Beth Martin's Reviews > Say You Love Me

Say You Love Me by Patricia Hagan
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Feb 27, 12

bookshelves: read-in-2012
Read in February, 2012

Oh romance novel, y u so crazy? Y u so cliche? Y u so racist ? Hagan's historical romance novel Say You Love Me is one of those books that doesn't make any sense until you realize it was published in the 1990's, during the revival of the bodice-rippers and even less racial awareness than nowadays. It's also one of those books which makes you despair for the world in general.

The Heroine: Jacie (Jacinth) deserves to be punched in the face. Repeatedly. She's so understanding of others, but only when it suits her needs and only when the author remembers that her heroine isn't supposed to be a self-centered bitch. She's so intelligent up until she's making stupid decisions that cost other people. She's so accepting of people who Are Not White, until they aren't playing lapdog for her in which case they are savage ugly worthless things that deserve to Die. She's so beautiful that she strikes people blind (not really but that would make things so much more interesting) but has no idea, of course. Frankly, she is everything that was Wrong in the 1980's/1990's romance heroines.

The Hero: Luke (Howling Wolf) isn't really an "Indian." He's actually a stereotypical white hero of that time period, so much so that he goes by Luke Because He Can. Nobody, not even those in his tribe, find this odd. Also, he's basically taking his people to go become white. Also, he was a "real Indian" before, and did all sorts of savage things, right up until he went to a white mission where he was taught to be white and became Awesome and Peace Loving and Not At All a Poster Child for Innocent Racism.

The Racism Problem: I generally hesitate to call any book racist. That's because I feel that flag gets thrown down way too often, and without provocation. But this book smacked of deep if unintentional racism. This author wasn't trying to make a point about the hypocrisy of race issues in the time period this book was set. She was just writing a romance novel. There is never any sign that she's aware of the irony in her story, never even the slightest nudge to tell a reader that she's aware of all the unintentional but awful bigotry going on. Nope. This is clear in Luke, who is characterized as being a savage up until he was converted by the superior ways of whites. This is clear in Jacie, who is characterized as being essentially "color blind" but treats those who are not white as little more than obedient puppies meant to entertain her. This is clear in Black Serpent, who is presented as a "normal Indian" that enjoys killing, raiding, and raping. This is clear in Sudie, a little black girl who is literally Jacie's faithful shadow, presented as a stupid but loving creature that everyone is allowed to manipulate and mistreat because she's just the stupid black slave. (I wish I were joking.) I wouldn't have a problem with these characterizations if they were acknowledged as the hypocrisy and awfulness that they are, but they aren't. Thus. I throw down the racist flag. And I've no regrets.

The Plot: What little plot there is, is spread thin and often disappears offstage. Ostensibly, the plot is that Jacie's real mother was captured in a Comanche raid a few days after Jacie's birth, and only now with the death of her aunt/fake mother does Jacie know about this. For inexplicable reasons, Jacie decides to go find this real mother, along the way meeting Luke, her adopted brother (no, I'm not joking) and being her punchable self. This is the plot. There is not much of this, consumed by subplots and the author wanting Jacie and Luke to have lots and lots of hot sex.

The Sex: Speaking of which, the sex is distinctly lackluster/awkward. There is an issue that comes in romance novels is that they are essentially porn for women. Ergo, it is expected that there should be enough semi-erotic content (or at least enough steamy sexual tension) to fuel a woman's libido to some degree. How an author deals with this varies. Hagan deals with this by writing what is, especially for the original publication date and genre, very explicit sex. She got this by publishers by making the sex scenes an odd mix of traditional purple prose and bland medical terms, resulting in something that you know is probably the most explicit scenes you're ever going to see without buying erotica or straight porn but is the least titillating thing known to woman. Yes, despite being explicit, the sex scenes are nowhere approaching sexy or arousing. Nor are they funny. They just exist there. I started flipping through them after the first three.

The Writing: Hagan is not a gifted author but she did clearly pass all her composition classes. There are few grammatical flaws to be found aside from some mixed up names (Olivia/Verena, as another reviewer mentioned) and other such oddities. There is a clear beginning, middle, and end. It's just that the words don't sing off the page and nothing shines. I hated the characters, as mentioned, but they also just didn't make sense half the time. The plot was, as stated, nothing to wonder at. All in all, Hagan's writing just left me bored. I'll likely forget all about this within the next couple of months.

All in all, this would have been a bland book. I wouldn't have liked or disliked it because I wouldn't have cared enough about it to have an opinion. It would have sat at two stars. I probably would have written a very short review half heartedly endorsing it. Ish. But then the racism came in and just killed any nicey-nice feelings I might have harbored for it. This is recommended for: not a person in the world, it's not worth it.
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