Extreme And Pervasive Racism Mars Otherwise Spectacular Second Chance Romance. Ok, white dude claiming racism on a book that features few white characters – none of whom are portrayed kindly, fwiw. So let me explain up front: My standard for detecting bigotry is to flip the demographics. If it would then be considered bigotry, then it is bigotry in the original form as well. Here, we have several characters both primary and secondary openly inquiring if a particular local small business is “black owned” or not, all throughout the text. Now, if a book that barely had any black characters had a bunch of white characters asking if a particular local small business was “white owned” or “straight white man” owned… there would be HELL to pay in certain segments of society. Thus, by the standard I stated above, the racism here is quite clear. As it happens frequently throughout the text – including the aforementioned extremely few white characters being portrayed as racist caricatures – it is also pervasive, though you’ll either have to read the book yourself or take my word for that.
Beyond the racism though, this is truly a *spectacular* second chance tale. One that many, no matter their demographics, will deeply understand – particularly those who grew up in the lower echelons of wealth and/ or in the small town rural South, as I did. The motivations for all of our characters here… well, many of us have seen similar shit within our own families, if not directly within our own lives. So truly, kudos, Ms. Slaughter, for staying so *real* and yet also providing a few hours of solid escapism.
While others may claim that the motivations for the separation were “unclear”… no, they weren’t. You just may never have been close to a similar point in your own life, and may not have felt just how close you yourself could have been to making such a boneheaded decision. Even in my professional adult life – not just my initial years in the trailer park – … I’ve been closer to this than most ever realized, and I remember *that* as much as I do my trailer park years, really moreso.
Now, a word for the “sweet” and/ or “clean” crowd that wants anything beyond a peck on the cheek to be completely off screen or at least “behind closed doors”… yeah… apparently Ms. Slaughter doesn’t know how to write that kind of tale, at least not based on the now two books (after Bet On It) I’ve read from her. Instead, as with Bet On It, this is active, in your face (literally, in the case of the characters’ faces 😉 ) damn near erotica level sex. So if Ron White / Wanda Sykes type comedy isn’t your thing… you might want to avoid this one, as this gets *so much worse*.
Another thing to like here, and that I mentioned in Bet On It as well, is just how *normal* Ms. Slaughter shows modern Southern living to be, here including even up to casual acceptance of GSM (Gay and Sexual Minorities, a truly inclusive term that doesn’t need constant modifications ever few years) / “LGBT+” people and even couples. While so many tales try to show some level of hostility or animus to such people or any other divergence from lily white WASPy types, Ms. Slaughter’s small town embrace of these characters of some of their own shows the modern South I too grew up in quite realistically and quite well, and for that she is to be commended.
Finally, again, if you can get past the blatant and pervasive racism (or perhaps if you even agree with it), and if you don’t mind the damn near erotica level sex scenes… this really is quite a strong tale and quite well told, given the above caveats. Very much recommended.
This review of Play To Win by Jodie Slaughter was originally written on July 9, 2023.