on January 31, 2017
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Also in this series: Forbidden
As manager of one of the finest hotels in Arizona Territory, Portia Carmichael has respect and stability—qualities sorely missing from her harsh childhood. She refuses to jeopardize that by hitching herself to the wrong man. Suitors are plentiful, but none of them has ever looked quite as tempting as the family friend who just rode into town…and none have looked at her with such intensity and heat.
Duchess. That’s the nickname Kent Randolph gave Portia when she was a young girl. Now she’s a stunning, intelligent woman—and Kent has learned his share of hard lessons. After drifting through the West, he’s learned the value of a place to settle down, and in Portia’s arms he’s found that and more. But convincing her to trust him with her heart, not just her passion, will be the greatest challenge he’s known—and one he intends to win…
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Beverly Jenkins returns to the Fontaine family in Breathless, the second novel in her Old West series. It’s 15 years since the events in Forbidden, after which the family had to flee to Arizona to avoid an angry mob. Eddy’s nieces are now adults, and help run the family’s Arizona guest ranch. Portia, the elder sister, is smart, talented, and not particularly interested in falling in love; she’s focused on managing and doing the bookkeeping for the hotel. But when Rhine’s old bartender, Kent Randolph, rides in, she discovers she’s more susceptible to his flirting — and his kisses — than she could have imagined. For his part, Kent is quickly smitten with the adult Portia, and more than ready to settle down… though Portia will take some convincing! I loved these two together. If you’ve seen the movie Hidden Figures, their relationship reminded me a bit of Katherine Goble and Col. Johnson: she’s intelligent, a little wary, not about to jump into anything; and he’s honorable, determined, confident of the attraction between them, and experienced enough to take his time persuading her.
But the sparks and banter of their courtship aren’t the only things stirring in the territory. Trouble strikes at a neighbor’s ranch, and with Geronimo and his band on the loose somewhere nearby, the sheriff can’t spare the men to track down the villains. Jenkins strikes a nice balance between Portia and Kent’s developing relationship, the dangers of frontier life, and the daily life of the hotel and nearby community.
I love reading Beverly Jenkins’ historical romances. Not only are they wonderful romances in their own right, they also offer a view of American history that is sadly lacking in history books and the majority of historical romances alike: namely, the African-American experience. My childhood textbooks and my daughters’ discussed slavery, emancipation, and Reconstruction, but they didn’t have much to say about African Americans after the Civil War or outside the South, until the Civil Rights era. I knew from bits and pieces I picked up elsewhere that that was far from the whole story, and that African Americans are an integral part of the history of westward expansion and indeed of the whole of American history, from before the Revolution on. But bits and pieces were all I had.
Beverly Jenkins brings that history alive for me with wonderful characters, compelling stories, and vivid settings. I’m definitely a history buff, and I’m deeply appreciative of the chance to see the world through experiences I will never know personally, but ultimately it’s the characters and the stories that keep me coming back — those and the wonderful moments when I can connect a historical fact or event in the book to something I know or have read. The best of those moments for me, in this book, was discovering that both Portia and her sister attended Oberlin College: the first college to admit both women and African Americans, and my alma mater. And I loved the glimpses of the women’s suffrage movement, which Eddy and the girls are both involved with.
I’m already looking forward to Regan’s story, which I hope will come next (and it can’t come soon enough!) She’s got a will of her own, and the set-up in this book has me wondering what’s in store for her.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Blackout (2016-17)