Bernadine lost her husband, and the father of her children to the war. Theresa takes care of Bernie’s family while she works as a housekeeper, cook and nanny. When Theresa’s man vanishes Bernie goes to her boss for help, he turns to a private investigator, Charles Simonson to uncover what is going on.
When Charlie and Bernadine meet their attraction to one another is strong, but is it enough to face the world during the turbulent 1940’s, when interracial relationships are taboo.
If Love is a God given right then who is man to dictate the affairs of the heart? A Civil Right To Love is a page turning affair that affirms love conquers all, but is it worth it?
It is 1940's Los Angeles. And, the world is in the throes of its second global conflict. Soon, African American housewife Bernadine Brieman will feel the agony of losing her husband Harrison to a German land mine in France. To support her family, Bernadine is forced into immediate employment as a maid for the family of a Jewish lawyer. While working, Bernadine learns that her best friend Theresa has lost contact with her lover Gordon Gonzales. The lawyer hires white private eye Charlie Simonson to find Gordon. But soon, Charlie finds something he wasn't looking for...attraction to Bernadine. And thus begins the harrowing, heartening tale of "A Civil Right To Love."
"A Civil Right To Love" is author Kim Robinson's fiction debut--and not a bad one. Her love of history (that made "Roux In The Gumbo" a success) is present here and helps the novel achieve an air of believability (with painstaking attention paid to World War II's effect on the Brieman household; and later, the toll pre-Civil Rights America's intolerance to interracial relationships takes, particularly on Bernadine). Also strong are Robinson's other characters. Whether black, white, Hispanic, or Jewish, each is fully developed and range from unwavering to unhinged--a true slice of life that is as sumptuous as the cuisine served up throughout the story (which is another carry-over from the author's earlier works).
While the novel has an unshakable sense of place and characterization going for it, it has the author's inexperience with fiction plot development and pace working against it. "A Civil Right To Love" is billed almost exclusively as the interracial relationship between Charlie and Bernadine. While it happens, it takes a long time to reach. The search for Theresa's missing lover brings Charlie and Bernadine together, but is far too detailed. So much so that it could have been a separate story! The reader must keep these secondary characters and settings straight while waiting for the main romantic event to unfold. There is also an extended metaphysical occurrence that seemed very out of place, given the story's grounded tone.
Luckily though, when Charlie and Bernadine finally take center stage, Robinson delivers a very measured relationship that is strained by racist violence and the victims' bloody retaliation. It seems like a clever allusion to the novel's wartime footing and adds some suspense about not just whether the relationship will survive, but if Charlie and Bernadine can.
"A Civil Right To Love" is a good start at fiction for history writer Robinson. It has characters that evoke passionate feelings of love and hate and whom inhabit a bygone era that is accurately portrayed. But, the compound plot and slow pace require a patient, mature reader who can commit to arriving at the main story: Whether love is colorblind and can lift two people above all else.
Kim Robinson did a Wonderful JOB! writing this book. It was like I was living in the era she was writing about. The characters were so real it's like I knew each on e of them. GREAT JOB!!
In this page-turning novel, be prepared for one surprise after another. Hang on, because you will be itching to know what is coming next after each word is read. Excellent!