Review: Tempest by Beverly Jenkins

N. R.’s review of Tempest (Old West book 1) by Beverly Jenkins
Historical romance published by Avon on January 30, 2018

Book CoverWhat kind of mail-order bride greets her intended with a bullet instead of a kiss? One like Regan Carmichael—an independent spirit equally at home in denims and dresses. Shooting Dr. Colton Lee in the shoulder is an honest error, but soon Regan wonders if her entire plan to marry a man she’s never met is a mistake. Colton, who buried his heart along with his first wife, insists he only wants someone to care for his daughter. Yet Regan is drawn to the unmistakable desire in his gaze.

Regan’s far from the docile bride Colton was expecting. Still, few women would brave the wilds of Wyoming Territory for an uncertain future with a widower and his child. The thought of having a bold, forthright woman like Regan in his life—and in his arms—begins to inspire a new dream. And despite his family’s disapproval and an unseen enemy, he’ll risk all to make this match a real union of body and soul.

I read Tempest right after it was published, while on a beachside vacation. My book still smells a bit like the ocean even over six weeks later. My intent was to get my review to Lime as soon as I returned home, but chaos ensued, as chaos is wont to do, so I’m grateful to Lime for giving me the time I needed to pull life into some semblance of order. You’re the best, and don’t forget it!

Beverly Jenkins has long been a favorite author, and my love affair with her started in 1996 when I was browsing my local library for something new and different and my librarian pointed me in the direction of Indigo. I finally got to meet Ms. Bev last summer at the RWA national conference, and clapped as hard as anyone when she accepted her RWA Lifetime Achievement award. When Lime asked me if I was interested in reviewing the final book in Ms. Bev’s Wild West trilogy, I practically jumped through the computer to grab it and read the final book in the Carmichael family trilogy.

Regan Carmichael is a tenacious, independant, badass woman, just like her sister and her aunt. What sets Regan apart from her family is perhaps her desire for adventure and just how far she is willing to go to live that adventure. In a time when the American west was continuing to expand, and life in these newer states and territories were wild and dangerous, Regan decided to become a mail order bride and travel north from Tuscon, Arizona to Paradise, Wyoming to marry a man sight unseen. A man who has a daughter, and as Regan will discover, a lot of baggage of his own. And it’s her heart and compassion that enables her to build herself a new family, one that will never replace the bonds she has with her family in Tucson, but will shine just as bright nonetheless.

Throughout the story Regan is always true to herself, unwilling to bend to criticism or out and out hostility. She’s no Mary Sue when it comes to her man, either. Regan knows Colt has his baggage, and she doesn’t attempt to replace her in his heart, or the heart of his daughter. Instead, she uses excellent communication strategies as she talks, and argues,  with Colt, standing her ground when it would be most beneficial, trying for compromise when necessary. Regan also doesn’t shy away from letting Colt know she’s a sexual being who has needs, and that she expects him to meet those needs. One of my favorite scenes is that very first sex scene where Regan schools Dr. Colton Lee on exactly what a scandalous wife wants with her man.

Dr. Colton Lee is a widower with a young daughter and is looking for a new wife. Not necessarily someone to love, but someone to be a mother for his daughter and a good partner for himself. He is highly opinionated and from his first meeting with Regan, begins to wonder if he’s made an error in judgement. Regan is this spitfire of independence, while his dead wife seemed more docile and quiet, the type of woman an educated doctor should have by his side. He’s a good father, a good man who wants to provide medical assistance to anyone who needs it, regardless of their financial status or their personal prejudices against people of color. And though he is slow to admit being wrong, he is quick to make amends and to learn to be better.

I loved watching Regan and Colt fall in love just as much as I loved watching them become a family. There are forces both pulling for them, and pulling against them, and these two are able to find their way with the help of their allies. I also loved just how much Regan upset the good doctor’s perceptions of the world he built for himself. Even more, I loved how Regan is this agent of change for so many people in Paradise. She is feminine and yet knows how to wield a rifle and is unafraid to use it. She’s a woman of color who is well educated, refined, is independently wealthy, and has connections. The men of Paradise learn to respect her as an equal, or many of them do, and begin to see women in a different light altogether. The women of Paradise who befriend Regan see equality in action and several of them make changes in their own lives. These plot points are nuanced and expertly woven into the fabric of the love story that makes up the backbone of Tempest.

One of the reasons I love reading Ms. Bev’s historical novels is that she seasons her stories with generous doses of historical knowledge and I end up walking away knowing more about African American history with each read. While reading Tempest I was taken by how much I still don’t know about the history of push to settle the west or the African American experience in the time periods after the Civil War. Two examples spring to mind. I had never heard about the first African American professor of medicine, Dr. Alexander T. Augusta, who was also one of a handful of African American men to be commissioned officers in the Union army, until I read Tempest . I’m also  aware of many of the reasons laborers were used in the building of the railroad system and in mining, but was totally unfamiliar with the Rock Springs Massacre of 1885. I was able to see some of this through Colt’s eyes, which was probably the most emotional moment I had reading the entire story.

Tempest is a wonderful story about strong people building a life together in a world that doesn’t always appreciate who they are. There is plenty of sexual tension, internal and external conflict, and a wonderfully flawed yet realistic supporting cast. If you are a fan of historical romance, this book may just be for you.

Grade: B+

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

 

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