The Highest Price for Passion by Laurinda D. Brown (Oct. 2008 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  Strebor, Aug. 2008
Genre(s):  Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages:  272
Website:  http://www.ldbrownbooks.com

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

The past comes back to haunt in Laurinda D. Brown’s fifth solo title, THE HIGHEST PRICE FOR PASSION. Beginning in the volatile pre-Civil War era, her latest novel follows illicit exploits of slaves and masters as their lives intersect in the most perilous ways. Several characters narrate the story filled with infatuations and horrors that arise during a time when blacks were no more than tortured servants for white masters.

The fiery tale begins from the eyes of Amelia, a slave who recounts her life and the terror she endured escaping her master. Amelia, born from a white mother and slave, grew up knowing she wasn’t like the other workers around her. Yet because of the time and place she inhabited, she had to keep the appearance of being like the other black folks around her. One night her lineage is discovered, and it eventually leads to her disappearance.

But Amelia’s roots trace back far before her birth, tied to a shaky family tree with unspeakable secrets. Passion explores her heritage from her descendents and to a host of other characters from three generations ago – ones whose desires lead them to destructive behavior. There’s Massa Gray, who after years of rumors, can’t deny his attraction to the male form, including his own slaves; McKinley Wellsworth, whose notoriety as a hard-nosed master, is essentially a product of his tortured upbringing; and then there’s her own father, Josiah, whose attraction for Amelia’s mother couldn’t be contained and produced a love child he had to abandon.

Amelia, as she tells her life story, is aware of the passions that consume those around her, including her master and mistress. Both have strong connections to the beautiful slave, and she’s treated somewhat better than other blacks on the plantation. But Amelia knows her destiny and that there’s something more out there for her than a life of servitude.

Brown has a tackled a novel with historical significance with Passion, a book worlds apart from the contemporary novels she’s written such as Fire & Brimstone, UnderCover,Walk Like a Man and Strapped. The drama is still there, only from an earlier time and place. Brown has done her research with this story, and offers something different for black lesbian readers with Passion, a tale we should read not only for its compelling subject matter, but so that we can gain perspective with how far our race has come.

Reviewed October 2008