Toni’s Smile: A novel about power and the first Blatina President of the United States – by Jeff Stilwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“Did they wager she was too weak to pay the price they had named? She was a woman, after all. In their world – freakishly similar to the Garnet Gap crowd, by the way – she needed to be guided onto the right path. By someone with a penis and not a vagina.

Were they seeking to embarrass her? Maybe. Did it matter?”

I want to start out by saying that Toni’s Smile is not a genre I generally read, not even close. Second that by saying that not having read Stilwell’s work before, I did a little research and had a set idea in my mind of what to expect from his writing. So wrong!

But in the best way.

Let me get something else out of the way, I love Toni Madison. I love her finally rediscovered spunk. But I also love her foibles. Her sense of right and good and her dedication to doing what it takes. Her deep seated fear of maybe discovering they’re right and she’s not quite “good enough”.

It’s that fear that propels her to be acquiescent when she takes The Oath. Play it the way it would have / should have been, had fate not stepped in. For almost three years. And then we watch fascinated as Toni comes into her own. Step by painful step.

Stilwell has an interesting style. Using a mix of reminiscences and dream sequence, he without warning drops you into the present day, then takes you back. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that at first; but came to embrace it as integral to getting the whole of Toni’s story into your heart.

And it will get there. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend it. I’ll be keeping an eye on his future work.

[I received a free copy of this book from the author. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own honest opinion.]

[original review 10th August, 2019]

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