This book, guys. Perfect fall afternoon.
Up until late last night I wasn’t sure I was going to write this post. I had and have so many conflicting feelings about whether it was “right” or not. I found myself in this ambiguous space between excitement over a really fun and well-written romance I’d just read, and whether or not I had the right to review it.
I guess I should explain why instead of monologuing the discursive nature of my interior conflicts.
The romance itself is wonderful. I absolutely loved it. It definitely deserves attention, and I have a big reach. (This is a weird thing. I have a ton of Pinterest followers, I am also connected to others who have huge blog followings, and I am frequently amidst people in the literary community. It puts me in a unique position.)
However, if you didn’t notice the picture on the right hand side of this blog, I am white. The characters in the book, and the author–are black. No, I didn’t know this when I bought and downloaded the book, and I am honestly not sure if that would’ve made a difference in my decision to buy it. Do two people fall in love against some sort of odds stacked against them? I’m typically in. But there is a reason why I’ve not read or reviewed many books wherein the MCs are people of color–I feel like they’re not for me. Not in a “oh no, I don’t like chardonnay, that’s not for me,” manner, but a “hey, this is a book by a minority group, aimed at a minority group, dealing with the problems which a minority group deals with, It wasn’t written for me.” And that’s OK. It’s actually GOOD that this feeling is engendered in white people. We are PRIVILEGED AS FUCK. Pretty much EVERYTHING in the colonized world was made FOR US. Even if it wasn’t made by us, it was made for us. We’ve never really had to deal with the irritation and sadness of not being represented. I can go to any store that sells even 3 mass market paperbacks, and find at least one novel featuring what I like to refer to as “white lady and a shirtless, vaguely Mediterranean dude about to fuck.”
Just googled it, here’s the first image that pops up. (No pun intended)
And this one is by Lorelei James. They are DEFINITELY about to sex. That sex will be KINKY. It may involve a third guy. Or ropes. Perhaps lubricant and a rubber chicken…
We (the royal “we” of white people, but please ignore the Trump supporters, they’re actually just the products of improper breeding practices.) have an infinite well of literature and film and theatre from which we can draw. People of color in the U.S. do not. That sucks, and I wish that weren’t the truth of the matter, and I wish I didn’t even have to fucking write this post but, it is the truth. I don’t want to be glib. I don’t want to come across as an asshole. But I don’t want to be that white woman who tries to make herself feel less “white guilt” by championing a book that wasn’t even written for me. I also don’t want to be one more white person who gains from people of color by means of appropriation.
But I am also a realist. And an activist. And I fucking love romance novels. I realize that books by women of color are outsold by books by white women 14-1. I know from personal experience that being a woman in the publishing industry is difficult at the best of times–it’s an old boys club, but being of color, or queer, or disabled, or all three, or more, makes it an uphill climb. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines and watch as books like the one I’m reviewing today get pushed aside in favor of a book written by someone who happens to look like me, especially when the book written by someone who looks like me isn’t half as good as someone who has been “othered.” I want to be an outspoken and vocal ally. I have power, so I should use that power. If I don’t, I’m no better than those people chanting “all lives matter.” (Point of fact–the “all lives matter” people are the same as mentioned above, note the breeding practices. They’re super Oedipal.)
And a point of full-disclosure: my family looks like a Benetton ad: white, black, Chinese, Puerto Rican, Native American, we’ve got everything. Because, Brooklyn and GENETIC DIVERSITY. (See breeding practices listed for the “all lives matter” people. White people have a slew of “not good” in their genes at this point. Best to mix that shit up. Note my own beautiful Chinese/Slovak babies.–and don’t even with the “they’re not babies.” They ARE!)
(P.S. My sister always got mint chocolate chip ice cream when we were little. I never understood. Then I had these two. Still don’t get it.)
Beyond being an ally. Beyond being an activist. Did I mention that I REALLY FUCKING LOVE ROMANCE NOVELS? If I think a romance novel deserves its time with a megaphone attached to it, I’m going to be that megaphone. Yes, this novel may very well be not “for me,” but I loved it. It made me hungry for more of her novels. So I’m recommending it.
The Truth: His Side, Her Side, and The Truth About Falling in Love by Christina C Jones is a page-turner. Within the first 20 pages, I was completely hooked onto the characters and their truths. Ms Jones does not wait to make the characters interested in the pursuit. It’s a train chase from the beginning, even if the characters aren’t sure which station they’re starting from or headed towards. Rob and Iris are dynamic. They bring a richness and depth to what could’ve been a very surface narrative–as is often the case with novels which deal in sticky subjects as this one does.
Because both Rob and Iris’ life has been touched by addiction. For me, the daughter of an alcoholic, I am very, very leery of books which include addiction. It’s so often done poorly, and with absolutely zero compassion towards the person who is suffering inside that hell. Ms Jones doesn’t skirt the issue, nor does she gloss over the real and horrible effects of addiction on the people surrounding it. I actually haven’t read one so well done since Elizabeth Hunter’s Building from Ashes. Ms Jones writes it compassionately and not with any level of complacence. That’s a big deal to people like me.
And the romance?
I adore Rob and Iris. I love how fucking geeky they are. I was talking to an author about crossover novels yesterday, and decided I also need a crossover between Rob and Iris and Penny Reid’s Cletus and Jenn. I just do. QUICK!! SOMEONE WRITE THIS FANFICTION!! I love how Rob is not afraid at.all. to be all about…um…downtown kissing? With Iris. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE how bold Iris is. She says exactly what she thinks and what she wants. She JOKES ABOUT POLYAMORY being between she, herself, and Rob. I love that. When she says she’s “dating herself” she means it. No third date rule for her.
And it wasn’t “instalove” but it was “oh heavens, that escalated quickly.” It made my otherwise very stressful week manageable. It was that absolutely perfect respite from the real world, and I am grateful for it. I really needed it.
best quote from a book I’ve read this year. DON’T WEAR STREET CLOTHES IN BED!
The Truth: His Side, Her Side, and the Truth About Falling in Love is a sweet and sexy romp that engages the heart as much as it titillates the senses.