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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Deseré: A Love Story of the American South is written by Maria McKenzie. When Deseré’s kindly owner, Jeremy, dies after a fall from his horse, Deseré’s dreams of marrying William, a slave from a neighboring plantation, are ended by her new owner, a Northerner and Jeremy’s nephew, Anthony Sinclair. Like his uncle, Anthony is a kindly man, but still on the fence regarding freeing slaves. Once he sets eyes on Deseré, he’s so smitten by her that he’s even more torn on the issue of slave freedom: he’s in love with her and knows that by keeping her a slave, she must stay with him. But keeping her with him doesn’t guarantee she will ever love him back, not after the way he has come between her and William. She hates Anthony for what he’s done. And even if Deseré did somehow fall in love with Anthony, what then? A white plantation owner marrying his black slave is still an absolute no-no. With Anthony and Deseré both caught between a rock and a hard place for different reasons, can these two people possibly find happiness together?
Rarely does a book that is essentially a romance grab me the way Deseré by Maria McKenzie did. It took all my self-control not to keep turning pages when daily chores needed doing. I just wanted to keep on reading about the gorgeous, light-skinned woman, Deseré, born to a white father and black mother when slaves of plantation owners in the deep South hadn’t yet been freed. In Deseré, Maria McKenzie has written a magnificent historical romance novel. Her intense research into the social, political and cultural mores of the time gives the book authenticity. Her characterization is superb: readers feel and respond to Deseré’s and Anthony’s emotions and understand their motivations, struggles and confusion. The same applies to all secondary characters. The depiction of the difference between life in Paris, France and the deep South is fascinating, as is the slowly changing attitude to racial prejudice in America. Dialogue is plentiful and realistic, moving the plot along at a good pace, while just enough description is provided to establish settings and scenes. This is brilliant writing! If Maria McKenzie's other books are as good as this one, I know I’ve found another favorite author. Read Deseré to find out why!