Author: Beverly Jenkins
Published by: Avon Books
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Where I got the book: Public Library
I love cowboy romances. Forget Regency England, western romances are my go-to, easy, comfort reads. But these types of books are so, so, so white. And if there is a person of colour or an Indigenous person, they’re a secondary character who aids in getting the main white couple together. So I read these books, yell at them about the historical and contemporary whitewashing of the old and contemporary west, and then put them aside when I can’t handle them anymore.
So imagine my delight when I came across this book. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a romance novel, sizzling romantic tension, high stakes, social commentary and a diverse cast in a setting I love.
Rhine Fountain has built up an incredibly successful life, now the owner of a saloon in Virginia City and rich enough to be moving in the right social circles, only that his success depends on him passing as white. But an unexpected meeting with Eddy Carmichael, in which he rescues her from dying in the Nevada desert, causes Rhine to question the life he’s built for himself. Is the prestige and life of a wealthy white businessman worth the possibility of loosing Eddie?
Eddie may owe her life to Rhine but she’d not going to risk her heart for him. Interracial marriage is illegal and with plans to start up a restaurant in San Francisco, she’s not planning on staying in Virginia City long enough to fall for him. The attraction between them in undeniable though and it’s getting harder to resist it, despite how forbidden their relationship would be.
With excellent main and secondary characters and good historical background information, Forbidden is probably one of the best historical romances I’ve ever read. Rhine and Eddie’s relationship is a delight, one that slowly develops. Yes, there’s undeniable sexual tension, but they actually talk to each other and have lives and worries beyond pinning for each other. Eddie is trying to save up money and adjust to her new life in Virginia City and Rhine is struggling with balancing the workload of his business and the disapproval of the white political elite about him operating a saloon, which is obviously a den of depravity. Not to mention the difficulties of trying to tactfully break his engagement due to falling for Eddie.
Beverly Jenkins’ historical world-building is also excellent. None of the information presented feels forced, but rather just an extension of the world the character live in and their concerns. Historical tidbits were sprinkled in easily and I learnt a lot about the Reconstruction Period in the US, something we don’t learn a lot about in Canada.
Romance wise, Forbidden is a very sweet story that has a nice amount of sexual tension. The sex scenes aren’t of the fade-to-black variety, but aren’t terribly graphic either. This is a good book for people who like a decent amount of sexiness in their romance novels, but don’t want to tread over into the territory of erotica.
Forbidden is also one of the best romance novels I’ve read that has conversations about consent and centres sexual experiences around Eddie’s pleasure. Although traditionally written for and marketed at women, romance novels often still perpetuate dangerous discourses of sexuality that confuse abuse, male control and violence with love and eroticism. Forbidden doesn’t do that though. It’s very much a sweet, occasionally sexy, modern love story set in the old west.
I’m very excited to read the rest of this series and more of Beverly Jenkins’ work.