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Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite
In Empress by François, born in the 1970s, Paris Empress Jones of Haitian heritagelives in Brooklyn. She is beautiful, intelligent, and a self-confessed sex symbol. Empress is totally aware that life is filled with obstacles and she is always willing to take the gamble if the reward is good enough. She has no regrets in life and believes that the universe always makes situations good in the end and besides, she can always count on her partners in crime, Kat and Slim, to be there for her. The three girls were their own teachers and guardians and together they thought they could take on the world. Empress knows she will have to settle down one day and marry a man that her mother approves of, a man that can give her the comfortable lifestyle she deserves. But until then, she is going to have as much fun as possible. Follow Empress's journey from childhood to a young adult as she learns the harsh realities of the real world, peer pressure, relationships, and bullying while ensuring her reputation remains intact. Growing up in the 1980s, Empress soon discovers that the world and the people in it can be harsh and unforgiving; crime in her neighborhood is common, relationships can be dangerous and there are many family secrets that emerge, throwing her view of the world into chaos. When she meets kind and loving Steven, Empress feels something that she has never felt before. Will he be the one she has been waiting for?
I absolutely adored Empress and her family from the outset. The backstory to the entire family was exceptional, the characters instantly jumped from the pages, and I was immediately drawn into their lives in Brooklyn. The dialogue was not only authentic, it highlighted the personality of each character perfectly. My favorite line in the novel was when Empress confronted Janelle after school: 'This time, you picked the wrong someone, but life is full of little mistakes.' Empress has some very good values, she respects herself and is not led by peer pressure. Her mature attitude towards making her life meaningful is summed up perfectly by this line, 'The most hurtful part of wasting your life away is not having anything genuine of your own.' The relationships between Empress and her two friends, Slim and Kat, were enviable, they were incredibly close and protective of one another. The scene when Slim is abandoned by her mother and later her pregnancy was heartbreaking. I thought each character was very strong and played an integral part in the storyline. Rob was an absolute loathsome character. Although there were some brutally realistic scenes there were also some humorous ones. I especially loved the Type A-D description of boys. I enjoyed learning about Haitian culture and traditions, it was really interesting to see how they didn't lose sight of their heritage. Empress by François is a highly recommended read.