Loving Her by Ann Allen Shockley

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lovingherPublisher/Date:  Northeastern University Press, Oct. 1994
Genre(s):  Romance, Mature Lesbians
Pages:  187

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

That which we call a rose by any other name is just as sweet, and the love between a black musician and a white writer can be just touching in LOVING HER, Ann Allen Shockley’s tragic story about an interracial romance.

When the novel begins, Renay Lee is packing her suitcase and trying quietly to escape with her daughter, Denise, to escape her abusive, alcoholic husband, Jerome. The mother and daughter run to Terry Bluvard, a wealthy white woman Renay’s fallen in love with. They live together quite nicely and Renay finally feels free from Jerome Lee’s suffocating grasp.

Renay met Terry while working as a musician in an upscale supper club, and introduces herself to the writer after she requests a song. It was something Terry that drew her to the woman so different from herself, a woman who grew up with a silver spoon her mouth, compared to Renay’s meager upbringing. Here was a woman who with one touch could make her feel things she never though possible, after years of detached feeling with Jerome Lee. Things at home with her husband are worse than ever and the last straw comes when Jerome sells her beloved piano, the one thing her hard-working mother was able to give her daughter.

So she runs to Terry, a woman who is able to give her what she’s been missing: love. They make a great home together, for themselves and Denise. Jerome Lee is a miserable mess, and tries his hardest to make life a living hell for her, terrorizing her and stalking their home at every turn. He can’t fathom that Renay can actually make it without him, and tries his hardest to get her back.

It all comes to a head when Jerome Lee discovers whom she left him for, and his outrage is evident: Renay’s left him for a woman! His anger leads to tragic events, and Renay has to figure out whether her guilt will allow her to love a woman despite the pain their relationship has caused.

Shockley makes it quite clear that love has no boundaries in Loving Her. Black or white, genuine affection is what’s most important. She doesn’t sugarcoat the romance between Renay and Terry, as they encounter many roadblocks to their love. Shockley spells out their pitfalls and outlines their sensitive love story with care. Flowery writing is still her trademark, and although it makes the story too long-winded at times, it kind of works here, keeping you on the edge of your seat.

Loving Her is a great love story for anyone who believes in beating the odds.

Reviewed February 2006


Say Jesus and Come to Me by Ann Allen Shockley

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sayjesusPublisher/Date:  Naiad Press, April 1987
Genre(s):  Romance, Religious, Mature Lesbians
Pages:  283

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Lawd, have mercy! What a book!

Ann Allen Shockley’s SAY JESUS AND COME TO ME is mind boggling, to say the least.

Rev. Myrtle Black, a vivacious fiery pastor, is the star of this tempestuous tale. A traveling minister, she sets congregations ablaze with her holy word, then finds a sweet young thing to bed, and disappears almost as soon as she arrives, leaving behind no ties.

When confronted with the stodgy minister at a conservative Nashville church she was invited to, Myrtle finally lays her roots down with an idea brewing: initiate a women’s march against sexism and racism. Spurred by the assault of two local prostitutes, Myrtle quickly gets to action and calls out the male powers-that-be.

In town at the same time is Travis Lee, a famed R&B songstress taking the world by storm. After a rough night with her doggish boyfriend, Travis has her own spiritual revelation–she’s missing the Lord from her life. This leads her to the Rev. Myrtle Black. Seeking the minister’s guidance, the two women become friends and fight a growing attraction.

The novel then becomes a play-by-play of the march’s development. Myrtle finds intelligent allies for her mission, including leaders of feminist and women organizations. After a laborious planning meeting one night, Myrtle and Travis finally act on their lust for one another.

This causes chaos for both women. Myrtle, having been an emotional and physical nomad for the last several years, has to deal with finally falling in love and risking her ministry by coming out as lesbian. Travis has to face her budding spirituality, sexual identity and her adoring public.

A lot of other events ensue in Say Jesus, but the heart of this novel is Myrtle and Travis. All the rest was filler–the march, Travis’ ex, and death threats–added to the story as a backdrop to their love. Shockley’s writing was poetic at times, too wordy at others. Occasionally, you have to plow through her flowery writing, and the love scenes could have been more intense. Yet, Shockley definitely took religion to task and brings the story together, enough to make you praise and shout.

Reviewed August 2005