Beyond Desire

Naked Soul


Wedding Bells

Against the Wind by Gwynne Forster
(Love Spectrum, $8.95, PG-13) ISBN 1-885478-90-9
I tend to shy away from interracial romances because the major emphasis in most novels is not on the romance. Interracial romances are often hampered by an overzealousness to tackle "the race question" head on. As a result, the main characters spend most of their time focusing upon the objections to their relationship, rather than on the relationship itself.

There are, of course, exceptions. Sandra Kitt has done an excellent job of developing her characters as people who exist within and without the romantic relationship. Perhaps the best interracial romance I've read is one that is never referred to as such. Susan Wiggs' "Island Time" in the That Summer Place anthology is the romance of a Latina researcher and a white businessman that takes place on an island in the Pacific Northwest near Seattle. Wiggs deftly focuses on the relationship by staging 95 percent of the action of the main characters on a secluded island.

Gwynne Forster's Against the Wind is published by Genesis Press' Love Spectrum imprint, the Mississippi-based publisher's interracial romance line.

Against the Wind is the story of accountant Leslie Collins and Jordan Saber, a college professor and gentleman farmer, set in Talbot County, Maryland.

As the story begins, Leslie has come to Saber Estates in search of a job. When a former employer attempted to rape her, Leslie filed charges against the man. He was convicted and sentenced to jail, but not before vowing to get revenge against Leslie. He has served his time and recently has been released from prison. The threats have begun anew. Afraid for her safety, she has left town and has found temporary shelter in a women's residence near Saber Estates.

When Leslie asks for clerical work, Jordan tells her he has recently fired his bookkeeper for dishonesty and only needs seasonal workers to help with his lettuce crop. Noting her desperation to find work, he offers her a job as a cook. Leslie, who cooked for a family in exchange for room and board as an undergraduate, accepts his offer.

We know from the outset that Jordan Saber is somehow distinct. "Nothing that had happened to her in her twenty-eight years had prepared her for Jordan Saber. He loomed over her, his impatience reflected in hypnotic green eyes, but that made no impression on her. She had temporarily forgotten where she was and why she was there. She hadn't spent much time paying attention to men, and especially not to white ones; if she had, it wouldn't have helped. This was a man who turned heads."

But Leslie has had a bad experience with men in general and with male employers in particular. She does not necessarily balk at a relationship with Jordan because he is a white man, but because he is a man. Period. Leslie has been traumatized by the attempted assault and she is determined to fight any attraction she may have to Jordan Saber. She keeps her distance. And, although Jordan is attracted to Leslie, he respects her space. He also senses that she is afraid and hiding from something. Jordan secretly vows to protect her and to find out what is causing her so much anxiety.

Gwynne Forster's background as a sociologist has served her well with this novel. She knows her subject and her readers and has crafted a credible romance. Jordan's pursuit of Leslie is intense, yet subtle. It is powerful, but at its core is always respectful. Because Leslie is Black and Jordan is white and she is his employee, Forster is careful not to create slave-master story. Jordan is a man, a wonderful man that any woman would want. However, we are not blind to his shortcomings.

Forster is painstakingly sensitive in her development of the romance, but she has been careful not to create the pretense of a Utopian, color-blind existence for Jordan and Leslie within the happily ever after. To her credit, she is not heavy-handed with pronouncements on the subject of race. On Saber Estates, opposition within Jordan's world will not be tolerated. Reality sets in once they leave the fortress he has created. A restaurant scene in which two men silently react to seeing Leslie and Jordan together speaks volumes without getting on a soapbox.

In Against the Wind, Gwynne Forster has given us a mature, believable, full-bodied romance. I strongly recommend it.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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