Sunday, November 3, 2013

Review- Hush Now by L.A. Green

Hush Now 
By L.A. Green
Sept. 14, 2012
216 pgs Pub: Dog Ear Publishing

When Rebecca Montgomery, daughter of wealthy plantation owner Grafton Montgomery, falls in love with Ruth, a slave, her life is turned upside down. Their journey of self-discovery takes place in a historical period of the imagination-one filled with vibrant characters, intrigue, danger, and the underlying theme of hope.
A wealthy plantation owner's daughter falls in love with a beautiful slave women and their lives are turned upside down...this is a love story about secrets that might never have been told.

When I was reading another mid 1800’s southern romance, which was between two white women on opposing sides and ideology during the civil war, I internally asked the same question the authors of this book sort of did. I wondered what if the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner actually fell in love with one the female slaves? I thought it would be an intriguing story but one that would have to be told, for me, without abuse of privilege or the main POV being the privileged character. Hush Now comes very close to that story I wanted to read. It’s a beautiful love story between two women stuck in a time and circumstance that makes it virtually impossible to be together.

Rebecca is a strong woman who is all about running her father’s plantation while he’s ill instead of being a proper Southern lady and looking for a husband. Unconventionally, she likes to wear men’s riding breeches as she rides around the plantation checking on it and makes sure the overseer is acting properly. She considers herself and her father more enlightened and progressive as far as slave ownership goes in the South and treats her father’s slaves with more respect than most of her station. Due to this, her family is considered by many in town as slave lovers, which is cause for problems to them at times.

What I love about Rebecca is that during the course of her growing relationship with Ruth she starts to really get it. She goes past the “I treat my slaves well” attitude to really understanding  her privilege, getting how wrong it is to enslave other human beings and trying to do something about it. She also doesn’t abuse her privilege when it comes to Ruth even though it would be easy to do so. Not only that, she’s conscious of that power and takes great pains to be careful she doesn’t let it take over even when her love and desire to be with Ruth is so intense. And even though she loves Ruth so deeply, ultimately she’s willing to sacrifice her own desires to do what’s right.

Ruth is also an interesting character, who I fell in love with. Too often in interracial love stories, the POC POV is not that developed. One thing I really wanted in reading a story like this is a strong representation of the POC POV. The authors mostly deliver on this point although I felt there could have been more about her. Or let’s say more about her life and who she was before being bought by the Montgomerys. I did get a good feel for who she is though. Ruth’s desires for freedom and seeing her family again who have escaped up north, and fearing really loving Rebecca due to the huge disparity in their social stations, drives a lot of how she reacts to Rebecca trying to prove her love.

Ruth is intelligent, well read—reads Shakespeare with Rebecca---, and is proud. Very telling is that she consciously dumbs down her speech and uses subservient body language to survive, which is painful to read. On this level, the authors didn’t shy away from showing the harsh realities of being enslaved in the South during this time. What I loved about her is that even though she has been treated as property, humiliated, separated from her family, and lives in fear that maybe Rebecca is just using her as she’s been used by white owners in the past, she still dares to allow herself to feel the love she feels for Rebecca. It’s an even bigger risk her loving and being with Rebecca than for Rebecca, so I had a stronger feeling for her.

What shines through this whole story is the love the both women share for each other. They have nothing but secret glances and stolen moments together and yet they manage to express and share their deep love and need of each other. It’s both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

One thing outside the love story that I enjoyed was the plot twist that creates an opening for Rebecca find a way for them to be together. Not sure if it’s something that could have actually have happened, but I can imagine gays during this time period did such things in order to exist and be with their loves. For Ruth and Rebecca it’s the only way even though it pains Rebecca that they still have to live with the pretense that Ruth is a servant.

In a way, even though the ending is unconventional for a romance, it fits with who the characters are. It’s maybe the only choice they could have made. Would love to read a sequel to find out how it all works out.

Other than Ruth and Rebecca’s romance, there are a lot of other characters that add some interesting and offbeat elements to this story. Chet, Rebecca’s long time beau offers some lightness and humor and plays a huge role in how things turn out for the women. And then there’s Teenie, the main house cook and caregiver to the Montgomery family. She’s always in the spotlight as she’s loved by everyone. However, her lightness and humor and that she’s loved but still has the status of slave is a constant reminder that this story is set in the south.

The only thing negative I’d say about this book is along technical lines. There were issues for me with tense and POV changes in the same paragraph. It wasn’t enough to hurt my experience, but was something that jarred me out of the story at times.

I would definitely read a sequel to this story. Somehow it felt as if the women were just on the precipice or beginning of their journey together, one that didn’t quite ever give them a chance to really fulfill their love for each other and it’s only natural after getting so invested in them that I’d want the story to go on. 
Heat Level- 2 some sex scenes written in mild language.

Grade: Really liked it