“Thandi’s Love explores the life of cotton plantation owner Tom Lexington. After a particularly generous yield, he asks his Aunt Lacey to send additional servants to help with the harvest. Tom is delighted that his good friends, Thandi and Isaac, the sibling servants he grew up with as a child, will be coming to stay. He welcomes them with open arms and has them stay in the mansion’s guestrooms.”
Thandi’s Love is the debut novel by Ms. Angel Strong, set in the deep South during the mid-1800’s. As such this story deals with the topic of slavery and the reality of how slaves were viewed and often treated…unless they were fortunate enough to have a “Master” like Tom Lexington.
Plantation owner Tom Lexington is kind man with views far head of his time; he views his slaves not as property but as people…workers and assets to his plantation that he treats with kindheartedness and respect. This behavior of his towards the colored folk on his plantation is often the of cause friction and discord within his already loveless marriage to his wife Anna; the spoiled and vicious daughter of his business partner Daniel Stafford.
One day, at his request Thandi and her brother Isaac arrive with other slaves who have been loaned to him by his Aunt to help bring in the first good crop of cotton in years. Tom, had grown up with the two mulatto slaves, they had been childhood playmates at friends…they were more like family to the kindhearted man. Upon their arrival Tom invites the two to be guests in his home, refusing to allow them to stay in the slave housing.
This nearly sends Tom’s wife Anna into an apoplectic fit. How dare slaves be allowed to sit at the table with decent southern white folk and rise above their station to wear fine jewelry, don’t they know their place?! Well if they don’t she won’t waste any time in reminding them where they belong and relishes doing so at every chance she is given. She is a vicious and vengeful person, you just know this isn’t going to work out well for Thandi and Isaac as long as she is around.
This is just the beginning of a complicated string of events and intrigue, but this reviewer isn’t going to spoil anything for you. It’s up to you to read the book to find out everything that happens. What I am going to do is tell you what I think of this book and point out some of the issues I had with it that kept it from being rated more highly by me. Please keep in mind that a 3-star rating still means I solidly like the story. All too often people see a 3 star and think it’s just “meh”, no…that’s not it at all; please remember that a 3 star means “I like it”, and I do.
This is a genre not often written about. Sure, there are puh-lenty of Southern romances out there but those more often than not deal with white on white relationships not bi-racial. The predicament of the mulatto person in this era was a complicated one; never completely fitting into either world…always an outsider. And a beautiful woman such as Thandi would have been a target for unscrupulous men like Victor, that’s simply a reality and I like that Ms. Strong addressed that reality.
I also really enjoyed the characters of Tom, Thandi and Isaac, their long-standing relationship was very realistic and they were easy to become invested in. Then the spoiled-ass debutante Anna was a joy to despise, I just wanted to yank one of her curls to haul her up to eye level and give her piece of my mind. Her father and his associate Victor weren’t much better either, but you’ve got to have the good with the bad in a story like this or there’s not much to root for, right? So there’s a good balance with the characters.
What keeps this at a 3 star for me rather than moving it up is that at times the story didn’t quite fit the era, the relationship between Thandi and Tom felt far too contemporary for an era romance. I believed Tom’s attraction for Thandi, at least physically; she’s a beautiful woman with a beautiful soul and they have history. But as a reader I am left to assume he is trying to find something in Thandi that is lacking within his marriage to find his attraction for her beyond physical. What didn’t fit for me was Thandi’s quick acceptance of Tom advances and feelings when all she really appears to have is fond memories of their childhood, this relationship definitely needed more development.
Now, I suppose there could be two arguments to that. On one side you could say she acquiesced easily because he was the white man and she had been taught not to fight white men which would have been the case back then. Tom puts her into a situation where she could have had hell to pay one way or the other, right? Not so much with Tom, I get that. But, what if someone discovered their relationship? She could have been lynched by his wife’s family or her brother’s life could have easily been put in jeopardy, they could be separated and sold off; so many horrible things could happen as a result. This is why it felt as though there should have been more of an unfulfilled longing to build this relationship. Thandi definitely should have been more reluctant to give in and I as a reader should have been thinking “it’s about damned time!”
The contemporary vernacular also led to this story feeling a bit out of place. I often looked past that as I read but couldn’t help but notice towards the beginning of the book Ms. Strong had some of the slaves speaking in the typical vernacular one might expect to hear of slaves, but that wasn’t maintained throughout the story and that needs to be addressed. Either commit to it…or don’t.
But you know, I did still enjoy the story over-all…it just needs some tweaking, some further plot and formatting development to help it become something more in the 4-star range.
Ms. Strong has a nice writing style, it flows easily and is comfortable to read if you can overlook formatting issues. I am looking forward to see how this new author grows as she produces further books. I have no doubt she has a bright future particularly because she reads and absorbs her reviews.
If you enjoy historical romances set in the deep south, give this one a chance. I have it on good authority that this author will be taking a look at some of the issues that have been brought up in her past reviews. I have no doubt this story will only get better!