The Wild Rose Press, 2018
In the post-Civil War Black township of Frederick Douglass, Texas, only married men are welcome. The mayor’s wife and her Purity Patrol have run off all the prostitutes. Now they’re insisting that all single men—including widowers—must get themselves wives, and have children, to insure the ongoing sustainability of the town.
Freed slave Caesar King doesn’t want a mail order bride. Ignoring the town’s bridal lottery, he places his own ad in newspapers back East. He’s looking for a partner, someone to help him manage his land and to bear his offspring. Love neither required nor sought, his advertisement states.
Caesar has already known love, in the person of his deceased former wife Emma. He doesn’t expect to get lucky twice.
Back in Philadelphia, Queen Esther Payne needs an escape. Her family, stalwarts of Black society, refuse to put up with her headstrong nature and her liaisons with other women. She answers Caesar’s advertisement, misinterpreting his comments about wanting to establish a “legacy”. When she arrives in Texas, Queen finds that Caesar isn’t the sort of man she expected—and vice versa. She’s ready to have sex with him, but completely unwilling to consider children. He wants her, has the rights to her body as her spouse, but is willing to take things slowly the way Emma taught him, if that means she’ll ultimately surrender. Sparks fly as the irresistible force meets the immovable object in a contest of wills and flesh.
I bought this book after reading an excerpt offered by the author when she was a guest at my blog. This is not something I do very often, but Queen’s voice and character really grabbed me, as did the quality of the writing. Then there was the sexual tension—I really wanted to find out what would happen between Queen and Caesar (or “Mrs. King” and “Mr. King”, as they address one another in the excerpt).
In a sense, I was not disappointed. Better to Marry than to Burn is original, engaging and historically rich. However, it is much too short. The conflict that stands between Queen and Caesar is not likely to be resolved in their first encounter. There was enough literary meat in this book to make a novel, but instead we have just a longish short story. Because of that, even though I really enjoyed the characters, the setting and the premise, I felt a bit cheated.
In her blog post, the author talked about the research she did for this title. She left me wanting more.