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What intrigued me about this book is that it features a computer: my initial thought was that Rose was a living machine who did what modern computers do, but, then, I had to track back my thoughts and remember that a computer is "one that computes" -- what is extraordinary about Rose is that:
1. She is a female computer.
2. Her family background is very humble.
3. Rose is black.
Stephen Shaughnessy is a fun-loving rake, who writes the "Ask a Man" column for Free Marshall's newspaper. He's good with words, but finds that he loses them when he's in Rose's presence -- content to listen to her talk about numbers and calculations. (I loved reading about her talk about numbers with such passion and life.)
One would think that Mathematics was the least romantic and least emotional of all the academic disciplines, but Courtney Milan has shown us otherwise. I love and admire Rose -- to live in a fixed place, to live knowing there's a glass ceiling above you that limits you, and tells you how far or high you can aspire for -- I thought her situation was, at once, inspiring and heartbreaking. She's broken down one barrier and is working at the Royal Observatory, but there are yet more barriers for her to break down.
This novella is about discovering one's heart's desires -- Rose has lived her whole life believing she would marry like her sister and live her days like her sister, but, when she meets Stephen, she realises she wants something more for her life. The question is whether she's brave enough to reach out for it. Stephen hadn't really thought about his future. When he began his flirtation/courtship of Rose, he really didn't think to see beyond the present and beyond himself.
She did not dream timid dreams. She didn't want to dream timid dreams. She just knew the truth: She didn't belong in his sphere, and women like her were not invited to join men like him in matrimony. The only way she would have a man like him was if he did seduce her. They could with each other very well alone. It was only when she imagined ... oh, anyone else at all around them that it all fell to pieces.
- p. 45
It's a story about opposites-attract: he's too carefree, and she's too cautious; she lives in a world of precise calculations, and his is a world of fluidity and humour; he's well-established in society and she's a quiet shopkeeper's daughter.
But, like all Courtney Milan romances, this is also a story about something more: Rose's story is a reflection on a woman's social role, position and limitation -- and about Stephen's (and the world's) role in correcting these social conventions.
Talk Sweetly to Me is Book 4.5 in The Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan. To find out more about Courtney Milan and her books, click below: