Friday, July 6, 2018

Audiobook Review: Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins

Series:     Old West #1
Pub. Date:January 26, 2016
Narrator:Kim Staunton
Length:9 hrs 27 min

Forbidden is my first read from the highly-acclaimed Beverly Jenkins, and it certainly will not be my last. I am not typically a fan of western romances, but I was drawn into this story and found myself enjoying it quite a bit. Jenkins certainly has a lovely writing style, which was complemented by this narrator, Kim Staunton, who had a very soothing voice. The cadence and pacing Staunton employed was perfect for the old west feel of this story.

Our heroine is Eddy (ee-dee) Carmichael, a woman of color born free in the late 19th Century. Eddy is making her way in the world when we meet her, with plans to go even further west from Denver to California to open her own restaurant. Unfortunately Eddy meets misfortune and unscrupulous characters along the way, which was balanced with periods of luck and charity so that we didn't quite lose our faith in humanity. Due to these ups and downs, Eddy never makes it to California and instead is rescued outside of Virginia City, Nevada. I very much admired Eddy's character and grit and perseverance. I obviously cannot relate to what our heroine faced in post-Civil War America... but I enjoyed experiencing her life as much as I could through Jenkin's storytelling. 

Our hero is Rhine Fontaine (great name), who was born to an enslaved woman - the product of unwanted congress between his mother and her master. Since the war, Rhine has been passing - as in racial passing. I found this aspect of the story to be very intriguing, as it was the first storyline of this nature that I had encountered. So Rhine is living his life as a white man, but has not forgotten his heritage and supports the black community as much as possible. While a wealthy man, Rhine does not put on airs or act better than anyone. I liked his character immensely. 

This romance was a very slow burn, which is not surprising given that interracial relationships were forbidden at the time (hence the title). While I would sometimes get impatient when things are drawn out this far, that did not happen with this story. I was so caught up in the daily lives and difficulties of our characters, that I didn't feel the burning need to have our characters come together and start building their relationship. I found the town and goings on around Virginia City to be very interesting, which is a first for me. I have tried westerns in the past and the setting was always lost on me... but this one just worked. (Maybe it has something to do with me moving west to Arizona!)

I look forward to the rest of this series, and will most likely continue listening in audio if the narrator selection remains as good as Kim Staunton.

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