Theme: Opposites Attract
This RITA® Reader Challenge 2016 review was written by Aislinn K. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Romance Novella category.
Sofronia Wallis knows that proper Black women don’t court trouble by upending the status quo, but it’s 1961 and the Civil Rights movement is in full swing. Sofie’s spent half her life being prim, proper, and reserved—as if that could bring her mother back—but the nonviolent protests happening across the South bring out her inner agitator.
Ivan Friedman has devoted his life to boxing, loving the finesse of a well-delivered punch and the penance of receiving one. His family escaped from Europe before the horrors of WWII, and Ivan decides to help fight injustice in their new country, even if it goes against all his instincts as a fighter.
When Ivan and Sofie meet, they realize that their pasts are intertwined and—with the sparks that fly between them—perhaps their futures will be too. With everything in their society lined up against them, will Sofie and Ivan be able to beat the odds? Or will their chance at love be destroyed by the tumultuous times they live in?
Here is Aislinn K.'s review:
Before reading this, I had only heard good things about this novella. Scratch that – amazing things. So I was prepared to be either blown away or severely disappointed.
Thankfully, it was the former.
This book induces Good Book Noise™ something fierce. It is both deeply harrowing and one of the sweetest books I have read in a long time – and both those aspects are melded seamlessly throughout the story.
The story is set in 1961, and the Civil Rights Movement plays a big part as the backdrop to the love story. Sofia is our heroine; black, beautiful, and fiery beneath her outward pretentions to being a Good Girl. Ivan was her childhood friend. He’s white, Jewish, and the son of the people that used to employ Sofia’s mother as a servant until her untimely death.
That death affected them both strongly, and they hadn’t seen each other since that time until they run into each other at a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee meeting. She’s a student. He’s a boxer. And their childhood bond is even stronger now and laced with a delicious sexual tension.
There is no denying that they face a lot of obstacles as a couple. The people close to them, society at large, legally – there are all kinds of things fighting against them. I think that because of this it was a smart authorial choice to have the two of them have such an irresistible bond from the beginning. If it hadn’t been so immediate, then the obstacles would have been too much and overwhelmed the love story. But because the reader automatically feels how attracted they are to one another and how they instantly get each other and support each other from their first encounter, the barriers they face don’t seem depressingly insurmountable.
This lets the romance develop sweetly. Ivan is pretty close to being a perfect guy, and Sofia has a wonderful character arc, gaining strength and fortitude through her associations with the nonviolent committee and with Ivan.
The writing is lovely. The rhythm of the language felt very much of the time the story is set, without it ever delving into a parody.
Despite the short length of the story, it manages to pack a real emotional punch. I cried twice. You just really want those crazy kids to make it work. And they do. The obstacles don’t magically disappear, but they manage them as best as they can under the circumstances. And they have each other.
My only issue with the story – which is incredibly minor – is in the epilogue.
Like I said, a very minor issue in an otherwise excellent story. I wholeheartedly recommend this novella.