Redemption of the Heart by Moni Boyce
Love Snacks Publishing 8 January 2019
Despite addressing heavy themes of domestic violence, incarceration, and grief, Redemption of the Heart is a charming and sweet spicy read in the tradition of a 21st-century interracial homage to Janet Dailey’s monthly romance era. Gemma’s open-hearted ingénue contrasts starkly with Alex’s jaded workaholic. They struggle with a variety of challenges, but ethnicity isn’t one of them—a spin that feels particularly modern. Once readers commit to their suspension of disbelief regarding the cascading impact of lacks in due diligence by several characters, it’s easy to settle in to enjoy this love story.
The recent public debate about the pros and cons of Gillette’s “We believe the best man can be” campaign ties in with the contradictory messages in the story threads about toxic masculinity. There’s a scene in which Alex apologizes to someone who was openly bragging among coworkers about how he planned to get Gemma in bed, but this minor character never apologizes (nor is expected to do so) to Gemma and Alex for his unprofessional, disrespectful behavior, which seems to get excused as “wisecracks” and other misleadingly innocuous labels. At the same time, Alex’s willingness to acknowledge when he’s actually wrong and to apologize are two of the most appealing traits he possesses. In one way this friction portrays the testosterone-dominant restaurant industry, but the wrong person’s behavior is being questioned.
Forgiveness, second chances, adult offspring recognizing their parents as complicated individuals, and the benefits of therapy are only a few of the many reasons to read this optimistic love story. Yes, there are patterns of minor proofing oversights. The strength of the characterizations, storytelling momentum, and incendiary sensuality more than outweigh them.
Chronin Volume 1: The Knife at Your Back by Alison Wilgus
comics & graphic novels
Tor Books 19 February 2019
This amalgam containing elements of Victor Victoria and the recently cancelled “Timeless” television show offers a visual rendering reminiscent of Modern Japan: A Very Short Introduction by Christopher Goto-Jones. The sharp edges and soft shadings in gray scale appeal to the eye and support the spare dialogue, which punctuates the action in panels with the look of gorgeous woodcuts.
Yoshida and Hatsu’s journey in 1864 Japan resonates with present-day conflicts between social classes, Eastern and Western nations, and limiting expectations based on gender.
Volume 1 ends on a juicy cliffhanger.