THE BRIGHTEST DAY - L. Hart, P. Huguley, A. Cole, K. Alexander
Harlequin Kimani Romance
REVIEWER: Beverly Jackson | RATING: B+
REVIEW: THE BRIGHTEST DAY is a quartet of heartfelt and heartwarming novellas by authors Lena Hart, Kianna Alexander, Piper Huguley, and Alyssa Cole.
A riveting forward by the indomitable Beverly Jenkins sets the historical tone for the celebration and hope of the stories set in a variety of time periods and places.
In “Amazing Grace” (B+) by Lena Hart, it is 1866 and outside of New York City eighteen-year old Gracie Shaw is about to head west and leave behind all that she loves dearly to honor a marriage contract that will leave her family financially secure. At the Juneteenth celebration on her last night at home, Gracie, enthralling her community with her signing, feels the eyes of a stranger on her. Logan Finley, a white ex-confederate soldier, is mesmerized by magical quality of Gracie’s voice. Gracie and her traveling companions find themselves seated next to Logan who is on his way to Colorado. Gracie is surprised by her immediate attraction to Logan but is determined to remain steadfast in her commitment to her fiancé. Through a series of mishaps, Gracie finds herself needing Logan’s protection, and Logan realizes his time is growing shorter to win the heart of the woman he knows is his future.
There is a richness and fullness to this novella that deftly incorporates not only the social and political issues of the time but also the personal journey Gracie and Logan have to take to learn what it means for an ex-slave and ex-confederate soldier to find their happily-ever-after together. Both have painful pasts, and though the present is precarious, taking a chance on their future will test their courage and heart in ways neither of them could possible anticipate.
In “Drifting to You” (B) by Kianna Alexander, It is 1896 and ex-slave Rosaline Rhodes, known for her sweets treats in the Fayetteville, North Carolina area, has just secured her largest baking order to date; to provide her Cinnamon Spice Cake to the wealthy guests of Marian Goodman, matriarch of a wealthy freeborn family, for their celebratory Juneteenth cruise. Ex-slave and shipbuilder William Pruett has built the ship for the Goodmans and is looking forward to its maiden voyage. There is a mutual attraction between Rosaline and Will as evidenced by their playful flirting, but Rosaline only has time for her business, and Will is hampered by a ghost from the past. Maybe a little jealousy, and call for honor is a push this couple needs to see what their hearts want.
I enjoyed this story of a woman’s search for her dream and the man who receives a second chance at love though at times this romance is predictable. The rich history of the Cape Fear area elevated this story for me plus a wonderful reminder of those freeborn and ex-slaves whose determination and perseverance overcame many obstacles to secure their freedom and dreams.
In “A Sweet Way to Freedom” (B) by Piper Huguley, Schoolteacher Missouri Baxter finds herself pregnant and unmarried in a small Christian town in 1910 Georgia. Between a rock and a hard place, Missouri does not want to disappoint her family and supporters back home that she does not have a husband, and she hopes that she can still hold onto a job. Arlo Tucker runs a good-time place and is often his own best customer. Arlo feels all he does is disappoint women made himself scarce upon learning that Missouri was carrying his child. Regretting that decision Arlo finds that his charm is not working on the feisty independent Missouri. Does this couple have a happily-ever-after.
This is the most emotionally intense novella in the collection. Arlo certainly comes off as a scoundrel though as the story progresses we learn about his unfortunate circumstances which “explains” his behavior. However, I was not convinced that he was transformed and worthy of Missouri. Despite this, a cast of engaging secondary characters, good use of humor and bantering, and local descriptions made for a pleasant read.
In “Let It Shine” (A) by Alyssa Cole, it is 1961 and in Virginia, Sofie Wallis feels an inner anger at all the injustices thrust at her that she was just supposed to take. She decides to take a stand against justice and attend a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee meeting. To all that know her, Sofie is the model of the respectable black woman her father raised her to be; except for Jewish boxer Ivan Friedman. Sofie and Ivan have not seen each other since a tragic incident separated the childhood friends yet their participation in the Civil Rights Movement renews their friendship to a more dangerous intimate level. Will the couple be able to find happiness when family and the times are against them?
Ms. Cole pens an unforgettable love story of a smart feisty heroine and a compassionate sexy bad-boy hero. The characters are fully realized and made more mesmerizing due to their flaws and the choices made because of love, duty, and memory. The plot unfolds at the perfect pace to keep readers entertained.
In THE BRIGHTEST DAY each story is different and readers experience the challenges these characters encounter. I am so glad to see more authors writing black historical romances and hope this is a continuing trend. While all of the heroines are very spirited, each author brings her own spin and tone to the stories. Recommend this anthology to your book club as there is much to talk about.
7th August 2015 | email@example.com