Sunday, February 05, 2006

Any Rich Man Will Do by Francis Ray

Last October I enjoyed an issue of AAR's ATBF about African American romances that discussed racism in romance and readers attitudes and prejudices. It also featured articles by author Monica Jackson and KarenS (love her blog). This excellent ATBF issue got me thinking about the few AA romances I have read in the past and made me want to try another. In November AAR reviewed this book and it looked interesting so I decided to give it a try.

ARMWD is a redemption story about a young woman , Jana Franklin, who has hit bottom in a big way. Living in a fleabag hotel with no money for rent, she dresses up in her last designer dress (all the rest having been sold) and crashes a high-society charity gala hoping to bag another rich man to support her. But her past catches up to her and she is thrown out. She is humiliated, flat broke, starving, and desperate when she stumbles into Olivia Maxwell's luxury linen boutique and faints at her feet. Tyler, Olivia's brother, is there too and, fearing a lawsuit, determined not to trust Jana when kind-hearted Olivia takes her under her wing and gives her a job and a place to stay.

Jana is a world class people-user and manipulator of men who has used her looks and her body to get what she wants, just like her mother did. She had cheated on her former husband and alienated all of her friends by her bitchy behavior; a totally unsympathetic character.

All of Jana's bad behavior takes place before the beginning of the book. Over the course of the book Jana changes into a strong admirable person and I liked how Jana never feels sorry for herself but sees clearly that she created her own problems, and has hurt people, but is now determined to change. However, Olivia is almost too good, generous, and perfect to be believed. She is a mother struggling to raise her son (who was also perfect) alone and becomes Jana's first real friend. I didn't expect to find so many references to God and Jana's religious beliefs. The minister's wife was also too good and non-judgmental to be believed. All of these too good characters made a stark contrast to bad girl Jana and maybe that was the author's purpose. But the goody two-shoes characters stopped short of making me gag thankfully.

Tyler comes to see the good in Jana before Jana herself does and the story has a very fairy tale kind of feel to it. The secondary romance between Olivia and Julian was also enjoyable. This was not a perfect book but I enjoyed it enough to want to try something by Francis Ray again.

My grade: B-


Reese said...

Hi Renee,

I've only read one African American romance, but I was surprised because the only thing that didn't seem bourgeouise and white about the book was the people on the cover - who were, like, coffee with cream colored.

I was actually hoping to get a little glimpse outside of my boring WASPY life. Would you recommend this book?

ReneeW said...

If you're looking for something with more AA culture or flavor (language, attitudes, problems, etc.) then this book is not for you. In fact one thing that struck me was that the characters could have been either white or black (no mention was made of their race). The only thing AA about the book was the character on the cover and the author. But I did enjoy the book.

If you're looking for a glimpse outside your 'WASPY' life then I would recommend Eric Jerome Dickey's Milk in My Coffee or Sandra Kitt's Close Encounters (hero is white, heroine is AA, in both of these). Or even Brockmann's Harvard's Education (both H/H are AA). That's the extent of my knowledge of AA romance. I've been trying to diversify my reading too, but ARMWD didn't quite do that.

Reese said...

Thanks Renee. I don't know why I thought that interloping in the AA world would give me a different reading experience, but I guess I just hoped it would.

I don't know why, but all of a sudden I'm seriously wondering why I became so interested in this genre. I must be in a slump, or something, because everthing seems BLEH to me.

Can you recommend something? Something challenging and not so bourgeoisie? Perhaps something more psychologically driven, or something where class issues are dealt with in a realistic way? Can you recommend something that really knocked you on your ass? I would love to read something that makes me change my mind.


ReneeW said...

Wow, you're going to make me put on my thinking cap. I have not read anything in the romance genre that fits these descriptions. Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird? It knocked me off my ass when I first read it many years ago and remains my favorite book of all time. It's a classic but you've probably read it. Off the top of my head the only other one I would recommend is The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Otherwise I'm tapped out :)

Reese said...

Renee, thanks so much. No, surprisingly I haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird, but I've been meaning to. The other night I saw "Capote" and Harper Lee was in that movie (as Capote's pal), so I further thought I should read that book.

Thank you, Renee. I'm going to do that. Maybe it will pull me out of my reading slump!


Karen Scott said...

I think Reese just exemplified the difficulties in trying to market AA romances to the white reader. You seem to expect it be more culturally biased in terms of content.

I personally think that you should be able to read an AA romance, and not worry that the characters aren't adhering to cultural stereotypes.

If I want race-based angst, I'll read Maya Angelou or Bernard Lewis's, The Crisis of Islam.

I'm not saying that there shouldn't be racial angst in AA romances, my point is that they shouldn't litter the whole damn book, unless that's actually what the book is about.

It is possible to be black, and not face issues of race everyday of your life, and I truly believe that AA romances should reflect that reality somewhat.

If the romance is an inter-racial one, then I do think that some of the issues should be addressed, but not overly so, purely because the world is already full of these types of relationships, and has been for a while now. Just because Hollywood doesn't show many films addressing IR relationships, doesn't make it less of a reality.

Oh crap, I just bled all over your blog, sorry hun *g*

BTW, if you want to see a good IR movie, I hear "Something New" is getting rave reviews.

Ok, I'm shutting up now, I knew I should have just taken my response over to my blog *g*

ReneeW said...

Karen: Yes, I totally agree that every AA book should not necessarily be filled with racial AA angst. And that's not what I was looking for when I picked this up. I just want a good book with decent plot, characters, dialogue, etc. That ATBF issue reminded me that there are good AA authors out there that I have never tried.

I really like IR romances because they provide a conflict I find interesting and I like to see how the couple work through it to get their HEA. Thanks for the rec on the movie. I'm putting it on my Netflix queue. We recently watched Guess Who and Bob laughed his a** off (although I thought is sort of silly and dragged in the middle). Oh, and feel free to get carried away as much as you want in my comments. As you can see, I ramble all the time.

Wow, I haven't touched my blog in over 6 years and I'm still logged in!  Good thing because I have no idea what my password is.  In ...