The scene opens on a concert, with our protagonist, Brianna Bays, who is described on just page one as "stunning," "angelic," "flawless," "captivating," "entrancing," so much so that "her beauty mesmerized the crowd." But don't worry, she's not just beautiful. She is also known for her "sweet disposition," "compassionate behavior," and, most of all, her musical talent and her incredible singing voice, most notably:
She could sustain long notes without wavering in pitch.Oh, man. I've never known any professional singer who could do that.
So, yeah, we've most definitely got ourselves another Mary Sue. She's not nearly as annoyingly precocious as Skye, but Rothdiener gets very excited about telling us just how amazing she is.
We also get this confusing description:
The media reported her acting skills as phenomenal, multi-talented, especially for her age.Her acting skills are... multi-talented? Like her acting skills can also tap dance?
As you will soon learn, there is absolutely nothing Brianna doesn't do better than everyone else. And I mean nothing. Just on this page, we learn she is the most beautiful, the kindest, the most talented singer, and the most talented actress. I'm really not sure how the author thought we were going to be able to relate to her, because I don't know about you, but I'm certainly not the best at everything.
We go on to learn that Brianna is 23, but she's paid the price for her success: she acts more mature than her friends. The concert is described some more, as is her latest "mega CD," which in my mind is a CD the size of a record, and then she says goodbye to her fans by bowing them and waving with her index finger pointing up, which apparently symbolizes her Christian faith. She's a new Christian, btw -- just got saved 7 months ago or so.
Brianna walks off backstage and is then surrounded by bodyguards, makeup artists, and... fans, which means her bodyguards are doing a really crappy job of keeping the audience in the audience.
When Brianna gets back to her dressing room, she meets up with Sonya, who is introduced as Brianna's lawyer/manager/best friend, who has been gone for the last 7 months. We get this intro of Sonya:
Sonya Ellis was attractive, single, and tough. She would have to be to graduate tops in her law school; she was one of six women in a class of fifty-four.And while I know he means she had to be tough to graduate tops, it sure sounds like she also had to be attractive and single. We then go on to learn that some of those sleazy college lawyer women slept their way to the top, but not Sonya, and now she has a great job, so that worked out well.
(While this is hardly the most egregious example, keep an eye out during this book for the message "if you are a Christian, your life is perfect, but if you aren't a Christian, YOU WILL DIE A MISERABLE DEATH." It's pretty prominent.)
Sonya reports that she found out who Brianna's father was. I can't remember if Sonya went off private detectiving on her own, because that seems pretty far out of her area of expertise, but it wouldn't surprise me.
Turns out, Brianna's mother, Mira, was killed in Iraq when American bombs hit the hospital she was in. Brianna is shocked because she's always supported the troops, but don't worry, the Americans didn't really kill anyone we have to care about, because Sonya reports that Mira was actually killed by her Muslim family, who then altered the hospital records to make it look like she and Brianna both died in a bombing accident.
Confirmed, Sonya the lawyer/manager is just wandering around Iraq on her own, so that's fun. She then discovers that Mira's family has ties to Hussein and terrorist attacks, so she's like, "Well, that sounds fun! Time to investigate some more!"
She reveals that Mira spent some time teaching in Paris nine months before Brianna was born, yadda yadda, lawyer sleuthing, it turns out she secretly got married, only to be abducted by her family, who then found out she was 1) married, 2) pregnant, and 3) a Christian. They were going to kill her but she somehow ran away and had a baby in a hospital in Baghdad. Then her family found her and killed her, but Brianna survived because they killed the wrong baby instead.
Sonya presents an old box with pictures, a bracelet, a necklace, and Brianna's baby wristband, which has "Mandy Dawn" written on it. Brianna recognizes that the baby in the picture is her because they both have a distinctive heart-shaped birthmark.
This is all so much back story without really anything else going on.
Brianna decides she wants to meet her mom's parents, who are described as:
“. . . rich Sunnis from Saddam Hussein’s ruling class. They are worth millions.”Not surprisingly, Sonya tells Brianna that it wouldn't be safe to go visit them, since they actually suspect she is alive and have had a million-dollar hit out on her for the past 23 years.
Determined, Brianna pressed on. “That gives me even more of a reason to meet them. Besides they are my mother’s parents— my grandparents. I need to ask them a few questions.”...Yeah, I don't think they're going to be inclined to answer questions about what her mom was like growing up. Not if they're offering money to anyone who will kill her. I'd say that's one of Brianna's flaws, that she's stupid, but everyone in this book is stupid, so she might still be smarter than most of the people in this story.
Brianna learns that her mother was buried unceremoniously, so Brianna demands a gravestone with a Bible verse on it, and then suggests they hire round-the-clock guards to keep it from being vandalized again.
They discuss their next order of business rather secretively, as Sonya was sent to find some other unknown man, who was in prison for six years, then got out, moved to a trailer park, and works at a truck stop. As Brianna hears this, she starts singing one of her songs. While we are told later that her song are unique and special and amazing and everyone who hears them is astonished, I'm not entirely impressed with the sample we see here:
A story of lies for thrills.
Does it not matter who gets hurt?
As long as you don’t get burnt.
A little girl of innocence,
In a world that’s promiscuous.
It’s a story as old as the hills.Brianna stops singing to vow that she's going to do what's right, even if it costs her her reputation. Sonya tells her that if she does this, she'll lose her career, and all the good stuff she's done in the last six years won't count anymore. Brianna laments a bit more that she put the mysterious man in jail by lying, and then we get a flashback.
The flashback lasts almost the rest of the story, so get comfortable. We're about to meet Young Brianna. She's still less annoying than Skye ever was, but meeting children written by Rothdiener isn't ever fun, so... we'll dive into that next week.