I discovered Ms Jenkins wonderful writing skills when I read the anthology, ` `Cuffed by Candlelight'. Her story was by far the best. You know that feeling you get when you find a great new author? Now, I gave up reading historical romances a long time ago, after all they're pretty much the same. But in those books black characters only appeared if the main characters wanted a meal cooked, or to be have the coach brought around or as comic relief. What Beverley Jenkins gives her readers is a strong romance between 18th century black people who are literate, well spoken, and concerned about the problems facing blacks of their time, such as the introduction of Jim Crow' laws. The reader gets to be thoroughly entertained, and educated because you get a good dose of Black American history, which intrigues. Her books are peopled by characters that you'll care about and I dare you not to smile at the humour and warmth between the main characters. I have to say, I really loved the cover art which shows an uncompromisingly black beauty.
The book starts with notorious western outlaw, Teresa July finally being caught by a Sherriff's posse after a long string of bank and train robberies. After three years in a woman's prison she is parolled into the care of a black society matron, Mrs Molly Nance. She has to stay out of trouble for one year and convince the parole board that she's changed her ways, or return to prison and finish her sentence. The last convict his mother took under wing, repaid her trust by stealing everything that wasn't nailed down. So unsurprisingly her banker son, Madison is not impressed by his mother's new ward. If you picture Teresa as a bit of a black Calamity Jane, you can believe that she is none too impressed either by an Easterner in fancy clothes. Especially is he makes his views clear.
So you get a classic clash of wills from two complete opposites. Additional storylines feature, blackmail; protection rackets; gambling; American Indians and more. Even the secondary characters are delightful. I have to take my hat off to Ms Jenkins' writing. She knows how to put together powerful, passionate romance. I'm a little amazed that British readers seem to be unfamiliar with her work. I was up late reading `Topaz', another winner; and am awaiting other books on order.