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A solid 3.5 stars I think
on August 14, 2015
I have mixed feelings about this book. Some of my misgivings are undoubtedly caused by tropes or characteristics specific to the romance genre (like beating the reader over the head with how every little inconsequential thing "the virgin" does practically makes the hero jizz his pants every other paragraph--that really started to make me cringe) that simply aren't my preference. I'm also not a huge fan of explicit sex scenes, so I definitely skipped past those parts. If you don't have a problem with with these things, then they won't deter you. I think my main qualm had to do with race in the book. I don't usually bother with race in the little bit of romance that I read, but the author made a small point of it. I applaud and appreciate the author for making the hero "black" and the couple "interracial" (though, technically the hero is a unicorn and doesn't identify with a specific human ethnicity). Love it. Thank you!
BUUUUT as a mixed ethnicity black woman, I couldn't help squinting a bit at the depictions of black people in the book and their reactions to the "lily-white" (author's wording, not mine) blond haired, blue eyed embodiment of all that is pure and good in the world (lol), who is living in the "ninety-five percent black neighborhood of West End" to save on housing costs (according to the book, while she had a scholarship to college, the world had made it perfectly clear that she "didn't deserve more" than living in a black neighborhood where no white woman would dare be on the streets after dark). While picking up a prescription for Auntie Harriet (the kindly, church-hat-wearing, doting "mammy") in the evening, she is of course grabbed and almost sexually assaulted by a drugged-up black pimp, presumably waiting in the shadows for stray "white pussy" (again, author's words, not mine) to wander into his territory. She is saved by the hero– a huge, buff, black buck tasked with protecting her virginity at all costs. Of course, one glimpse of her bare "lily-white ass" nearly sends him into spasms of uncontrollable lust, which is the theme for much of the book (reminiscent of the idea that black men would live and die to sexually conquer a white woman). This became more problematic near the end (SPOILER ALERT) when after they have almost unicorn-human magic sex, a TATTOO OF A ROPE appears up his back and AROUND HIS NECK signifying that he now BELONGS to the "not quite virgin" (to be fair, during another everything-but-vaginal-penetration sex scene she pledges her soul to him, adding gold to the rope, but from that point on he is magically bound to do whatever she says, and the binding is not reciprocated). And he's proud and happy and empowered by this. I won't even go into why this is a BAD choice of imagery (ok, I just have to mention that black men have been HUNG BY THE NECK WITH A ROPE for just WHISTLING at a white woman. Bad, BAAAAD choice of imagery).
However, I don't think the author intended to build characters based on classic stereotypes of blacks and whites. I believe that these cliches are so ingrained in the collective American psyche, and it's a challenge to create characters that don't fall into those categories. It's just easier to fall back on what we think we know. I'm not mad at the writer for that. She's a white author putting forth an effort to be diverse (she even wrote a blog post about diversity), and working with the possibility that non-caucasian heroes can be sexy and desirable too, and not just to non-caucasian heroines! Now I'm looking forward some ethnic diversity among the female leads as well in future offerings from mainstream (i.e. not urban/black romance) authors that depict them as as beautiful, desirable, smart, funny, and worthy of love as their white counterparts! We all deserve to be the heroine of an epic love :).
Anyway, enough of my issues. On the flip side, impossible doomed romances that are marked by longing and defy the odds, with hurting but good-hearted male leads are my JAM (it also didn't hurt that the author mentioned that her original model for the male lead was dreadlocked Jason Momoa, to which I said, "I APPROVE"). To that end, I read this in a matter of just a few hours. Didn't put it down 'til I was finished. Though that marathon reading session was punctuated by some squinting, a fair bit of scoffing, and skipping several pages of sex scenes, I think it's a pretty good recommendation that I spent my whole Friday afternoon neglecting my own creative pursuits to live temporarily in the fruit of another's. Do your thing, Mrs. Gold. I ain't mad at'cha. :)