TBR Day. Wild Sweet Love / Beverly Jenkins. 2007

This month's TBR theme is Western and this book begins and ends in the west, with a huge middle part set in Philadelphia, my favorite city. So it's a win on all counts. I picked this up a number of years ago at an RT book-signing where I briefly met Beverly Jenkins and purchased an autographed copy. I still have a whole stack of books from that day that are blocked from view by all of the other TBR books that have been acquired in the meantime. I ran across this when moving the stacks around a while back and pulled it out to save for western month. It is a sad thing when one forgets a whole stack of books.

Wild Sweet Love is loosely connected to two of Jenkins' previous books (Something Like Love and A Chance at Love) that I haven't read, but I didn't feel lost at all. This book stands on it's own nicely. This is also the first book I've read by Jenkins. It won't be the last, that's for sure.

WSL tells the story of Teresa July, a Black Seminole, who, along with her brothers, is notorious for her bank and train robbing days. The book opens in the 1890's in the Arizona Territory where Teresa is finally arrested and sent to jail, presumably somewhere in southeastern Pennsylvania. From there she is paroled into the custody of Molly Nance, a widow with a grown son, Madison our hero. Molly opens her home as a sort of halfway house to help Teresa on the way to a more productive life. Molly does this despite the fact that the previous prisoner she helped stole from her and ran off. Teresa, though, recognizes that this is an opportunity she cannot waste and vows to do whatever Molly asks of her, even if that means turning her into a proper lady.

Madison does not like the idea of Molly taking in a notorious outlaw and his distrust of Teresa is obvious. Teresa resents the way he pre-judges her and the two get off to a rocky start. Eventually, for Molly's sake, they declare a truce and as they get to know one another their mutual dislike turns to friendship, to lust, and to love. I love the way their relationship develops over the course of the book and a lot of the dialogue between them is sharp and funny. Teresa is very rough around the edges compared to the other women Madison has known. She's competitive and would far rather be riding a horse in her leathers than learning etiquette in a gown. Madison has long since outgrown his wilder days and is now a banker in Philadelphia's Black community. He has become respectable and a leader. Teresa is not the sort of woman he thought he would be attracted to.

As the story moves along, Madison has to deal with threats to his bank and Teresa longs to return home to Kansas, which she eventually gets to do, taking Madison and Molly with her. There Teresa needs to resolve issues from her past so she and Madison can have their happy ending.

Along the way, Jenkins gives us a look at the effects of segregation and discrimination in that era and the fight for equal rights. Political corruption was rife in that era-- in every community, at every level-- and a good part of the book is about Madison trying to fight the corruption in Philadelphia's Black community and do right by his customers who would have no fair access to similar services at white banks. We also get a look at an all-Black town in Kansas, typical of several similar communities founded after the Civil War. Jenkins is deft at including period details without info-dumping. I found it both interesting and enlightening.

I've read wonderful things about Jenkins' books in the online community for some time now. I'm glad I finally dug this book out and read it. I definitely am going to read Nate & Olivia's story as well as several of her other books. The settings and story lines look very interesting. I'm happy to recommend this month's TBR read.

Comments

  1. I've got this one buried somewhere in the TBR. What I tend to like about Jenkins is that her heroines have moxie. They're just really interesting woman - and the history she includes her stories is always fascinating.

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    1. Teresa definitely was her own woman. Loved that. If her other heroines are like this it'll be very fun to read those books.

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  2. This seems so great, nothing like the one I read. I'll add it to my own huge TBR.

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    1. Yes, I saw your review, and I admit I probably won't try that one. But I sure hope you do enjoy this one!

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  3. Phyl, I already added the book to my lists. It's also available at bookdepository..I'll make sure to buy it when I can, thank you for the recommendation :D
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