I finished reading In Love With A Thug by Reginald L. Hall about a two months ago so you'll have to pardon my memory when it comes to the characters and the storyline. I loaned my copy to The Voice so I'll double check my facts before the final post.
Well, well, after all the book reviews I've written, I have to say that I didn't really favor this particular African-American SGL novel. In retrospect, I extended the reading over an entire month and procrastinated even longer before writing this review. I think my subconscious was screaming something at me!
The basis of the story?
The main character, Julian Jiles (aka J.J) robs a bank with his lover, Darnell. His partner is killed in a police standoff and J.J. escapes with the money and forges a new life. He achieves his life-long dream of owning a hair salon named Ché Mystic and then meets a "swaggalicious" young thug named Bryant who seems just a bit too good to be true. Is Bryant the soul mate that J.J. wants and desires or is he hiding a more sinister agenda?
First things first: I am guilty of effemaphobia (took that word from an episode of Noah's Arc). I noticed a post on (click here: *Emerald Eye Entertainment*) regarding the treatment of feminine behaving men within the SGL community. The main character J.J. is extremely dynamic, shifting from masculine back to feminine in mere seconds. I've been getting over my distaste for fem men over the years so bear with me; I'm a work in progress. I have fem mannerism from time to time so who am I to criticize others? Furthermore, since I've come out and attended gay clubs and pride parades, my comfort level for the extreme (i.e. trannies, cross-dressing, etc.) has increased. Consequently, I've achieved maximum “comfortability” to the point I perform public displays of affection (PDA's).
Anyway, I'm digressing.
So after my initial distaste of the main character’s outward behavior, I eventually just found him shallow and stupid. I'm all for supporting the black SGL literary community however, they need to step their game up. Now, Lin, Fred (and E. Lynn), don't go getting your feathers ruffled up! Anyone who reads my blog knows I'm a martinet for grammar, spelling and all that jazz. In essence, the narration and grammar transported me back to my second grade classroom.
"Mrs. A?! Can I please go to the bathroom?? Pleeeeassee?!?!"
I think Hall is tremendously talented in crafting a storyline. Nevertheless, I maintain serious issue with the plot. For example, a major character was killed in front of J.J. and Hall neglected to expound on the personal impact upon him. If a really close friend of mine was murdered, I don't believe I'd contrive an evening date and act as if everything is perfectly normal. Furthermore, J.J. didn't even mention the murder to Bryant that night!
Conversely, I did enjoy Hall's use of famous characters peppered throughout the novel. Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys and Lil' Kim are only a handful of celebrities that appear in the story. The first time I encountered this phenomenon, I chuckled, thinking, "He really wants me to take this seriously?" However, the more I read, the more I became accustomed to his writing style and actually discovered that I enjoyed it. Kudos on the creativity and inclusion of celebs!
Moreover, he included himself in the storyline at the beginning of the novel:
“A fire erupted in a North Philadelphia home tonight, Osama Bin Laden is still on the loose, and author Reginald L. Hall is still continuing to sell millions of books all across the country.” (Ch. 3, p. 15)
Terribly self-centered yet creative!
Lastly, my significant problem with J.J. was his self-depreciating personality. He endured beatings at the hands of lovers and then justified it as love! Ridiculous! Hall describes J.J. as being fiercely independent and prideful at the beginning of the story yet he debases himself around the men he dates. Simply put, J.J.’s personality best compares to a rollercoaster. This turned me off about halfway through the book and I found it a struggle to continue to end.
The denouement was exceptionally rushed and I while I won’t give anything away, I’ll simply say it was clichéd. I applaud Reginald Hall for his valiant effort however, if you are seeking insightful characters and deep meaning, I’d search elsewhere. The story is a great afternoon read; extremely entertaining, adventurous and a nice break from reality.
I haven’t read much African-American SGL fiction lately. I’ve transitioned back to reading Star Trek novels (I need to change my reading style every few months to keep from getting stale). I’m planning to order several African-American SGL novels over my winter break so be on the lookout for more Reading Corner then!