BREATHLESS - Beverly Jenkins
Harper Collins/Avon Books
REVIEWER: Brenda Larnell| RATING: A+
REVIEW: Once again, the Empress of African American Historical Romance, Beverly Jenkins, has crafted a story that not only entertains but teaches. Set in the post-Emancipation era, Mrs. Jenkins gives her readers a panoramic view of the West, specifically the Arizona Territory of the late 1880’s. We are reacquainted with Rhine and Eddy Fontaine and their nieces, Portia and Regan Carmichael of FORBIDDEN. BREATHLESS is the second book of what the author dubs as the Rhine Trilogy. The Prologue reveals that they are forced to flee Virginia City, Nevada just before an angry mob torches their home. The story opens some 15 years later with the family safely ensconced in the Arizona Territory and proprietors of the Fontaine Hotel a few miles from Tucson. The oldest niece, Portia, Oberlin educated, works for the hotel as its very capable bookkeeper. This is her story.
There is an adage that says, “Man makes plans and God laughs.” With no aspirations or plans to ever marry, Portia Carmichael sees herself as carrying out her duties as the bookkeeper for the Fontaine Ranch and living her life as a single woman. She’s okay with that until Kenton Randolph, Rhine’s “ former bartender, cat house king, and Mexican prisoner”, shows up one day and completely wrecks Portia’s plans of living a solitary life. (Side note: You will get all of those references when you read the book, so I’ll leave that right there.) Their romance unfolds in true Beverly Jenkins’ style as we observe how their love for each other grows and blooms. Kent is a perfect match for Portia because he is not only present when she and her sister first arrive at Eddy’s doorstep, but he is also privy to the reason they are there. He understands her and encourages her to follow her dream of one day starting her own business. The romantic storyline is accompanied by eye-opening historical occurrences. We are presented with a glimpse into events of this time like the women’s suffrage movement, and the treatment of Native Americans.
The characters, major and minor, are unforgettable. We are reacquainted with old characters from FORBIDDEN, the first novel of the trilogy. There is Kent’s father Dr. Oliver Randolph, Kent’s stepmother, Sylvie, and a brief appearance by Corrine, Portia and Regan’s birth mother. Look out for ‘ill-mannered’ Ada Jakes, and what Beverly Jenkins’ novel would be complete without those villains you love to hate. It’s an eclectic mix of characters who help advance the storyline.
BREATHLESS is a great read, and I highly recommend it. It can be read as a standalone, but to fully understand the scope and depth of the story, I suggest that you read FORBIDDEN first. (If you want some additional background information about Rhine Fontaine, read THROUGH THE STORM.) You’re welcome! Enjoy!
7th February 2017 | firstname.lastname@example.org