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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Two love stories are explored in Pleasure and Power: sibling and romantic love. The siblings are Maddie and Ruby, who live in “darktown” in this age of segregation. When Maddie is hit on the head by a baseball, the sisters’ mother and their own lives radically change as their mom cannot leave Maddie alone to earn her living as domestic help to the white people across the way from darktown. Young Ruby, devastated and filled with anger for what has happened to her beloved sister, takes on the task of cleaning houses and finding food for them at the local mission services. That is where she meets Alice, a kindly, God-loving white woman. Romance comes into Alice’s life when she meets Jake, a good-looking, smooth-talking womanizing salesman who can talk folks into just about anything…including getting Alice to fall in love with him and marry him. Can he turn off his womanizing habits as a married man? Will readers learn to like him or hate him?
Pleasure and Power by Doug Brendel is a remarkable book. Why? From its dramatic plot and realistic, touching characters, to the author’s skillful use of dialogue, and his ability to weave the themes of racial prejudice and misogyny into the 1950’s setting, Brendel has created a powerful novel that is impossible to put down. I read it in 24 hours: it was that good. What readers will deplore is what Maddie, now confined to a “crazy people’s home,” endures completely without her knowledge, at the hands of one of workers. When Ruby learns the truth about how Maddie has become pregnant, her rage and need to avenge what has happened to her sister is uncontrollable. Plot-wise, Pleasure and Power is full of twists and surprises. Through the characters, readers get their share of good and evil. And when it comes to the themes, readers will applaud those who believe we are all created equal, regardless of race, color and/or religion. Like I said above, this is a remarkable book. It is also unforgettable. Bravo, Doug Brendel.