by Lynn Emery, contemporary (2006)
Harper, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-073104-4
Soulful Strut is quite a departure from Lynn Emery's usual light-hearted romantic comedies, I must say. However, while this book isn't as grossly exploitative as a Catherine Anderson novel, the author spends way too much time trying to convince everyone that her heroine wasn't just wrongfully incarcerated for a crime she didn't commit once upon a time, she is also a special heroine who makes everyone's life special, so much so that this book soon slows into a snail's pace.
Monette Victor spent fifteen years in prison for drug dealing. She wasn't a drug dealer back then - she was framed and nailed to the pillory by a DA who wasn't happy that she ended their affair. After coming out with a successful bestselling tell-all book which started a whirlwind of events that culminated with her parole, Monette enjoys freedom and ends up in a halfway home where she meets the attractive Jayson Odum. However, he's a rich fellow with good pedigree while she's an ex-con. Besides, she's busy now counseling women and holding talk-shows with a vengeance, so how can she ever find the time to see if they can ever meet halfway, right? Meanwhile, there are some people who are not happy to see Monette enjoying her fifteen minutes and will cause trouble for her.
I can see some shades of this author's style that has me enjoying her previous books - there is humor and Ms Emery delivers a couple operating on the principle of opposites attract in every way (he's not just from old money and all, he's a conservative while she's a liberal, for one). However, Soulful Strut soon morphs into a sluggishly-paced call for affirmative action because Ms Emery is too busy trying to prove to everyone that Monette is perfect. Monette's only "flaw", if it can be called that, is that she is quite self-effacing when it comes her perceived weaknesses (which, of course, aren't really there, as everyone else is happy to assure her). Therefore, Monette isn't a character as much as she is a one-dimensional poster girl of whatever cause Ms Emery believes Monette should be championing.
Monette isn't an effective poster girl of anything, much less a memorable character in my opinion because she doesn't have to learn anything. I mean, let's recap. She was thrown into prison clearly due to reasons that weren't her fault, unless I'm to count sleeping with the wrong guy some kind of hideous sin. Her background doesn't even ring real. She doesn't have much education but wow, she wrote a bestselling book without the aid of a ghostwriter. She is also instinctively confident on her talk shows. Monette is like Athena - she pops out of Ms Emery's forehead a full-blown perfect adult. What is happening to her now in the story is basically a reaffirmation of her fabulousness. Her kids and other folks are not respecting her because they think she's a drug dealer ho? Let them bask in her fabulous glow for a few minutes and they'll emerge as changed and happier people. Poor Jayson fares even worse as a character - he's essentially a flat good-looking hot hunk whose only reason to exist to be a trophy for Monette.
Because of the ill-advised overkill of feel-good affirmative action deluge that takes priority over realistic character development, Soulful Strut ends up being more of a very average feel-good TV movie of the week moment where the agenda is to whip up the readers into a frenzy of emotions instead of telling a story. Soulful Strut is more of a shaky limp, therefore.
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