Nina Lander is a young successful black woman, just graduated from college and having to face the real world for the first time -- the real world where men treat women badly and no "good" men exist. The world where you have to suppress bad memories of your childhood in order to visit your parents. On top of that, Nina is trying to do the impossible and break into the male dominated world of sports reporting. Basically she's trying to make all of her dreams come true, except for the bad ones, of course.
Nina's parents have had a bad marriage since before Nina was born, but Nina has been able to block out the bad memories until she has to move back in with her parents after college. Nina is very upset at the way her father is treating her mother, and the only bright spot in life is her boyfriend Maurice, an up-and-coming basketball star. Nina is determined to make everything work with Maurice and decides to give the relationship her all. Her all meaning her time (she must ignore her family and friends to concentrate on Maurice) and maybe even her life.
Hand-me-down Heartache is the second novel by Tajuana TJ Butler (after Sorority Sisters). Butler's work shows great promise for the years to come, and she will one day become a force to be reckoned with in the writing world. Not today, however. Butler becomes too focused on what is trendy today and loses her reader's attention by "dating" her book. She names the current hottest trends in fashion and music expecting these things to be around forever. This annoying habit is then coupled with over-description. When Butler becomes excited about something in her writing she takes on the style of a Hollywood agent. For instance, when describing Leo, Nina's long-time admirer, Butler writes: "He had this Lenny Kravitz, Terence Trent D'Arby, Eric Benet thing going on, with a hip-hop flavor. His whole image was unique and quite appealing." Now all of that could be trimmed down to say: Leo had neat long dreads and a slight hip-hop edge; his whole image was unique and appealing. All the other stuff is totally unnecessary and even insulting to the men used to describe Leo because, as their fans will tell you, they really are nothing alike except for their hair. Butler should stop forcing the reader's thoughts to mimic her own and allow the reader some leeway with their imagination.
One of the best things about Hand-me-down Heartache is Butler's portrayal of women in abusive situations. For anyone who has a friend or relative who is (or has been) in an abusive relationship, this book could help you to realize why they stay(ed). It's not a psychology book, but it gives a unique perspective of this type of woman. If you can't understand their reasoning, this book may help you, too.
If Butler can cut down on beating the reader over the head with the image she has in her mind, then one day she will be one of the best writers in the business. Till then she's still a diamond in the rough, an unfinished pearl, a flower yet to bloom, a… You get the idea.