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 wit...moreGoing 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.(less)