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The Next Phase of Life: A Novel (Zane Presents) Paperback – July 26, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Charmaine R. Parker is the author of The Next Phase of Life and The Trophy Wives. She is a former journalist who has worked as a reporter, copy editor, and managing editor. The publishing director for Strebor Books, she is the sister of New York Times bestselling author Zane. She received a bachelor’s of fine arts from Howard University and a master’s in print journalism from the University of Southern California. She lives in Maryland with her husband and daughter. Visit the author on Facebook at Charmaine Roberts Parker, Twitter @Charmainebooks, and Instagram at Charwrites.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1
Pleasure ’n’ paradise


Tai glanced at the nightstand clock: It was close to midnight. Eager to escape, she gingerly arose from the soft satiny sheets, peeping at her bedmate who was in a deep slumber. I’m on this beautiful island and it’s way too early for me to turn in, she thought.

There was little time to worry about hooking up pieces for a sensual outfit; it would be quicker to grab a dress—one of her hot numbers. She pulled a fire-red jersey wrap sundress out of the closet and quietly headed for the bathroom. She analyzed the persona reflected in the mirror. Here she was in St. Maarten and confined in a hotel room with a grumpy ex-boyfriend. Boring wasn’t the word for Vince; he was the king of Lazyville. After they’d had a rendezvous—a quickie—he had done the usual: drifted to sleep in record time.

Tai had buzzed him a few months ago on the relationship rebound. He immediately had agreed to take her to the tropical retreat. She wasn’t looking for love; only a travel escort.

She was still recuperating from the grave disappointment of a no-show. Tai had celebrated her fortieth birthday with a big bash when her longtime beau, Austin, decided to pull a disappearing act. After envisioning them as a standout couple on her grand night, when all eyes would be on them, he was nowhere to be found. Tai was forced to celebrate her four decades solo. She had spent months planning the party of 200 invited guests at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington, D.C. Valé, her fashion designer friend, had created a black and gold, form-fitting, one-shoulder dress to show off her curves that she had managed to maintain at her milestone age. Tai was proud that she had held on to her youthful figure and had no problems flaunting it.

Throughout the evening, her guests had continuously inquired about Austin. The duo had been joined at the hip like two peas in a pod. Now, on her special night, he was ghost. Maybe her occasional comments about turning forty being synonymous with marriage had scared Austin. After all, so many brothers shied away from the ring on the finger. However, Tai felt assurance that Austin was ready to settle down after their five-year relationship. She now presumed commitment wasn’t in his vocabulary when it came to a walk down the aisle.

Despite her constant calls, emails and texts, Austin had failed to respond; she snipped her sweating-a-guy behavior. At forty, she shouldn’t chase after any man! Who the hell did he think he was anyway? The chocolate-skinned, baldheaded and dapper attorney was rolling in the looks and intellectual department. But the disappearance proved that he lacked dignity and respect when it came to their relationship. Pulling out on her with no explanation was surely immature. Oh, well, it’s his loss, she thought. Moving ondespite the pain and ongoing heartache. Can’t let this man continue to play ping-pong with my emotions.

Tai reached for the washcloth and freshened up, ensuring that the water ran lightly. She slipped into the little halter dress that lifted her 40-Ds and accentuated her curves. She dabbled on foundation and applied eye shadow and mascara, then searched her makeup kit for her favorite lip gloss. She sprayed on Halle Berry Reveal perfume and then turned to get a full-length view in the mirror on the bathroom door. She slipped into her black strappy heel sandals. The red dress complemented her honey complexion; she was pleased with her late-night look.

Tai peeped into their luxurious suite and Vince was like a statue. He had shifted slightly but not enough to awaken. Boy, I must’ve put a whammy on him, she thought. He’s sixty, but damn, he should have a little bit more stamina.

Tai had dated Vince briefly when she was in her early thirties. Her associates, not her close friends, had considered her a gold digger. But she refuted, saying that she was attracted to Vince despite the age difference; it wasn’t for his wallet. Yes, he was wealthy, a surgeon with a mansion in Beverly Hills and the ultimate bachelor. His sprawling spread was a fabulous six-bedroom resort with an indoor and outdoor pool, tennis court and a full gym. It was a fitness guru’s paradise and Tai ensured that she took advantage of the amenities. She and Vince would work out on the weights and treadmill and then she’d whip up health-conscious meals in his huge gourmet kitchen.

Tai had met Vince during one of her business trips to L.A. when she was a marketing representative. The two became travel companions and their getaways were mainly on the West Coast: from bed and breakfast inns in Santa Barbara to shopping in Carmel to views of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. When Tai desired to escape to the islands after Austin’s disappearance, she had thought of Vince. Now she was in St. Maarten at the fabulous Sonesta Maho Beach Hotel and he was snoozing in sync with the sounds of the flat-screen TV.

She tiptoed across the room and opened the door, being careful to close it securely behind her. She strutted to the elevator; feeling uplifted and ready for whatever was in store. When the doors opened, she stepped inside and headed to the lobby. The outdoor café beckoned.

Tai spotted a barstool where she sashayed toward and pulled it up to the bar. Scoping out the scene, she noticed that tonight’s crowd was thin. It didn’t matter; she was simply trying to chill and forget about the whole Austin saga. Sure, she was forty and eager now to find a “Mr. Right,” if one existed, but meanwhile, she was in paradise.

“Hey, sweetie, what can I get you?” the charming bartender asked, flashing a Cheshire cat grin.

“I’ll take a pomegranate martini. Please make it stiff.”

“You bet.”

The sounds of Maysa blared through the speakers. Tai loved neo-soul music; it always placed her in an upbeat mood. She absorbed the atmosphere on this moonlit night. A slight breeze was comforting and offered relief from the steamy sunshine that had blanketed the small island during the day.

It was Tai’s first visit to the island known for being Dutch on one side and French on the other. Earlier that day, she and Vince had driven their rented Jeep throughout the countryside. They had heard about a nude beach on the French side where they stopped to take in the sights. Of course there were visitors who had no qualms about showing their bodies; no matter their shape or form. Vince had encouraged Tai to shed her swimsuit and join the others, but she wasn’t following the old adage: “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”

SINGLESANDCOUPLESWERESCATTEREDTHROUGHOUTTHECOCKtail lounge featuring brilliant shades of turquoise, mango and fuchsia. The bright colors generated a feel of tropical living and created a lively ambience. Tai was enjoying the fruity flavor of her martini and was ready to order a second one. She stopped in her tracks when she locked eyes on a handsome islander. He commanded attention as his smooth cocoa complexion glistened under the low lights. His black button-down shirt showed off his well-chiseled chest. When he caught her look, Tai quickly turned her attention back to the bar scenery. She was slightly embarrassed but also pleased he had noticed.

“Hello, lovely, you sure are wearing that dress. It’s on fi-yah.” Tai jumped slightly as she was startled. The mystery man had made his way to the bar and was now overlooking her shoulder. “Hope I didn’t scare you.”

Tai turned and offered a sexy smile. “Oh, no…thanks for the compliment. I think you saw me checking you out.”

“I did. What’s your name?”

“Tai. And yours?”

“Carlton,” he responded, rolling the “Carl” with his accent. Tai was admiring his full physique now that he was positioned close. “Care if I join you?”

“Please…”

Carlton sat on the barstool next to her. “What would you like to drink?”

“Well, I just finished a pomegranate martini.” Tai made eye contact and edged closer. “But now I’d like a Sex on the Beach,” she said slowly and teasingly.

“Hmmm…cool,” Carlton responded. “Eric, the lady wants a Sex on the Beach. And I’ll take Hennessy and Coke,” he told the bartender.

“Got it. Will make it real sexy.”

“Where are you from? Here alone?” Carlton inquired.

“I’m from D.C. and yes, I’m alone…for the moment.” Carlton raised his eyebrows in curiosity but he dared not barrage her with more questions.

Tai had never tasted the cocktail, but tonight she thought it was fitting. The name itself conjured up images of how her body was feeling; she was starting to heat up down south. She squirmed on her stool as she crossed her legs.

She sure looks luscious in that red dress, Carlton thought. His mind drifted to Coco Brown and the Phat Cat Players…Caressing you so close… Sundress

“This is delicious. Wow, I’ve never tried it but was always curious.” Tai was enjoying her newly discovered Sex on the Beach. She was relieved to have met Carlton as she didn’t want to spend her last night “alone.” She didn’t mind being restless; just not lying in bed next to a knocked-out lover with a TV watching him.

“What do you do on the island? It’s such a beautiful place. I can’t imagine working here. I’d be stretched out on the sand, laid back and soaking up the scenery.”

“Actually, I’m in law enforcement. I’m a cop.” Carlton cleared his throat. “Mostly undercover.” He stared into her eyes. “But we like to let our hair down, too.”

Tai grinned and twirled her stool to face him. “Oh, I’d better behave.” She smiled and took the last sip of her drink. Her mellow mood blended with the light jazz. Carlton recognized she was relaxed, and he didn’t want the night to end.

“Let’s take a walk,” he suggested.

“Why not? That sounds cool. It’s such a pretty night,” Tai agreed.

Carlton helped her from the barstool, admiring her vision of beauty. Now he really could check out the dress he was singing about in his head.

TAI’SAND CARLTON’SSHADOWSDANCEDALONGTHESOFTSAND as they strolled barefoot. The waves of the turquoise sea played their own melody, offering a romantic breeze. They continued to a secluded sandy spot hidden below a cliff overlooking the moonlit landscape.

Wow, now this is what I call paradise, Tai thought, then exhaled.

Tai dropped her sandals and her tiny shoulder bag as Carlton embraced her tightly. They kissed ferociously and groped each other with intensity. Peeling off their clothes, they discovered irresistible passion. Their nude bodies meshed as they lowered to the sand. And the moon radiated a magical love potion.

© 2011 Charmaine R. Parker
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Product Details

  • Series: Zane Presents
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Strebor Books (July 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593093721
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593093723
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,746,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Allison Hobbs on July 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
Charmaine Parker's debut novel is a beautifully written story of friendship, love, and family secrets. Financially stable, Tai Wilson has a good life. She has a close circle of supportive friends and is the owner of a successful business. The only thing missing is a man to share her life with. No sooner does she find Mr. Right when along comes trouble in the form of a long-lost sister whom she was separated from during childhood.

Tai was the lucky one, raised by a loving grandmother, while her sister, Trista was shuffled around in the foster care system. Tai embraces her sister and welcomes her into her home. But Trista begins to exhibit signs that she is a troubled woman, holding secrets and possibly resentment toward her more fortunate sister, Tai.

The Next Phase of Life is a page turner, filled with twists and turns and lots of drama. Whenever Tai and her friends dined together, I found myself getting hungry as the author was very descriptive with their mouth-watering meals.

I am anxiously awaiting Ms. Parker's next release. Kudos, Charmaine!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dream 4 More Book Reviews on July 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
The sisterhood pact: Tai, Candace, and Nevada enjoy outdoor parties, taken aback in the 70s and celebrate the good times together. Some of the album covers mentioned in the novel, I recalled seeing those same ones as a youth.

Tai, turning the big 4-0 (40 years old) also known as the "new twenty," the next phase of her life, and former career as a marketing representative to entrepreneurship of her own employment agency. She also wanted to spend her special day with Austin, but he was a no-show and ignored her calls, tests, and emails. Ladies, some of us have been there!

Candace loves adventure and pure freak-a-zoid until she meets a man that is far off than she could ever imagine where she ran the h-e- to the double "ll" out of there.

Nevada is a loner except for spending time with her partners in crime (Tai and Candace): no kids, never married, and focused on career as a former newspaper reporter to investigator--good at what she does! She unlocked the mystery of estranged husband while on a PI case.

Trista comes back to the fold, in Tai's life, her long-lost sister where Tai takes her under her wing also feeling slightly guilty for living with Grandma after their parents died and Trista stayed with a close neighbor until she dies. Trista doesn't want to discuss bad memories as Tai shares good memories, yet regretful since Tai didn't have the same outcome as Trista during their years of separation until now in their adulthood. Waiting to see what Trista has been through that she doesn't want to rehash on bad memories during small talk with her sister, Tai.

See what's in store with the fashion diva (Candace) and getting-back-on-track (Trista) when they meet two debonair twins on a shopping spree that goes woe is me...

Charmaine R.
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By shell bell on August 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
Charmaine Parker you kept me hungry for more, 5 stars...girl. I read this book within 24 hours. I wanted to be each of the characters for one reason or another to experience the friendships, the places they visited, and their lives were my own. For a debut you gave the reader another place to be and take them to the next phase of life in a novel. Looking forward to more, a sequel maybe? Everything a reader could expect a writer to give, suspense, mystery, laughter, sadness, and much more. What a wonderful book, could not put it down.

S. Johnson
Branchville, NJ
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Urban Reviews VINE VOICE on December 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Next Phase of Life by Charmaine R. Parker is the story of friendship and family. Tai Wilson just celebrated her 40th birthday and unfortunately the man she expected to spend it with was a no show to the elaborate party she through. Although Tai is a successful entrepreneur of an employment agency called The Next Phase of Life and helping those that are trying to move on to the next phase of life by being self-sufficient, she cannot seem to find her prince charming.

When Tai logs into her Facebook account, she sees a message from her long lost sister Trista. Shortly thereafter, Tai invites Trista to come stay with her until she can get on her feet. With her sister living with her, it gives little time for the budding romance she has with her new man. Tai is blind to the fact that her sister is harboring resentment towards her from their past. Will Trista be able to let go of her past hurts to finally have a relationship with her sister, or will she push the only family she has away?

The Next Phase of Life by Charmaine R. Parker was a very slow moving story. The stories the women of the story share with one another from back in the day when they were in high school to the present was too detailed and irrelevant to the storyline. The story was entirely too detailed from what the characters in the story ate to what they wore (name dropping designer labels), thus making for a poor read. The story begins to pick up approximately 60 pages until the end, and unfortunately that was too rushed. The one thing I did enjoy about this story is that Ms. Parker brought some independent, successful black women within her characters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By OOSA Online Book Club on April 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
Tai Wilson is a successful entrepreneur in the D.C. area. Like most, she's ready to settle down. After spending five years with Austin, she assumed he was the one. Unfortunately, it's the night that she celebrates her 40th birthday that she realizes happily ever after is not in the cards for them. Despite her failed relationship, Tai is still living, learning and searching. Trista, Tai's younger sister, reaches out to her on Facebook, after 30 years.

Though they are sisters, Tai and Trista's upbringing do not mirror the others. After a tragedy involving their parents, the sisters were separated. Tai was raised with the grandmother and Trista a neighbor. Tai knows that her sister is in need and willing opens her home and heart to her. Tai prays that this is not a decision she will regret. Will she?

I like that "The Next Phase of Life" is based on successful women of color. An easy read, I wish more emphasis would've been placed on the story versus that of the designer brands.
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