Best-selling author Terry McMillan's 1995 tropical getaway had all the makings of a storybook romance. The then-43-year-old author was vacationing in Jamaica when Jonathan Plummer, a charming 20-year-old Jamaican, first caught her eye.
Terry pursued Jonathan even though she was old enough to be his mother. "He said, 'But you're not my mother,'" she says. "I said, 'Would you like to sleep with me?' And he said yes."
Three months after Terry returned to California, she asked Jonathan—the inspiration for her best-seller How Stella Got Her Groove Back—to move into her multimillion-dollar home. In 1998, they married.
Six years into their marriage, Jonathan blindsided Terry with a shocking revelation—he was gay. He never gave any indication he was gay, she says. "I couldn't drive in a car without him holding my hands. He brushed my hair. Massaged me. All kinds of wonderful things."
The couple filed for divorce in 2005, waging a war of words in the media. Despite signing a prenuptial agreement, Jonathan sued Terry for spousal support and attorney fees and won.
In November 2005, their modern-day War of the Roses divorce continued to play out on The Oprah Show. "When I came on [the show], it was more to bring more attention to the kind of harm that living a double life can cause, because it caused me a great deal of harm," Terry says.
After the show, Terry slapped Jonathan with a $40 million lawsuit for emotional distress and ruining her reputation. Terry won a judgment for intentional infliction of emotional distress but withdrew the suit before the case went to trial. Jonathan was never ordered to pay.
Now, five years after their Oprah Show appearance, Terry and Jonathan are back to discuss the state of their relationship.
After her on-air confrontation with Jonathan, Terry says she was angry for nearly three years. "My private life became a public circus," she says.
Terry says she decided to sue Jonathan to clear up misconceptions that surfaced during their contentious divorce proceedings. In particular, Terry says she wanted to dispute accusations of homophobia. "[Jonathan] had told lies about me that were in legal documents that were now on the Internet forever," she says. "I was never trying to sue him for his money. He didn't have any."
Terry says she withdrew the suit because she was tired of feeling the outrage. "Anger and bitterness, it's an emotional termite," she says. "You realize that it's your happiness and your joy that you are sabotaging and that the other person has absolutely nothing to do it."
Looking back, Terry says she wishes she would have handled parts of the divorce differently. "I wish that I hadn't been so compelled to sue, because the anger lingered and it wore me out," Terry says.
Terry: When I was ready to run him over, it wasn't because he was gay. I never hated his guts because he was gay. ... And that was one reason why I sued, because I hated the idea of being known as a homophobe. Jonathan deep down inside knew I wasn't homophobic. I have too many gay and lesbian friends. Too many.
Oprah: We all know why you were upset. Any reasonable person knows you were upset because you were betrayed. He lied. You were lied to.
Jonathan says a huge burden was lifted when Terry dropped the lawsuit. "It was hard to go through all this litigation with her," he says. "I'm truly sorry [about] the way things ended."
Jonathan says he had a long way to go after his 2005 interview with Terry. "Now I'm a much better person. I've grown a lot through this whole experience," he says. "I try to be a better friend to my family, my friends, and if I ever have a boyfriend or a partner, I'd be a better person to them."
Today, Jonathan says he's comfortable in his own skin. "I came from a culture [where] you suppress your feelings and you're not open to seeing different orientations, different sexualities," he says. "Now I'm embracing my sexual honesty, my truth."
Jonathan also says he and Terry are in a better place. "She accepted me for who I am," he says. "We're not best friends, but we are friends."
With her divorce behind her, Terry has come full circle with her new book, Getting to Happy. Terry says the Waiting to Exhale sequel was inspired by her breakup with Jonathan. "I realized that there are a lot of women out here in America who are 40 and upward who have experienced betrayal and deception as well," she says. "I was more concerned about women who are in my age group who allow this kind of devastation to just ruin their present."
Going forward, Terry says she's still able to trust men." As my mother would say, one bad apple doesn't spoil the whole tree."
After all the drama, Terry says she's living up to the title of her book. "I think I'm ducky," she says.