August 26, 2014
Let's make this short and sweet.
Courtney Milan has produced another short story that should have been longer. In Talk Sweetly to Me, Ms. Milan handles the subject of an inter-racial relationship and it only takes about two hours of the readers time to find out her solution to the problem. While I applaud Ms. Milan's tackling the issue that an interracial relationship would have in 1882, it really deserved a full-length telling.
The characters of Rose Sweetly and Stephen Shaughnessy were fun and had the makings of a really dynamic pair - if only they had been given the space they deserved.
Rose Sweetly had a couple of issues to deal with for a woman in the 19th century. First of all, she was really smart, and I do mean smart. She loves math and she is used as a computer by an astronomer but she does not get the recognition she deserves. Secondly, she is a black woman, and for once an author didn't add a white mother or father to make her more acceptable to us. She is the wise one in the romance. She is the one who knows what a rough road is ahead for her and the man she loves. I liked Rose a lot. She was sweet, smart, loyal, and strong. She has also fallen in love with her rakish neighbor, Stephen.
Stephen is a charmer. He is a bit of a womanizer - he loves women and he never takes anything too seriously. He writes for a women's newspaper and was a secondary character in The Suffragette Scandal. Stephen has also fallen for his neighbor, so we walk into a romance already in process. I also liked Stephen a lot. He was soooo charming, a guy with a permanent twinkle in his eyes, a hard man to resist. If I had any problem with him it would be that he was portrayed as being oblivious to the issue of race. Rose's skin color was never ever a problem for him. I thought that was a little bit unrealistic. It was sort of explained away by his being Irish Catholic and because of the discrimination against the Irish, he doesn't have any bias. Just because someone is discriminated against doesn't mean they don't have any biases. I would have liked Stephen's character explored more than it was.
But hey, what we are given is a short story that only takes probably 2 hours to read if you are a slow reader. It is a sweet story about two people who are in love and are going to face numerous problems but they get a butterfly flying, unicorn hopping, birds chirping happily ending. It is a feel good story - I just wish it had been longer. These two characters had a lot of potential that wasn't realized.
I'll leave you with my favorite line from the book: "So yes, Mr. Shaughnessy. I'm not one of the people who will watch this happen in all it's glory. Women like me will have to content ourselves with glimpsing the phenomenon in smoked glass."
Time/Place: 1882 England