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About The Book

Bestselling and award-winning novelists Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley bring their favorite heroines together in a novel that will delight their legions of fans.

TEAM JASMINE or TEAM RACHEL?

Bestselling and award-winning novelists Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley bring their favorite heroines together in a novel that will delight their legions of fans.

Jasmine Larson Bush and Rachel Jackson Adams are not your typical first ladies. But they’ve overcome their scandalous and drama-filled pasts to stand firmly by their husbands’ sides.

When a coveted position opens up—president of the American Baptist Coalition—both women think their husbands are perfect for the job. And winning the position may require both women to get down and dirty and revert to their old tricks. Just when Jasmine and Rachel think they’re going to have to fight to the finish, the current first lady of the coalition steps in . . . a woman bigger, badder, and more devious than either of them.

Double the fun with a message of faith, Sinners & Saints will delight readers with two of their favorite characters from two of their favorite authors.

Excerpt

Sinners and Saints Chapter ONE
How in the world was Jasmine going to keep her promise to God now?

Two years ago, she had promised Him that if He saved her daughter when she was kidnapped, if He brought her home safely, then she was going to live a life devoted just to Him. Jasmine had vowed that with Jacqueline’s return, she was going to live the life that God had for her as Hosea’s wife, as Jacqueline and Zaya’s mother. She wasn’t going to want for anything more than what God had given her, because surely, He had supplied her with enough.

God had done His part.

And for the last two years, Jasmine had done her part, too.

She’d lived a low-key life, thrilled that her greatest dramas were debates about fashion choices every morning with her seven-year-old daughter.

But how was she supposed to keep her promise to God now? After what her husband had just told her?

“So, hold up,” Jasmine said, slipping into the chair across from Hosea. “I thought you were just going to the convention as the keynote speaker.”

Hosea nodded.

“So, explain this to me again.”

With a sigh, Hosea folded the newspaper he’d been reading and placed it on the table. He stuffed his mouth with a forkful of pancake, chewed for a moment, then said, “The call came in from a friend of Pop’s, Pastor Earl Griffith. He thinks I need to submit my resume.”

“To be the head of the American Baptist Coalition?”

Hosea nodded.

“But we’re not Baptist.”

His eyes danced with his amusement. “Get out of here.”

“You know what I mean,” Jasmine said, waving one hand. “I just don’t get it. Why would they call you?”

“They didn’t call me. Only Pastor Griffith. Seems like there’re a couple of men in the running, though according to Griffith, the front-runner is Pastor Adams, Lester Adams from the Southern region.”

Jasmine frowned. “I’ve never heard of him.”

“Out of Houston. But Pastor Griffith doesn’t think Adams is the man. Seems that the last four presidents have been from the South and Griffith and a couple of other pastors on the board think that the Coalition needs someone from the North, someone more progressive, to really move the organization forward.”

“And they think that can be you?”

“Not they, darlin’. I told you—Griffith called me.”

“But you said there were others who agreed with him.”

Hosea nodded. “Apparently, they don’t have anyone from the North who they think can go up against Adams. I guess they think my name could win this.”

“That makes sense to me.”

“It doesn’t matter how much sense it makes, darlin’. I told Pastor Griffith that I’m not interested.”

As if she didn’t hear any of Hosea’s last words, Jasmine whispered, “Wow.” Old thoughts, familiar desires came to her mind—of power and prestige and money. How much money would a president receive?

She didn’t know a lot about the American Baptist Coalition, but she knew enough. Like the fact that they were the largest African American religious organization, and wielded major political clout. And as much as black folks loved religion, the head of the ABC would have a boatload of power—and so would his wife.

Talk about being the first lady!

“Jasmine?”

I’d be the first lady of like … the world!

“Jasmine?”

“Huh?” Her eyes were glassy with images of her future and it took her a moment to focus on Hosea.

His admonishment came before he even said a word. It was in the way his eyes narrowed and the way he’d already begun shaking his head. “Don’t even think about it.”

“What?”

“You know what. I’m not gonna do it,” he said slowly, as if he was speaking to one of their children. “I’m gonna go to the convention and speak, just like they asked. But I’m not gonna run for that office. The little I know about Lester Adams, he’s a good man. They’ll be fine with him.”

“How could he be the one if I’ve never even heard of him?”

“Like you know every pastor in the country.”

“I’m not talking about knowing every pastor. I’m thinking that Pastor Griffith is right. The head of the ABC should be someone who’s known and who can add to the Coalition. Think about what you bring as the pastor of one of the largest churches in the country. Then, there’s your show.” She nodded. “Pastor Griffith is right,” she repeated. “It has to be you.”

His head was still shaking. “No. I don’t want the drama.”

“Who said anything about drama?”

“Any type of election—political or religious—is always about drama.” He stood and placed his plate in the sink. “And then there’s you, my wonderful wife. As much as I love you, darlin’, anytime you’re involved in anything, drama makes its way into our lives. No, I don’t want any part of it.”

“So, you’re just gonna let this huge opportunity pass us—I mean, pass you by?”

“Yup, because it’s not an opportunity that interests me. The church, the show, and most importantly you and the children are enough for me.” He leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Speaking of the church, I’m gonna get dressed and head over there. I have a meeting in a couple of hours.”

“Okay,” she said, dismissing him with words, though she’d already dismissed him in her mind. Jasmine stayed as Hosea left her alone in the kitchen.

You and the children are enough for me.

Until a few minutes ago, she would’ve agreed with her husband. But this conversation was a game changer.

Hosea was right—their lives were without drama, but it had gotten kind of boring. Every day it was the same thing—getting the children off to school, then working on the women’s committees at the church, then coming home to meet the children, then helping Mrs. Sloss with dinner, then … then … then …

Not that she had complaints; she loved her life, her family. But she would still love everyone, and maybe even a little bit more if Hosea were the head of the ABC.

Oh, no. She wasn’t going to sit back and let this opportunity pass Hosea. He needed this position, even if he didn’t know it.

Standing, she moved toward their bedroom, the conniving wheels of her brain already churning. She stood outside the door of their master bathroom, listening to her husband praise God, the spray of the shower, his accompanying music.

“I trust you, Lord!” He sang the words to one of Donnie McClurkin’s songs.

“Babe,” she said, interrupting his praise time. “I’m gonna run over to Mae Frances’s apartment, okay?”

“Don’t you have a meeting at the church?”

“Yeah, but it’s not till this afternoon and Mae Frances just called and she really needs me to help her with something.” Jasmine paused. It had been a long time since she’d manipulated the truth to get something she wanted. But it wasn’t like she was going back to being a total liar again—she just needed to get this done and after Hosea was in his rightful place, she’d go back to being on the side of righteousness.

“Oh, okay. Is Nama all right?” he asked, referring to Mae Frances by the name their children called the older woman.

“She’s fine. You know Nama. I’ll call Mrs. Whittingham and tell her that I may be a little late for my meeting.”

By the time they said their good-byes and Jasmine grabbed her purse, she already had a plan. But she’d need some help, and Mae Frances, her friend who knew everyone from Al Sharpton to Al Capone and his offspring, was just the person to help her.

“Sorry, Pastor Adams,” she said to herself as she rode down in the elevator. “Whoever you are, you can be the president of the ABC once Hosea and I are done—in, say, ten or twenty years.”

She stepped outside of their Central Park South apartment building and into the New York springtime sun. Slapping on her designer glasses, she laughed out loud.

Oh, yeah, today was gonna be a really good day.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Sinners and Saints includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with authors Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction 
 

Both Rachel Jackson Adams and Jasmine Larson Bush stand by their men—both of whom are pastors. But when their husbands are each nominated for the role of president of the American Baptist Coalition, the largest organization of African American churches, the kid gloves come off. Rachel and Jasmine each want her own husband to win—solely for the betterment of the ABC, of course. To become the most important first lady in America, the ladies will have to figure out what they’re willing to sacrifice. Neither is quite a saint, but will they have to become sinners to make it to the top?

Questions & Topics for Discussion

1.  Sinners and Saints opens with Jasmine’s promise to God. Do you think that Jasmine keeps her promise throughout the course of the story? Why or why not?

2.  Jasmine feels bored with the routine of her life with Hosea (p. 8). How do you think this boredom influences her strong pursuit of the ABC first lady title? 

3.  Rachel Jackson Adams imagines her love for her husband as agape love  (p. 11). Look up the meaning of the word agape in a dictionary or the meaning of agape love on the Internet. Do you think this sentiment is true for Rachel and Lester, based on their interactions with each other throughout Sinners and Saints? Is agape love a good description of any of the relationships in the book?

4.  Mae Frances seems like a fairy godmother to Jasmine. Do you think their friendship is beneficial for Jasmine? How about for Mae Frances? How did you perceive Mae Frances’s role over the course of the ABC conference?

5.  Rachel reminds Lester that “faith without works is dead” (p. 29). And Hosea is described as walking in his faith, while Jasmine works in hers (p. 42). What do you think of this idea of faith? Do you think you can be faithful without deeds? Are the first ladies faithful in their actions? What about the pastors?

6.  Rachel’s plan to sabotage Jasmine’s arrival is cut short when current first lady Cecelia offers Jasmine’s family half of their floor. What did her generosity make you think of Cecelia? Were you proven correct or incorrect?  

7.  There is a strong divide between Jasmine and Rachel, and it’s exacerbated by their backgrounds (country versus city, North versus South, etc.). Rachel takes pride in looking good for less, while Jasmine enjoys her designer brands. With which mindset did you empathize? Do you love a bargain or an indulgence? How does the North/South divide impact their mindsets? What could the ladies learn from each other about their different hometowns?

8.  At different points in the novel, both Jasmine and Rachel find themselves humiliated in public. Do you think each of the women handled it well? Did one outshine the other in a mortifying moment? What’s the best way that you’ve found to deal with embarrassment?

9.  How are Lester and Hosea similar? Are their relationships with their respective wives markedly different, or do they interact in comparable ways? How do each of the pastors relate to God through word? Did you find yourself rooting for one or the other in their race to be president of the ABC?

10.  What did you think of Cecilia’s shifting alliances? Does she seem to truly favor one of the pastors (and his wife) more than the other? How would you characterize this woman, who has so much sway within the ABC?

11.  At what point in their rivalry do you think Jasmine and Rachel cross a line? Which revelation or accusation or insinuation was the point at which you would have stood up and said, “Enough!” Have you ever taken a rivalry too far? What made you realize it was time to stop the conflict?

12.  Discuss the ending of Sinners and Saints. How do you think Jasmine and Rachel’s interactions will change now that the outcome of the presidential race has been decided? Will it change at all? What do you predict for the next novel starring these two powerful women?

13.  Sinners and Saints is written by two authors—Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley. Did you notice any indication of the two authors? If so, how did this affect your reading of Sinners and Saints? If you have read any of their previous novels, did you pick up on any similarities in the writing? 


Enhance Your Book Club

1.  Have your own vote! Make a ballot box (or just use a hat), and have everyone write down on a slip of paper the name of the pastor they would have voted for if they were at the ABC election. Tally the votes and see who comes out on top!

2.  The pastors and first ladies each use scripture and prayer to help them through the hard times. Have a Bible on hand and give all participants the opportunity to share their favorite scripture passage, prayer, or personal motto. What kinds of help do you need throughout the day?

3.  If members of your book club are not Baptist, visit a Baptist church. If members are Baptist, visit another Christian denomination for Sunday services. After the celebration, talk with each other about the differences and similarities between the church services you’d experienced.

A Conversation with Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley

How did the idea to write a book together come about? Did you two coordinate it, or was it suggested to you?

Well, that’s a common thread that we both heard when we were out on our individual tours. Everyone would say, “Jasmine and Rachel should meet up.” At first, we just laughed it off, but then when people started debating who would win in a Rachel-Jasmine battle, it seemed inevitable that these ladies would meet.  

What was it like working together, letting two such beloved heroines interact? What was the writing process like? Did you plot it out together or hand off the manuscript, playing off of each other’s ideas?

This was the most fun either of us have ever had writing a book. We tried to lay out a general outline (which of course, changed along the way) but for the most part we fed off of each other’s creativity. In fact, reading each other’s chapters only fueled our fire. We found ourselves trying to one-up each other after every chapter. 

 
How did you decide to set Sinners and Saints in Los Angeles? Was it the only place you thought to put the convention, or did you toy with the idea of holding it in one of the heroines’ hometowns? How do you feel the neutral ground plays into the story?

From the start we wanted a neutral location. Since Jasmine was living in New York and Rachel was living in Houston, we felt Los Angeles would be the ideal spot for the conference to take place.

What is it about the first ladies that lead them to make promises first—giving $1 million, knowing Regina West—and worry about fulfilling those pledges later? Did you intend for the characters to act similarly in this way?

Both Jasmine and Rachel’s downfall is they sometimes act first and think later. In the spur of the moment, neither woman wants to be outdone, which is why they go overboard with their pledges and promises of what they can accomplish. We never planned for them to act similarly.  We just let our characters be who they are, and their similarities showed.

Victoria, how do you write characters from different generations so seamlessly? Do you have an easier time with characters of one age, or is it equally challenging to get all the voices right, regardless of the characters’ ages?

That’s interesting; I’ve never paid attention to the differences in my characters’ ages, though I work very hard making sure that each of my characters has an authentic voice. I’m not sure age has as much to do with it as does the content of their character. Whichever character, I just try to stay true to who they are—at that takes in everything including their ages.

Both Jasmine and Rachel have to grapple with their pasts in order to do what’s right for their families and churches. Do you think that their checkered lives give them more depth than more perfectly behaved characters? Do you empathize more with their sinful or their saintly sides?

Rachel and Jasmine are actually fan favorites for a reason—they are flawed characters who in their hearts want to do right, but can’t ever seem to stay on the righteous path. That’s why their sinful sides seem to garner the most empathy. That’s also something women from all walks of life can relate to.
 

ReShonda, you often write about a whole cast of women. Is it easier to write a story centered around one main female character, or do you prefer to write ensemble pieces? Tell us about the difference between writing these two different types of novels.

I actually don’t have a preference. I simply enjoy getting into the minds of my female characters. When I’m centering a story on more than one main character, I have to be more focused to make sure each of them have their own unique voices. But I actually like the challenge of doing that. 

 
You both have fantastically crafted websites that offer ways to get in touch with you via the site, Twitter, and Facebook. What is the most common feedback you get from readers? Have you ever incorporated that feedback in your writing? How connected do you feel to your fans?

We both always joke about how accessible we are to readers. We both try to answer all of our e-mail; we interact with readers on Facebook and Twitter.  What we hear the most is how much readers enjoy the books. We also hear a lot from people who want us to come to their area and do book signings. 

Who are the sinners and who are the saints? With which character do each of you empathize with the most?

Hmmm, good one. Well, we definitely know Rachel and Jasmine are nowhere near sainthood! (Although if you were to ask them, they’d both probably claim they were the saints). Both Lester and Hosea are as close to saints as you’ll get in this book. If anyone deserves empathy, it’s those two men, because their wives are truly out of control!

Finally, what can you tell us about your next book together? What’s in store for Rachel and Jasmine, and when can readers expect to get their hands on the next installment?
 
What’s so great about this project is that when we started, we had no idea who would win the election. Actually, we were nearing the end of the book, and we still had no idea. Then, when the events unfolded as they did, we knew the door was opening for book number two. You know, even though the battle may have been won, the war is far from over. Now that a new president is installed, these two women will have to work together, and deal with some danger that they find themselves embroiled in. We can’t wait for readers to check out that book as well!

About The Authors

Rochelle Scott Design and Photography

Victoria Christopher Murray is the author of more than twenty novels including: Greed; Envy; Lust; The Ex FilesLady JasmineThe Deal, the Dance, and the Devil; and Stand Your Ground, which was named a Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Winner of nine African American Literary Awards for Fiction and Author of the Year (Female), Murray is also a four-time NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Fiction. She splits her time between Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Visit her website at VictoriaChristopherMurray.com.

Photograph by Rochelle Scott

ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s #1 national bestselling novels include Let the Church Say Amen, I Know I’ve Been Changed, and Say Amen, Again, winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. Her collaboration with Victoria Christopher Murray has produced four hit novels, Sinners & Saints, Friends & Foes, A Blessing and a Curse, and Fortune & Fame.  BET released a movie in 2013 based on ReShonda’s book Let the Church Say Amen in which she had a minor role . She also had a role in the made-for-TV movie The Secret She Kept based on her book of the same title. Visit ReShondaTateBillingsley.com, meet the author on Facebook at ReShondaTateBillingsley, or follow her on Twitter @Reshondat.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Pocket Books (October 2012)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476700021

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