On its surface, The Black Widow Agency might appear to be what Kirkus Reviews indelicately referred to as a “bitch-a-thon”: a man-bashing, ultra-feminist piece of little more than propaganda.
Those of us who have not experienced chronic or egregious sexism might be inclined likewise to write off Felicia Donovan‘s* debut, but that would be an oversight. That’s because underneath the quips and jabs lie characters, both female and male, who have made–and continue to make–plenty of errors, sometimes serious ones; and who are ultimately their own people, not the stereotypes that Kirkus would have us think.
Donovan writes about aspects of female relationships that often get glossed over in the popular media. Women offend and are offended, not always understanding “the big deal” on either side. Women cross each other’s boundaries, believing it’s their due under the umbrella of “sisterhood.” And sometimes, women stab each other hard in the back.
This debut comes at a time when organizations like MomsRising seek to change pervasive attitudes about working mothers. The story central to The Black Widow Agency is a case of sexual harassment and repercussions against working moms. Donovan, who has seen her share of both equity and inequity at the New England-based law enforcement agency where she works, writes effectively on several different levels. Although some of her secondary characters could have stood a bit more fleshing out, Donovan promises this in upcoming sequels. And although the happily-ever-after wrap-up is a bit of a stretch for those of us with darker sensibilities, they’re also a fun bit of escapism in a prevalently dark world.
*Full disclosure: I once interviewed Felicia about the law enforcement technology consortium (CLEAT), which she founded. The article appeared in Law Enforcement Technology in, I believe 2003, and Felicia and I got back in touch via Crimespace. I’m very pleased to be helping promote her creativity once more!