REVIEW: In Deed and in Truth by Embassie Susberry

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Lillian Rose Atkins is tired. She’s tired of picking cotton, serving as a maid in a hotel, and taking care of her younger cousins. So when she receives an invitation from the mother she hasn’t seen in ten years to move to Chicago and take part in Chicago society, Lily jumps at the chance. This is her opportunity to finally have new things, be on the other side of service, and find a wealthy husband.

Rutledge “Rudy” Addison is tired. As an investigative journalist who reports on the facts of lynchings and race riots in the South, he’s tired of dealing with the dregs of society. But when he is challenged to love those he is starting to hate, he begins to find that life is not as black-and-white as he always thought.

When Lily and Rudy are thrown together, will they realize that maybe the things they’re tired of are more important than they could ever have fathomed?

TW/CW – mention of past racial violence/lynchings, current (in the book) threat to incarcerated African American men

Dear Ms. Susberry,

I’ve been eyeing several of your books/series and finally decided to try this one as it appears to be a stand alone story. Right from the beginning, I realized that it wouldn’t just be a story about a young woman trying to better her prospects. Instead there are dark past and current incidents that investigative reporter Rudy covers as well as mentions of race riots in Chicago and Nebraska. An element of faith is also included.

Rudy Addison never planned on being a reporter but when teaching didn’t pan out, he discovered he has a natural knack for digging into stories, especially ones about racial injustice. Rudy gains such detailed insights because he can “pass.” With blond hair, blue eyes, and light skin Rudy can arrive in towns that have just lynched uppity negroes (term used in the book) and suss out the true reasons why these horrific acts were committed without the whites whom he talks to realizing that he’s Black. Rudy knows he’s playing a dangerous game and that if he’s identified as Black, he’ll be the next “strange fruit” in town.

Lily Atkins wants something better in life. She’s lived without her mother who moved to Chicago ten years ago and who has remarried a relatively well-to-do man. But upon arriving in a city that astonishes her at its size, Lily’s dreams are facing a cold reality. Her mother is intent on bettering Lily but the bond they lost isn’t being rebuilt. Lily feels terribly out of place and at times humiliated by other Black women in her age group who deliberately show Lily – with her seventh grade education – up. A few people are nice, surprisingly her step-father, and two other young women who enlist Lily’s aid to help Blacks who have suffered due to the recent race riots in town.

When Lily meets Rudy, sparks fly. At times Rudy is curt to Lily and ends up calling her Daisy because he couldn’t be bothered to remember her “flower” name. But the two work out a plan to help each other. However things are derailed when news of riots in Lily’s hometown reach them. Lily heads back to help her family and Rudy quickly follows to report on what’s happening. But will Lily remain stuck in Elaine, AR and can Rudy escape it?

Let me start with what didn’t work so well for me. At times the story feels disjointed as there is a lot going on both good and bad. The book starts with Rudy in a TN town that just lynched someone and the needs of the Black Chicagoans who suffered due to the (real) riots there seems intense and is something Lily and her friends try to alleviate. But then Rudy is helping Lily write a poem based on British Romantic poets for her ladies society meeting as well as learning to waltz. The contrast is jarring. I know that the two need to remain in the same vicinity for their relationship to begin but I kept thinking, doesn’t Rudy have more important things to report on and do?

Another thing that felt a bit forced was the element of faith. Rudy’s family has been raised in the strong Christian faith of his parents and his father is urging Rudy to find a way to love those who are difficult to love and we know Rudy is faced with a lot of those. Lily is also religious and there are many church service scenes. But then chapters will pass with little mention of faith until suddenly it’s front and center again. I liked how in the end, both Rudy and Lily find a degree of forgiveness for those who are doing them wrong but it’s more for them to be able to lay down the burden of hate that is eating them up, and as Rudy says, allow them to pity those whites with such racial hatred in them.

Now there is a lot to enjoy in the book. Lily has a dry but wicked sense of humor and doesn’t let people put or keep her down long. Her mother might push Lily at Rudy but Lily makes it clear that he’s not on her marriage list and makes sure he knows it. Lily has also already started improving herself even before she leaves Arkansas because she knows she wants more out of life. When she decides something, she does it. Yet when her family needs her, she immediately heads back to help even if that means possibly surrendering her dreams. Family is that important to her.

Rudy has built a career going into places dangerous to him in order to get the truth and make sure that it sees the light of day. The plot calls for him to be stupidly fixated on a woman we all know isn’t The One and honestly, I never saw much in her beyond she’s pretty. When he quickly decides to go to AK, several of his friends call him on his insistence that he’s not going down for Lily but once he realizes his true feelings, he throws himself into helping her family as well as covering the events of the (real) Elaine Race Riots.

I loved Lily’s family including her younger cousins. Aunt Rachel is a Rock in the troubled waters and Uncle Rufus is a man staunchly determined to provide for and better his family’s lot in life. Lily has white friends in Elaine including a family who has employed her and quietly looks after and helps her. She also makes good friends in Chicago (I’d love to have seen more about one couple’s romance) and works out relationships with her step siblings. Stepfather Frank is a jewel of a man. I would join the Frank Harrison Fan Club.

Even with the issues I’ve mentioned, for me the positives of the book far outweigh the niggles. Lily is my favorite but I think by the end, she’s got Rudy in line and fully aware of what a gem he’s got. B

~Jayne

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Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 25 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there’s no TSTL characters and is currently reading more fantasy and SciFi.

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