Between writing two M/M romance novels and coming off homecoming weekend at my alma mater, I had the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite movies. Two are in my permanent collection, that I can watch again and again: All About Eve and Dreamgirls.
I know I’m dating myself, but I ask my LGBT family: how many of you, at some point in time, have used Bette Davis’ famous line, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night”? The dialogue and the acting is priceless, and the character of Addison DeWitt comes across as the quintessential vicious queen. Then there is Dreamgirls. I have no doubt that many theaters out there were well represented by Black gay men in the audience when this movie was released. You know who you are. Like me, you watched Jennifer Hudson, as Effie White, sing “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” at the end of Act 1. You weren’t crying for her; you were crying with her. And given the standing ovations in said theaters after this performance, you may have been saying, “Forget the awards show. Just hand Jennifer that Oscar now.”
Included in this visitation was one other movie: Lady Sings the Blues. When it was released in 1972, I was yet a college student, and I have to give Diana Ross her props for her acting chops in this movie; after all, it garnered her a Golden Globe Award. However, there was another reason this movie was so memorable: Billy Dee Williams. Yes, straight men wanted to be him–straight women and gay men wanted to be with him. After that movie come out, the brothas on campus knew better than to badmouth Billy Dee if they wanted to keep on living.
After my movie enjoyment, I came across this jewel by Dwayne Vernon: The Master’s Plan. As one who writes historical fiction, this novel caught my attention. Set in Maryland in 1852, the story centers around three main characters. Sabel and Jacob are slaves in their early thirties. Sabel is a field hand, who witnessed the death of his parents at the hands of white patrollers. Jacob is a house servant, the biracial product of the rape of his mother by the master of the plantation, before she was sent away. The third character is Abigale, enduring the pain of having her husband and children sold, the family she desperately wants back.
The draconian environment and the sheer oppression of the times has spurred Sabel’s determination to run away for good. Jacob’s ability to read and write, considered dangerous if discovered by white overseers, patrollers and plantation owners, is an asset in their plans. Over the course of time, Sabel and Jacob fall in love. Abigale becomes their close friend and comrade-in-arms in their bid for freedom; ultimately, to Canada.
In certain ways, this is a romantic thriller given the perilous times for African Americans and the dangers that lurked around every corner. Indeed, there were plenty of plot twists as simple plans became more complex while Sabel, Jacob and Abigale navigated the Underground Railroad. A couple of reminders stood out for me: 1) there were many whites who opposed slavery and actively participated as stations on the Underground Railroad and 2) LGBT relationships are nothing new in history, and they existed even among slaves. Looking back from the 21st century, I wonder if I could have survived and endured what they did.
Yes, there is an HEA, and there is a spiritual component that plays out in the lives of the MCs. Dwayne Vernon skillfully weaves his storytelling skills and puts you there. So, you lovers of historical fiction and romance, check this out at your local Amazon/Barnes & Noble library.