Scandalous by Minerva Spencer
My rating: 0 of 5 stars
I don’t really have words for how much I hated this. Hated that the author exploits slavery for titillation, playing up the idea of the sexy brute and savage at every turn. I have a pretty thick hide by now and yet this elicited a surprisingly painful reaction. There’s nothing modern about this brutal retread/ mashup of the tragic mulatto and pirate romance. I disliked everything about how the male lead, a former enslaved man, was portrayed throughout. But what really made it worse was that the climax and resolution pivot on a secondary character, a Black woman whose voice is obliterated. She’s used as a plot point and then denigrated and replaced as a mother to facilitate the white female lead’s HEA. Just intolerable.
I’m not going to spend more time on this author but I’ll just put this here. This is Martin taking stock of himself after Sarah challenges him about not being able to read and he reacts defensively:
“He turned away from her, as if he could turn away from the vision she had forced him to look at: that of an illiterate brute only aping his betters with fine clothes, rich trappings, and books he could not read.”
That “brute” characterization and the dehumanizing terminology of Martin being like an animal “aping” his betters (a metaphor like this used in a racial context has double meaning) would be less glaring if the text didn’t *repeatedly* and sensationally treat him as such. That's not countered just because Martin is supposedly saved by Sarah. Even Martin's work against the slave trade doesn't come into full view until it's used to prop up their union and her virtue. I understand that the nonsense idea of women humanizing terrible men is a popular trope. But when it's used in this racialized way with a man of color it is egregious and grotesque.
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