Fantasy Mystery Romance Comics Non-Fiction

Talk Sweetly to Me

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Talk Sweetly to Me (2014) Courtney Milan

Set in England in 1882.

This is the final novella in the Brothers Sinister series, and I adore it.

Rose Sweetly is a computer–she can do complex mathematics in her head, and loves working with astronomers. She’s an utter geek, long before geeks were cool.

“Why is it that the oranges bounced, but the apples did not?”

His smile felt like an arrow, one that struck her straight in the solar plexus. And so Rose adjusted her spectacles on her nose and said the first thing that came to mind. Unfortunately, the first thing that came to mind was… “It’s Newton’s Third Law. Upon collision, the apple exerts a force on the pavement, and so the pavement must exert an equal and opposite force on the apple. The structure of the apple is inelastic and so the apple bruises. The orange, by contrast…” She swallowed, realized that she was babbling, and shut her mouth. “I’m sorry, Mr. Shaughnessy. I don’t think that’s what you meant to ask, was it?”

“So let’s say that is the sun. Then where is the comet?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Mr. Shaughnessy. If that orange represents the sun, we here on Earth would be standing seventy-one feet away.” “Seventy-one?” he asked mildly. “Seventy-one point five eight three, by the last measure of the distance between the earth and the sun, but I try not to be pedantic. It makes people laugh at me.”

Yes, I adore her.

Plus, there’s this:

“I love you, Rose.” Patricia sighed. “And I know you’ll make a good marriage, one as brilliant as mine. But you have to remember that most of the men who look at you won’t be seeing you. They won’t see that you’re clever and amusing.” Her sister came forward and took Rose’s hand in her own. “They’ll see this.” She rubbed the back of Rose’s hand. Dark skin pressed against dark skin. “It doesn’t matter how respectably you dress or how much you insist. Most men will see only that you’re black and they’ll think you’re available. So please take care, Rose. I don’t wish you hurt.”

The hero, Stephen Shaughnessy is an Irish Catholic who everyone knows is a terrible flirt and a rake. He writes a regular column, Ask an Actual Man, for the Women’s Free Press, and has gotten quite the reputation from that.

“On a scale of wantonness that ranges from…” He paused, trying to think of a suitable analogy. “From multiplication to astronomical parallaxes,” he said, “embracing someone you care about while fully clothed ranks at about the arctangent level.”

“Oh, dear.”

And yes, race is addressed.

Have you thought about what it would mean to have black, Irish, Catholic children?” He blinked, slowly, and frowned. He really hadn’t thought about it.

But interestingly, it would NOT have been the same problem in England as it would have been in the US at that time.

While we don’t have statistics of this by race, by 1882, Britain had probably trained at least as many black doctors as there were dukes.

(From the Author’s note)

So, there is everything to love about this story–especially the geekiness.
Rating: 9.5/10

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