All the characters, no matter how minor, were drawn really well. Even Bennett Charles, the hopeful swDang, I'm really torn about how to rate this one.
All the characters, no matter how minor, were drawn really well. Even Bennett Charles, the hopeful swain at the end, got some "see inside my head" time so we felt sorry for his fate.
The secondary story of Cathleen and Aaron, ill-fated saga that it is, tore at the heart strings. Seriously, I thought they were gonna succeed until they didn't.
Ironically, even though the leads, Miranda and Geoffrey, were given plenty of "screen time" I really didn't care for them. There's a long separation of the two, peppered with some misunderstandings, but nothing like a Big Mis. But they didn't have much to do. For much of the story, heroine Miranda was actually fulfilling the role of accomplice and helper to Cathleen's story.
Geoffrey's servant Judas was also a very interesting character, although yow, his sex scenes have been the purplest prose I've ever read. Bar none. They kinda made me LOL, actually.
What really got me about this book was the writing. It's dense and ornate, with long paragraphs of historic infodumps that treaded that real fine line between "good to know" and "OMG do I need to know this?" At least it was kept to exposition and not dialogue - I just can't handle the AYKB anvil-drops of info. The writing kept me at a distance throughout - the references to characters as "the man" and "the woman" even during real intimate scenes, was a little bizarre and off-putting. If it had happened a few times I wouldn't have paid attention, but the usage was constant.
There's really not much plot happening, other than Thwarted Love (Cathleen/Aaron), Mysterious Roots (Geoffrey's), and Yellow Jack (Death and more death). Really, all hell breaks loose in the last 30 pages and all bets are off as to who lives and dies. There wasn't much conflict for Melinda and Geoffrey to struggle with (that was all Cathleen and Aaron) so it was pretty uneventful.
However, you do get into peoples' heads and get a glimpse of the antebellum Southern mentality, as skewed as it was. How women just willfully ignored unpleasantness, put their Southern belle game face on, and let the menfolk deal with stuff. I actually liked how the issue of slavery was handled. Melinda never once wondered whether slavery was bad, it was a fact of life, always been there, and all she had known. That seemed very authentic to me.
If you're looking for a pure historical romance, where everyone fucks but the hero and heroine (who finally do it on the last page!) and with a solid atmosphere of the place and time, give this one a try....more
Going in, I figured this would be a depraved Falconhurst trainwreck. Pages upon pages of slave and Suthin' dialect (no Google Translate to help me witGoing in, I figured this would be a depraved Falconhurst trainwreck. Pages upon pages of slave and Suthin' dialect (no Google Translate to help me with that!) would pepper the salacious goings-on. But what a surprise this was! The writing was solid, and the characterization of Rafe was deep and thoughtful. Sure he was the Mandingo-ish stud who gets a share of well-bred Southern white lady, but there was much more to him than that.
Story: Rafe is one of Ezra Clayton's "pitbucks" - trained to fight in a big clay pit on Clayton's plantation while the surrounding planters, both rich and poor alike, bet on who will win. Rafe is a fighting giant, who can take on one or two men at a time. Ezra is a slimy little shit who spied for the British in the War of 1812 but has managed to score the old Fitzmans Freedom plantation (oh what an ironic name, that) when he staggered out of the woods escaping from hanging and suckered the lonely widder woman Micara Fitzman who was still mourning the death of her husband and letting the plantation go to pot. Ezra turns the poor but "happy" plantation into a nasty place, with brutal overseers and daily whippings. And the fighting pit. Then in comes Carissa Fitzman, back from Boston, who doesn't like what her stepdad has done with the place at all, and tries to turn it back into the place that it was. It's a battle of wills between Carissa and Ezra, who has none-too-paternal feelings for her, and Carissa finds that she's no match for him. The story ends with a big fire, slave uprising, and lots of death. The last scene kinda annoyed me, but it was the most realistic thing to happen, and we're left to wonder what kind of leader Rafe turns out to be.
OK, there's a fair amount of exploitative stuff in here, but it really wasn't written that way. Sure, there's the sherry-soaked Micara who totally takes advantage of the recovering Rafe after he nearly gets killed in the pit. Sure, there's Big Bedetta, the black madam who has two trained woman to digitally stimulate her when she's watching a big shootout in town between soldiers and escaped slaves. Sure, there's the mulatto wench Julie who is the favorite of Ezra and lords it over the sherry-soaked wife every chance she gets, even though being Ezra's favorite means nightly reamings and slapping and hitting. But she's not in the fields, and that's all that matters. So sure, it has all that, but the writing makes it classy. :D
Of course the usual WARNING: If you can't bear to see "n**ger" in print, don't read it. If you can't handle scenes of detailed brutality involving entrails, splintered bones, removed appendages, don't read it. If any portrayal of the realities of slavery makes you ill, don't read it. On second thought, maybe you should! We need that gut punch every now and then....more