by Beverly Jenkins
Release Date: November 1, 1996
Number of Pages: 372
Ages 15 and up
CW: slavery, racism, violence, misogyny
As a child Hester Wyatt escaped slavery, but now the dark skinned beauty is a dedicated member of Michigan’s Underground railroad, offering other runaways a chance at the freedom she has learned to love. When one of her fellow conductors brings her an injured man to hide, Hester doesn’t hesitate even after she is told about the price on his head. The man in question is the great conductor known as the “Black Daniel” a vital member of the North’s Underground railroad network, but Hester finds him so rude and arrogant, she begins to question her vow to hide him.
When the injured and beaten Galen Vachon, aka, the Black Daniel awakens in Hester’s cellar, he is unprepared for the feisty young conductor providing his care. As a member of one of the wealthiest free Black families in New Orleans, Galen has turned his back on the lavish living he is accustomed to in order to provide freedom to those enslaved in the south. However, as he heals he cannot turn his back on Hester Wyatt. Her innocence fills him like a breath of fresh air and he is determined to make her his, but traitors have to be found, slave catchers have to be routed and Hester’s refusal to trust her own heart have to be overcome before she and Galen can find the freedom only love can bring.
There is so much I want to say about this book, yet I feel I cannot do justice to the thoughts swirling in my head. Beverly Jenkins has been an author I meant to read for a very long time. While I now realize she writes both contemporary and historical, I was under the impression that she was a strictly historical author and I had stepped away from that genre for a while. Over the last year, I started incorporating historical romance back into my reading (I’m still not sure why I ever got away from it in the first place) and still hadn’t read one of her stories. WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG?!?
This author writes with such sensuality and intimacy, I was shocked to realize how far into the book it was before Hester and Galen actually gave in to their desires. The raw sexual tension and meaningful looks made it seem as though these two were much more physical with each other than they actually were. Ms. Bev has a true gift and I am going to happily delve into her library or work. Now that the seal has been broken for me, there’s no going back.
I’m the type of reader who is fascinated with the level of research a writer such as this puts into her work. I’m also a history buff so want to know all the things. As it is, when reading a historical romance I often look things up as I go along to find out more. When a book, whether historical or not, takes place in my neck of the woods I get even more invested. This story takes place, for the most part in Michigan. The Detroit area. In other words, my neck of the woods. I was thoroughly intrigued by this story of a conductor of the Underground Railroad and The Black Daniel, a man who took great risks to steal slaves and set them free.
The author does a wonderful job of weaving the story of Hester and Galen, aka The Black Daniel, with the history of the time and place. It’s never intrusive but gives such richness to the tale of these two and the town and surrounding areas. There are issues with class, gender roles, politics, and love. Most importantly love. To Hester, love leads to pain so she never desired to find love for herself. She’s seen what love has done to those closest to her. The same can be said for Galen in a way, but growing up rich and light-skinned and free, he was more about having fun than thinking about love.
Whenever I go into a book that was written over 20 years ago, I go in with some expectation of the writing feeling a bit dated. Now, this doesn’t happen as often with an historical, but it still happens. I never felt that with this book. Gee, maybe because a black woman author knows how to write stories about black women. Even when it’s being written about a time when slavery was still legal in much of the U.S. and racism was rampant even in places it was not legal.
As I said, my words cannot do this story justice. Just know that it blew me away and I cannot wait to read more by this author.