I’ve spoken at length here about disability issues and I’ve reviewed a number of romances that featured disabled characters. What I haven’t done much of, though, is read or review romances with disabled characters who aren’t white. Disability-themed books are kind of hard to search for, since they rarely announce disability in a blurb or in the cover image, and finding them among the pool of POC romances has proved a challenge. This book by a black woman pairing a blind white man with a fat black woman is as close as I’ve come so far.
“You have such a pretty face, If only you would lose some weight.” Tory has heard that all of her life. In her solitary life she eats alone and daydreams about having a handsome boyfriend who could accept all of her.
Daily she finds herself running to catch her bus and knowing that she is the laughing stock of the other commuters. And then one day she literally finds herself ‘falling’ into the lap of one of the commuters; an exotically handsome white man. Tory finds that she is unable to stop thinking about him and daydreaming about the life he must live. But Mr. Gorgeous must be either married or gay because she sees him dismissing the attention of gorgeous women left and right.
Never in a million years would she ever guess that hers was the only attention he was interested in…
I don’t generally copy and past book blurbs, but this one pretty much nails exactly what bothered me about this book so much that I put it down. The book opens with a number of stereotypes about fat women. Tory oversleeps and is late for the bus (lazy, lacks discipline), then is breathing heavy and sweating tons as she hurries for her bus (leads a sedentary life/is out of shape), before she finally falls onto the hero’s lap when the bus starts moving (fat people are clumsy.) All day at work she daydreams about what she’ll eat for dinner and an impulsive decision to go out for dinner at a Portuguese restaurant is how she runs into the handsome man from the bus who’s the book’s hero. To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being any or all of these things as a fat woman, but they’re stereotypes, and a character made up of every well-worn cliche of fat people is not showing me a nuanced individual character.
In addition to the lazy stereotypes of fat people, the book establishes Tory as good enough to be a heroine by repeatedly contrasting shy, self-effacing Tory with bold, sexually aggressive women who hit on Lee. When Tory’s not wondering if they ever eat, she’s calling them a “hoochie mama.” Setting a woman up as “one of the good ones” by tearing down the other women in the book as too sexy to be worthy of respect does not appeal to me in the slightest.
The hero is also constructed in strange and problematic ways. Before Tory realizes he is blind, her delight as his flirting with her is framed as “Wow! A white man likes me, a humble ol’ fat black woman!” His attraction to her seemed tied up with both fetishism and pity, almost, and it made me uncomfortable. It was like I was supposed to feel Tory was honored to have gotten his attention. Additionally, his blindness seemed poorly depicted. He doesn’t use a dog or a cane to move around (at first. He uses a cane in front of her eventually.), and Tory looked at his eyes while talking to him and didn’t realize he was blind. But, just as I was thinking he wasn’t fully blind and had some vision, he’s holding onto her to walk and feeling her face to see what she looks like (blindness cliche!) It felt poorly researched and inconsistent.
Also, this come-on is creepy:
“I noticed you because you run for the bus every day.”
“What?” She looked at him in confusion.
He sighed. “You run for the bus every day and when you get on you sound like you’ve just made love…and have been thoroughly satisfied.” Tory’s heart jumped in her chest, her cheeks flamed. He continued. “The first time I heard that…I could barely stand up to get off the bus. I look forward to that sound every day, Tory. And then, one day you fell into my lap and…well, I wasn’t lying when I said that it was truly my pleasure.”
Final Assessment: All of these plotting and characterization problems mix with bone dry prose that tells rather than shows. Not the book for me. DNF