Pride & Passion
I love early twentieth century history and am delighted whenever I find a book set during that era. Pride and Passion, part of the Decades: A Journey of African-American Romance series, takes place during the 1950s and looks at a crucial period during the Civil Rights Movement. All Decades novel are standalone books, so you don’t need to have read any of the previous novels to enjoy this one.
Constance Ray is a confused, disheartened woman. The death of her husband Al in the Korean War left her understandably shattered, but it is the reaction of the townspeople that is causing her the biggest emotional toll. Even though Al died months ago, they refuse to let her heal. Stuck in perpetual mourning, she longs to laugh, live and love again. When Ensign Nathaniel Kelly comes to her father’s church, bringing with him a final message from Al, Constance finds herself even more disoriented. Because along with the grief she feels in receiving the message, she feels a deep desire for the messenger.
Nathaniel Kelly is delighted to fulfill the final wish of his good friend Al, but he is completely unprepared for his reaction to his late friend’s wife. The elegant, intelligent, soft-spoken beauty is everything he could ever want in a woman and everything he should avoid. His rough-and-tumble upbringing makes him the last person that should court someone so refined and gentle. Yet when he sees the townspeople forcing her into interminable widowhood, he can’t help but step in. He quickly becomes her close friend and confidant. But will that relationship be enough to satisfy them when they both want so much more?
Easily the best thing about this novel is the amazing history. The story takes an in-depth look at the Civil Rights movement and shows how NAACP members were harassed and often fired, how innocent bystanders to marches were often arrested or injured, and highlights that for African Americans, the turbulent, violent fight for their rights affected almost every aspect of their lives. Sweet, shy women like Constance might not have wanted to be actively involved but they often found themselves forced to engage as the areas they lived in exploded in righteous rage.
Constance and Nathaniel are intriguing characters with whom to view this monumental moment in history. Constance’s main desire is to help people, whether as a social worker or teacher, but she quickly finds even that fraught with politics, as government officials deem any act committed to bettering the lives of black people as incitement to violence. Her quiet nature is put to the test throughout the novel as she learns to deal with the fact that while she may not want to fight, her very existence as a young, educated black woman is considered an act of war by the other side.
Nathaniel learned how to fight in the military and is happy to go to battle for his rights as a civilian. His biggest challenge lies in the past, as he must come to grips with his anger over his father’s abusive nature and lay to rest the ghosts of all who were hurt while his old man waged war in their home. It is his anger management issues that create the biggest hurdle in his relationship with Constance and present the largest challenge to their relationship.
The romance here takes place over a long period of time, which is appropriate given where both characters are at the start of the story. I liked that the author shows how they help each other to grow and learn during the time they spend together.
The book does have one flaw, though, and that is in the writing style. The prose is repetitious, relaying the same information over and over again at some points, and it could also be choppy and simplistic. There are times when the writing keeps the charm and wit of the story and characters from shining through.
That said, Pride and Passion does a good job of capturing an important time in American history. Given the low price and intriguing story line, I’m happy to recommend this book to readers.