So, if you’re new around these parts, then you know that I don’t really “review” books. I discuss them. That may include spoilers, so you’ve been warned!
I’ve been a fan (There goes that word again…) of Pepper Pace’s work for many years, and I’ll tell you the number one reason why: She’s never afraid to go there, there meaning writing about subjects and issues that may make others uncomfortable or that some authors want to avoid because they don’t want to alienate their readers. I respect authors who write their truth, even at the expense of pissing a few people off — unintentionally or not.
So, let’s talk about Pace’s latest, The Miseducation of Riley Pranger (I swear I almost typed Lauryn Hill!)
When all you know is what you were taught by parents and friends that are ignorant to the world, you grow up to be a man like Riley Pranger, a passive racist and chauvinist. But Riley is going to get a fast re-education when a single black mother rents his home for the summer and he has no choice but to recognize the actions of the people around him.
Stella Burton is a no nonsense, 6-foot tall curvaceous black woman who has no problem with hurting a man’s ego. She is opinionated, specifically about a country where she has been single-handedly raising her multi-racial son to be a well-rounded black man.
What happens when white privilege is suddenly challenged? When races clash and you mess with the wrong black woman?
Bottom line: Good story. Pepper Pace always brings the visuals, so you feel like you are in the story, watching it play out in real time. As I read, I have moving images in my head. I see a handsome, hipster-looking redneck and a six-foot Cleopatra Jones.
This story discusses race, immigration, privilege, and class with extreme candor, and I loved it. What some may view as stereotypical behavior of who people are and where they live and think and speak, I view as a fictional portrayal of real life for those very people. They aren’t written as caricatures but as real people that you’ve may have actually met or heard about.
Riley is described by the author as a passive racist, and he is, by being one of those “good, God-fearing” white people who didn’t get involved because it did not directly affect him until it did. Riley was born into and raised by racists; he inherited the tag and basically went with it because he was a “Pranger”, and Prangers were no-good, white trash racists, even if that really wasn’t who he really was. He sacrificed himself to a fault for that shit of a family he was born into. And that was a huge part of his re-education.
I also liked that there was a plot twist that was the driving force behind Stella wanting to even go to the mountains of Kentucky. I was so not expecting that. And if you’ve read and enjoyed the other books in the series, you’ll also catch up with Christopher and Ashleigh from Beast and Bodie and Shaun from Wrong Turn Towards Love.
This story isn’t heavily sexual, and I was a lil bummed ( 😛 ) because Riley and Stella had great chemistry, which they fought for like 75% of the dang book, but I’ll admit that it was refreshing to read a romance that focused on feelings other than the physical.
Yes, the book does end with the coveted HEA, but if you like realism injected into your romance like I do, then The Miseducation of Riley Pranger is definitely worth your time.