REVIEW: Love’s Sweet Melody: Decades: A Journey of African American Romance by Kianna Alexander
*LOVE’S SWEET MELODY is part of the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance series. Each book explores a decade between the 1900s and the 2010s. This book covers the 1940s.*
Warner Hughes returns home from war with the lingering effects of battle. Abandoned by his sweetheart and ostracized by his community, he feels he has no real home.
Elizabeth “Betty” Daniels has one love: music. Betty’s family wants to see her married, busy with affairs of the home, leaving no time to pursue her art.
Warner’s only solace is in the sweet melody of Betty’s music. To Betty’s mind, marriage means giving up the freedom to pursue her art. Can Warner let love in, and can Betty make room for love?
Dear Ms. Alexander,
I’ve been reading lots of books about World War II lately so finally pulling out this entry in the Decades Series was a perfect fit. While Warner might be suffering in many ways because of his service to his country, he’s definitely not “poor Warner” and I was glad to see that Betty never pities him.
Since the story is a long novella, the action focuses intently on Betty and Warner with no subplots. Betty is a classically trained pianist who also has a teaching degree. She mentions she only taught one year and then couldn’t tolerate it any more based on the inequalities of the educational system. While I would have liked to have seen this elaborated on more, it was not to be. Now she plays in a restaurant which is how Warner enters her life again.
Having the two of them as graduates of the same high school and already acquaintances shortens the “getting to know you” stage and moves them immediately closer to friendship. Betty and readers learn about and get a first hand example of the PTSD Warner from which suffers. Coming under fire in his role of tank support during the Battle of the Bulge, he’s both seen things he’ll never forget while loud noises can startle him and send him into defensive actions.
Betty isn’t looking hard to find a husband, despite her mother’s efforts at times. From what she’s seen, marriage is something that makes women, especially Black women, lose their dreams and have to settle into a lifetime of ironing and doing for their families. She’s in no hurry. Warner is a handsome man, cultured, intelligent, and hard working business owner. But after he suffers from a blackout while answering her questions about his time in the war, Betty tries to help. Without first asking him though, it might prove the wedge that destroys their burgeoning relationship.
I enjoyed the story and the slow, gentle courtship between Warner and Betty. At first they’re just friends – something her mother listens to with skepticism as she then tells Betty this is exactly what she told her father years ago. Then they begin to talk. Betty also gets a chance to see the dynamics of a cousin’s recent marriage that helps her change her fixed ideas about giving up her dreams and independence.
Warner is a man struggling with the burden of what he lived through. He also remembers the racism he encountered before and after shipping out to Europe. While he might have been expected to die for his country, his country and its Allies have never given him the respect and thanks that are his due. He also worries about how people in his community see him and frets about not being a strong enough man for Betty.
Though there is a set up for and mention of Betty and Warner attending sessions with a psychiatrist, I would have liked to have seen one or two of them. More time is spent watching Betty and her female relations fix Thanksgiving dinner then seeing Warner get any professional help. I did worry at first, as did Betty’s father, that she might be getting herself in over her head and end up being Warner’s nursemaid for life but the mention that he and Betty have been going to these sessions does ease my mind somewhat. There are areas I would love to have seen fleshed out a bit more but what is there is sweet and realistic. B-