on Jan. 26, 2016
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Also in this series: Breathless
Beverly Jenkins returns with the first book in a breathtaking new series set in the Old West
Rhine Fontaine is building the successful life he's always dreamed of—one that depends upon him passing for White. But for the first time in years, he wishes he could step out from behind the façade. The reason: Eddy Carmichael, the young woman he rescued in the desert. Outspoken, defiant, and beautiful, Eddy tempts Rhine in ways that could cost him everything . . . and the price seems worth paying.
Eddy owes her life to Rhine, but she won't risk her heart for him. As soon as she's saved enough money from her cooking, she'll leave this Nevada town and move to California. No matter how handsome he is, no matter how fiery the heat between them, Rhine will never be hers. Giving in for just one night might quench this longing. Or it might ignite an affair as reckless and irresistible as it is forbidden . . .
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Forbidden was my first introduction to Beverly Jenkins’ books, and she pulled me in from the first chapter.
Eddy is a marvelous heroine: strong-willed and determined, independent, compassionate, principled, and courageous when she has to be. She’s also stubborn to a fault and reluctant to accept help even when she truly needs it. To top it all off, she’s beautiful. . . and to Rhine, irresistible. On the surface, it’s an impossible pairing. Rhine is a wealthy property owner, well-respected, well-mannered, chivalrous — and engaged to a woman he’s rapidly become disillusioned with. Even more impossible, Rhine has spent years passing as white. If he stays on that side of the color bar, marriage with Eddy is out of the question. But she values herself too much to become Rhine’s mistress, and he’s too honorable to suggest such a relationship anyway.
Jenkins has done her research, and she skilfully depicts both the opportunities and obstacles facing African-Americans in the Old West. She doesn’t shy away from Rhine’s dilemma: give Eddy up and continue to pass, or cross back over, declare himself, and accept his heritage, with all the prejudice and even hatred that would result?
This is very much a character-driven romance, although there are several incidents when Eddy’s safety is threatened, particularly in the opening chapters. The overall focus stays on Eddy and Rhine: on the attraction that draws them together, on the reservations that keep them apart, on Eddy’s determination to build a life and a career for herself as a cook. There are some wonderful secondary characters as well, particularly Eddy’s landlady Silvie, Vera the dressmaker, and Rhine’s business partner, Jim. It’s primarily a book about people and relationships rather than the larger issues of the post-Civil-War era, except in the ways those issues impact the characters personally.
The attraction between Eddy and Rhine is palpable, but constrained by their — primarily Eddy’s — attempts to resist it. That doesn’t mean there’s no heat; Jenkins loads even a simple kiss or caress with both meaning and sensuality. There are also moments of suspense and even danger which heighten the overall tensions in the book. The ending is satisfying in a number of ways; there are even cameo appearances by characters from other novels (specifically Through the Storm) which should please fans of Jenkins’ other books.
I’ve wished for years for historical romance with more diverse characters than typical Regency-era romance (much as I love the latter), but didn’t know where or how to find any. I’m delighted to have finally come across Jenkins’s books, and I look forward to reading more of them.