Sunday, June 2, 2013

To Whisper Her Name, by Tamera Alexander

Olivia Aberdeen, the main character in To Whisper Her Name, is self-absorbed and her speech so overly formal as to appear stilted. She is not a protagonist who it is easy to root for in life or in love. She keeps repeating that she doesn't want to get remarried, but until opportunities fall into her lap, she does nothing to seek an alternative to support herself as a widow. Her ridiculous fear of horses is ill-conceived: for someone in the Civil War era to be afraid of horses would be like someone in modern America having a fear of cars -- she simply would not be able to get through so many years of her life without addressing it. The love interest, Ridley Cooper, is more interesting and complex in his motivations, but what attracts him to such an unappealing heroine as Olivia is a mystery. The early development of their relationship, including stolen kisses before he proclaims an interest in marrying her, is sadly typical of so-called "historical" romances that have "historical" characters behaving like modern couples. The other issue that is glaringly present in this novel is the overly politically correct handling of interactions between the central characters and the servants: although it is nice to see the main characters treating black servants as their equals, everyone except the few stereotypically racist characters sees it as perfectly normally for blacks and whites to interact as equals, when of course that was the opposite of the norm in the South in the post-war years. The story's finale is overly rushed and feels even more unrealistic than what proceeded it, which is sad because the earlier chapters were too drawn out and the author could easily have spent more time on the ending.

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