I’ve been reading a lot of Beverly Jenkins lately. My favorite thing about reading is learning… stuff. I’m not talking about when you read a non-fiction book dedicated to a particular subject. My absolute favorite book learning is picking up seemingly random tidbits in unexpected places. For example: I’ve read a surprising number of books revolving around apple orchards, so when my husband tried to tell our son that if he planted an apple seed it would grow apples just like the one he just ate, I definitely applesplained the process of grafting. I’m an insufferable know-it-all. But that’s why I love Beverly Jenkins so much! Not that she writes about apples (I mean, I haven’t read her whole catalog so it’s possible) but she writes historical romance about Black people in the US. There’s so much in these books that I never learned in school because, history, US history in particular, is more than a little whitewashed. Jenkins’s work is so well researched- she often includes bibliographic notes at the end of her books in case the reader is interested in investigating further. I am getting smarter every time I read a Beverly Jenkins romance novel and loving every minute of it..
Forbidden – This cover, whew. There is actually no mention in the book of Rhine Fontaine possessing such impressively chiseled abs, but this model clearly worked hard for them. Really though, there’s no WAY Rhine’s abs would be that sculpted because Eddy is the best cook ever and she makes a lot of biscuits and cakes and stuff. Rhine is probably very fit, but nobody gets this model’s physique without a specialized diet that doesn’t include carbs. Wow. That was quite the digression. Let’s talk about the book and NOT the cover model, shall we? Eddy Carmichael wants to move on from her hometown of Denver and dreams of opening a restaurant in California. Unfortunately, she has the absolute worst stinking luck. So bad, in fact, that Rhine discovers her alone in the desert, unconscious, and so severely dehydrated that he’s not sure she’ll recover. Rhine hauls her back to Virginia City so she can recover. Rhine is a pillar of the Virginia City, Nevada community, but harbors a dangerous secret. He was born into slavery. His skin is light, thanks to his monstrous father (the plantation owner, naturally), so Rhine has decided to try to “pass” as white. It’s a dangerous prospect, but he uses his newfound privilege to help the local Black community, a risk he deems worth it. Worth it, that is, until he falls head over heels for Eddy. Interracial marriages aren’t legal, and Eddy isn’t about to become some white man’s mistress, no matter how decent he is. This book is a bit angsty and full of pining, which is delightful in a romance novel.
Breathless – At the end of Forbidden, Eddy’s sister ships her two daughters across the country to live with Eddy. (A prostitute with the prospect of a new life, her new beau doesn’t want to raise children he didn’t father. What a peach.) Luckily, Portia and her little sister Regan find a loving home with Eddy and Rhine. Unfortunately, childhood trauma isn’t always that easy to overcome. Portia has no desire to marry and settle down. For years she was terrified of all men, especially after her mother’s threats to sell her virginity to the highest bidder. (She was shipped off before that could happen, but it was a near thing.) Portia is brilliant with numbers, keeping the books for her aunt and uncle’s business ventures while swatting down proposals of courtship right and left. Until Kent shows up. Hottie hot cowboy alert! Kent’s father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor, but Kenton never wanted to do anything but work on ranches. After drifting through the West (and that lil stint in a Mexican prison), Kent is ready to put down some roots and make a home for himself. Though their attraction is undeniable, Kent has an uphill battle when it comes to earning Portia’s trust. Of course, Kent is just the right cowboy for the job.
Tempest – The final book in this series focuses on Regan. While Portia dealt with her trauma by turning inward, Regan has always been a free spirit, to the point of near recklessness. I mean, why wouldn’t a woman want to drive a mail route through the friggin Wild West? When it comes to love, Regan decides that being a mail order bride will be the best adventure. Now, the whole “mail order” aspect of this doesn’t have exactly the same connotation that it does today (which is, essentially, human trafficking) but it sort of a mix between meeting someone on the internet and uprooting your whole life to live with them after a few chats and a flat out arranged marriage. Things get off to a rocky start when Regan accidentally shoots her husband-to-be in the shoulder upon arriving in Wyoming. But, you know. It WAS an accident and his daughter likes her, so Dr. Colton Lee decides to go ahead and marry her anyway. Look, Wyoming isn’t exactly teeming with eligible brides, okay? This novel is the steamiest of the bunch- I mean, when you get married right at the front of the book and have to consummate the marriage, things heat up fast. Still, Colton and Regan have a lot to deal with. He’s got disapproving family members, and Regan’s rootin’ tootin’ cowgirl routine doesn’t endear her to the whole town right away. That said, ROMANCE NOVEL, so of course they figure things out. Eventually. After some serious Wild West drama. Siiiiiiiiiiigh. I love Beverly Jenkins.
Alright Bookworms- I’ve got a stack of books already to tell you about for next week and some other ideas percolating. Right now, I’m listening to Alexa Martin’s latest, Snapped and eyeball reading Sona Charaipotra’s Symptoms of a Heartbreak. I had started reading NK Jemisin’s The City We Became but couldn’t get into it- I think my brain is still too frazzled. I put it on the backburner because NK Jemisin is too good to slog through. What have you been reading, Bookworms?
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