got to go," was all she said before quickly leaving the room.

She knew that I'd been planning this for months, Spice thought, nervously twisting her gold wedding band, which she wore on her middle finger, back and forth. She was positive that Sterling had staged the whole affair to draw attention to herself. They had played this game many times before. Losing another opportunity? And drugs? Again? Spice was fed up with Sterling's secondhand theatrics. She was so angry, she welcomed the excuse to escape— not an unfamiliar feeling, unfortunately.

Spice had tried to teach her daughters that they could be more— more intelligent, more talented, more attractive— one better than anyone, just by being themselves. But somehow the message hadn't gotten through to Sterling.

Pushing the button for the elevator to the restaurant, Spice thought back to another incident just four years earlier, on Sterling's birthday. All the preparations had been made at Southern Spice for Sterling and her boyfriend Bennie's wedding. Though Spice and Mink knew that Bennie Locke was the human embodiment of Narcissus, they'd had no luck convincing Sterling how awful her future would be with him.

And no one discussed that Sterling's real motive for her early graduation from Rochester High School and subsequent marriage plans had more to do with Mink's eloping with Dwight immediately after her twentieth birthday than with Bennie.

Anyway, there hadn't been a ceremony that day. Bennie had never shown up. The young bride-to-be was "all dressed up with nowhere to go." Sterling had been overwhelmed with embarrassment and filled with rage. Unfortunately, it had not proven to be the last of Bennie in their lives.

When the elevator stopped on the main level, Spice stepped onto the pink-and-white checkerboard flooring of Southern Spice's main kitchen.

She waved at the employees as she made her way toward the head chef's office.

Just as she entered Travis Foxx's office, Spice heard a rumbling, rolling noise, then the sound of a file cabinet drawer clicking shut, telling her that Travis was wearing his manager's hat at the moment. Travis had filled some of the tasks left by David's death. But Lord knew he was no David.

From the moment she sat down, Spice felt his eyes visually undressing her. "What's the emergency?" she asked.

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2004

    Speechless

    This is the first book that I have read by Rosalyn Mcmillian, and I must say I was speechless. I could not put the book down. The end of the book really shocked me. It was wonderful!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2002

    THE TWISTS ARE GREAT

    This an interesting book about a successful single mom with twists along the way. There are a few characters that you will live to hate but the twists will keep your face in the place.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2001

    TEAR JERKER

    I have read this book 5times since its been written. This book is so good that it should be a movie. Each characters story was well written and hit important issues. If you want to read a book that will make you cry and laugh & can relate to everyday family problems and secrets this is the book for you. I have read all of her books & would prefer them over all of Terry's.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2001

    Refreshing

    I thought this book was a nice come back from Knowing. I perfer reading her books rather than Terry's. Keep up the good work!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2000

    AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I read this book last year and this was the first novel that truly made me cry and not want to put the book down. This book was more powerful than Knowing. I truly felt for all the characters, especially Carmen. In one word, WOW........

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2000

    One Better can get No Better

    this book was excellent. i loved it. the characters made you feel as if you knew them

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2000

    'ONE BETTER'...for me!

    ONE BETTER was like watching your favorite soap opera; the story never ended! Even after Spice got married to the good Reverend, there was Otis, the jealous ex-brother-in-law trying to throw a monkey wrench in the works, all to get Spice! Daughter Sterling fighting for the love of her drug-dealing boyfriend and her addiction to the trash he sells! Daughter Mink, wanting more from her marriage than her husband can give, attracted to another man who could give her that, but can't, because he's married! Best family friend, Carmen, can't excape her past fully, and because she can't, she's walking around carrying the biggest secret in the book! This should be on T.V. Who wouldn't watch? Good Job, Rosalyn!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 1999

    One Better was great!

    Reading this book has been a great experience for me. I love this book. Even though, I'm only 15, this book gives a really twisted look at what African-American families go through. Especially females. I almost cried thinking about the way these women suffered.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews

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