Best Fiction Reads of 2021: Part 4

Best Fiction Reads of 2021

Good day, my bookish peeps. My apologies for the tardiness in posting the fourth and final addition to my “Best Reads of 2021” list, but I’ve had to deal with a series of severe migraine episodes over the past few weeks. The only good thing about the delay in writing this post was that I had a chance to fine-tune this section of my “best of” list, the romance reads. (Even though I had the time to fine-tune the list, I wound up not adding or deleting any of my original choices, so I guess they were the best choices after all.) Although I enjoy reading from a wide variety of genres, especially mystery, suspense, and thrillers, I’m also a huge romance fiction fan.

The first title on this romance best of list is the final book in the Brown Sisters trilogy by Talia Hibbert, Act Your Age, Eve Brown. If you haven’t read the previous two books in this series, Get A Life, Chloe Brown and Take A Hint, Dani Brown, then you’ll want to add those to your list as well. These stories feature flawed, but realistic characters that are trying their best to cope in a world that doesn’t often make room for differently-sized, neurodiverse/neurodivergent, or differently-abled people. What more can I say other than these are great diverse romance reads.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown, The Brown Sisters #3, by Talia Hibbert
ISBN: 9780062941275 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780062941282 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062941299 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781799971085 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B089WJ184B (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B089SYX5F5 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Avon Romance
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Romance | Interracial Romance

 

In USA Today bestselling author Talia Hibbert’s newest rom-com, the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.

Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how.
 
Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.
 
Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help . Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.
 

 Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | Audiobooks.com | BookDepository.com | Downpour Audiobook | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Read an excerpt here.


 My next romance recommendation is the first book in a new series by award-winning romance author Sandra Kitt. Winner Takes All kicks off the Millionaires Club series. This is nice, tender, and sometimes emotional diverse romance from an author that has written quite a number of tender, emotional romances.

Winner Takes All, The Millionaires Club #1, by Sandra Kitt
ISBN: 9781728214887 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781728214894 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781662081477 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781662081828 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08SR9CXWF (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08DHGVN2L (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Romance | Interracial Romance

 

“Great story-telling of the most romantic kind.”—Brenda Jackson, New York Times bestselling author

“A warm-hearted story and a clever plot reflecting current issues with sensitivity, warmth, and wisdom.”—Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jean Travis has the job of announcing the latest lottery winner on TV and is stunned to find that Patrick Bennett, her teenage crush, is the top mega winner. They haven’t seen each other in years, and Patrick is thrilled to renew their acquaintance. Jean, not so much. After all, a lot has changed since they used to study together and Jean worked so hard to hide her feelings. Now that he’s won so much money, Patrick faces a whole new world of demands from family, friends, coworkers, strangers. The only person he knows for sure he can trust, is Jean…

“Romantic, tender, emotional, and compelling.”—RaeAnne Thayne, New York Times bestselling author


When you’re a person of color and a religious minority (at least in this country), it is often incredibly difficult to find books that have characters that look like you and practice your faith. Thankfully, there are a growing number of authors of color and books that reflect a variety of religious beliefs, including Islam. YAY! I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin and knew that I’d be purchasing all future books by this author. I immediately grabbed a digital copy of Hana Khan Carries On when it was released and was fortunate enough to add a print copy of this book to my home library later.

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin
ISBN: 9780593336366 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780593336373 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593410431 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08KWKPPGL (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08JKN98K9 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 13, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Romance| Women’s Fiction

 

From the author of Ayesha at Last comes a sparkling new rom-com for fans of “You’ve Got Mail.”

Hana Khan’s family-run halal restaurant is on its last legs. So when a flashy competitor gets ready to open nearby, bringing their inevitable closure even closer, she turns to her anonymously-hosted podcast, and her lively and long-lasting relationship with one of her listeners, for advice.

But a hate-motivated attack on their neighbourhood complicates the situation further, as does Hana’s growing attraction for Aydin, the young owner of the rival business. Who might not be a complete stranger after all…

A charmingly refreshing and modern love story, Uzma Jalaluddin’s tale is humorously warm and filled with gorgeous characters you won’t be able to forget. Now in development for film with Mindy Kaling and Amazon Studios.


Another author on my “just buy it” list is Jasmine Guillory. I love her characters, the romance, the romantic-struggle, and the humor. Ms. Guillory’s 2021 release, While We Were Dating featured a plus-size woman of color as the love interest. YAAS! This book was the sixth addition to “The Wedding Date” series. If you enjoy well-written romance with lots of intelligent characters and humor, then I suggest you binge-read this entire series (if you haven’t already).

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory
ISBN: 9780593100844 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780593100851 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780593100868 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593409800 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08LQYMB1F (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08L5WF4YM (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 13, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Romance | Multicultural Romance

 

Two people realize that it’s no longer an act when they veer off-script in this sizzling romantic comedy by New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.

Ben Stephens has never bothered with serious relationships. He has plenty of casual dates to keep him busy, family drama he’s trying to ignore and his advertising job to focus on. When Ben lands a huge ad campaign featuring movie star Anna Gardiner, however, it’s hard to keep it purely professional. Anna is not just gorgeous and sexy, she’s also down to earth and considerate, and he can’t help flirting a little…

Anna Gardiner is on a mission: to make herself a household name, and this ad campaign will be a great distraction while she waits to hear if she’s booked her next movie. However, she didn’t expect Ben Stephens to be her biggest distraction. She knows mixing business with pleasure never works out, but why not indulge in a harmless flirtation?

But their lighthearted banter takes a turn for the serious when Ben helps Anna in a family emergency, and they reveal truths about themselves to each other, truths they’ve barely shared with those closest to them.

When the opportunity comes to turn their real-life fling into something more for the Hollywood spotlight, will Ben be content to play the background role in Anna’s life and leave when the cameras stop rolling? Or could he be the leading man she needs to craft their own Hollywood ending?


I’ve recently realized that I read a large number of books that are part of a series. If I’m grabbed by the first title in a series, it’s a sure bet that I’ll be reading all of the new books in that series. Although I’m not a big sports fan, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the “Bromance Book Club” series. Come on folks, a romance series featuring male characters that read romance books to help with their relationships, what’s not to love?! Book four in this series, Isn’t It Bromantic? is slightly different from the first three because the male character is actually writing a romance rather than reading one to help with his love interest.

Isn’t It Bromantic?, Bromance Book Club #4, by Lyssa Kay Adams
ISBN: 9780593332771 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780062964595 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593332788 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08MMJVQ81 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08JKP2G5S (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 3, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Romance | Sports Romance

 

With his passion for romance novels, it was only a matter of time before Vlad took up the pen to write a novel the Bromance Book Club would swoon over.

Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared after speaking out against government corruption, she escaped danger the only way she knew how. She agreed to marry her childhood friend, Vladimir, and move to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.

Vlad, aka The Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But after four years, it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance—both on and off the page.

The Bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love—and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s senior citizen neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves The Loners. Just when things finally look promising, the danger from Elena’s past life intrudes, and the book club will face their first-ever life-or-death grand gesture as they race to a happy ever after.

 

I was honored to get the opportunity to see this author at a regional book festival last year. I was incredibly blessed that my youngest brother took the time to get my copy of The Dating Playbook signed while I was attending another author presentation. (My brother also drove me to North Carolina so I could attend this event. We spent a lovely day at the Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors and I didn’t have to do the drive down or back to West Virginia. In-person events with authors. Got books signed. Had a fantastic day trip without driving. Win-Win-WIN!) I had read the first book in this series, The Boyfriend Project with my online book group, Mocha Girls Read and was hooked. And yes, I own the digital and print copy of this book.

The Dating Playbook, The Boyfriend Project #2, by Farrah Rochon
ISBN: 9781538716670 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9781538716663 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781549135941 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09B38J4WF (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08PV5JRHM (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 17, 2021
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Fiction | Romance

When a personal trainer agrees to fake date her client, all rules are out the window in this “fun, heartfelt, and totally relatable” romantic comedy (Abby Jimenez, NYT bestselling author of Life’s Too Short).

When it comes to personal training, Taylor Powell kicks serious butt. Unfortunately, her bills are piling up, rent is due, and the money situation is dire. Taylor needs more than the support of her new best friends, Samiah and London. She needs a miracle.

And Jamar Dixon might just be it. The oh-so-fine former footballer wants back into the NFL, and he wants Taylor to train him. There’s just one catch—no one can know what they’re doing. But when they’re accidentally outed as a couple, Taylor’s game plan is turned completely upside down. Is Jamar just playing to win . . . or is he playing for keeps?

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | BookDepository.com | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | !ndigo Books | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook


I actually had this next author’s first book, Ties That Tether on my TBR list for awhile. I don’t know why I grabbed her latest The Sweetest Remedy to read first, but I did. No, this book isn’t part of a series, but I do heartily recommend you grab both books if you enjoy reading multicultural romance or want to start reading multicultural romance. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author in the future.

The Sweetest Remedy by Jane Igharo
ISBN: 9780593101964 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780593101971 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593456484 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08SMNJPT5 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R5LW2H3 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 28, 2021
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Fiction | Romance

When a woman travels to Nigeria to attend the funeral of the father she never knew, she meets her extravagant family for the first time, a new and inspiring love interest, and discovers parts of herself she didn’t know were missing, from Jane Igharo, the acclaimed author of Ties That Tether.

Hannah Bailey has never known her father, the Nigerian entrepreneur who had a brief relationship with her white mother. Because of this, Hannah has always felt uncertain about part of her identity. When her father dies, she’s invited to Nigeria for the funeral. Though she wants to hate the man who abandoned her, she’s curious about who he was and where he was from. Searching for answers, Hannah boards a plane to Lagos, Nigeria.

In Banana Island, one of Nigeria’s most affluent areas, Hannah meets the Jolades, her late father’s prestigious family—some who accept her and some who think she doesn’t belong. The days leading up to the funeral are chaotic, but Hannah is soon shaped by secrets that unfold, a culture she never thought she would understand or appreciate, and a man who steals her heart and helps her to see herself in a new light.


 Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | BookDepository.com | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | !ndigo Books | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook


I have this rather annoying (or at least it’s annoying to me) habit of adding books to my TBR list and then promptly forgetting about them until they pop back up on my reading radar. This next title is one such book, Seven Days in June. As someone that has been dealing with migraine for 40+ years, any book featuring a person dealing with migraine should have been one of the first I grabbed to read (the main female character has severe migraine attacks and the portrayal was all-too familiar). Sadly, I didn’t end up reading this book until mid-December and I had even obtained a signed copy of this book earlier this year in North Carolina. If this one is on your TBR list, I suggest you read it sooner rather than later!

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
ISBN: 9781538719107 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781538719114 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781549104855 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B094471J1S (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08KQ3KS5Y (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 1, 2021
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Fiction | Romance

Brooklynite Eva Mercy is a single mom and bestselling erotica writer, who is feeling pressed from all sides. Shane Hall is a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning literary author who, to everyone’s surprise, shows up in New York.

When Shane and Eva meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their past buried traumas, but the eyebrows of New York’s Black literati. What no one knows is that twenty years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. They may be pretending that everything is fine now, but they can’t deny their chemistry – or the fact that they’ve been secretly writing to each other in their books ever since.

Over the next seven days in the middle of a steamy Brooklyn summer, Eva and Shane reconnect, but Eva’s not sure how she can trust the man who broke her heart, and she needs to get him out of New York so that her life can return to normal. But before Shane disappears again, there are a few questions she needs answered…

With its keen observations of Black life and the condition of modern motherhood, as well as the consequences of motherless-ness, Seven Days in June is by turns humorous, warm and deeply sensual.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | BookDepository.com | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | !ndigo Books | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook


This next title is part of a series, “Modern Mail Order Brides” by Olivia Gaines. I’ve read all of thirteen of the titles, enjoyed some much more than others although I’ve enjoyed them all. Sunflowers and Honey had me staying up late reading, choking on my tea and triggering an asthma attack from laughing so hard, and smiling until the last page. Although this title released in October, I’ve already read it a number of times and enjoy it a little more with each re-reading.

Sunflowers and Honey, Modern Mail Order Brides #13, by Olivia Gaines
ISBN: 9798488630000 (paperback)
ASIN: B098LZBGLJ (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 12, 2021
Publisher: Davonshire House Publishing
Genre: Fiction | Romance

Symphony Willis wasn’t about to let her big sister have all the fun. Placing a call to Melody, she asked what everyone wanted to know, “where did you meet Lakota?”

Following the directions sent via text, Symphony walked into the offices of Perfect Match to start a journey that opened not only a lot of doors, but her heart to understanding what it truly means to be family.

Saddle up as we head West to a family farm in Oklahoma that specializes in Sunflowers and Honey.

 
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org Amazon | Amazon Kindle | BookDepository.com


My final romance recommendation is a novella by the one and only, Beverly Jenkins. (Told you, I read everything this Queen writes!) Ms. Bev released this novella a few months ago and I’ve already read it multiple times. Yes, it was just that good. Romance, interesting characters, books, intrigue, books, romance, and books!

Rare Danger by Beverly Jenkins
ISBN: 9781713643876 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B09JFSH428 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09CGBQW7R (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 16, 2021
Publisher: Montlake
Genre: Fiction | Novella | Romance | Romantic-Suspense

A librarian’s quiet life becomes a page-turner of adventure, romance, and murder in a thrilling novella by USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins.

For Jasmine Ware, curating books for an exclusive clientele is her passion. Until an old friend, a dealer of rare books, goes missing and his partner is murdered. Linked to an artifact smuggled out of the ancient library at Timbuktu, the mystery draws Jasmine deeper into a plot that could cost her her life.

Air force veteran and private security ace Torr Noble is accustomed to adrenaline-pumping stakes. He never expected a private librarian would be so intriguing, but Jasmine is full of surprises. As the connection between them burns hot, a powerful old enemy raises his head. Torr and Jasmine must work together to find the missing dealer.

Will the search be the start of a happily ever after or a disastrous THE END?

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Amazon Audiobook on CD


Of course there were plenty of other titles that I read and enjoyed in 2021. The few mentioned on this “best of” list are the ones that truly stood out. Once again, I have to say “THANK YOU” to all of the wonderful authors, publishing companies, publicists, book tour companies, and libraries that afforded me so many fantastic reads over the course of 2021. I hope y’all had some wonderful reads last year and I hope we all have just as many great reads on our 2022 list come the end of the year.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Best Fiction Reads of 2021: Part 3

Best Fiction Reads of 2021

This third installment to my “Best Fiction Reads” list focuses on historical fiction. As with my previous recommendations, this portion of the list includes a little bit of everything within the historical fiction genre. If you haven’t read any of these titles, then I hope one or two (if not all) of these will spark your interest and make it to your 2022 reading list.

I love reading anything written by Beverly Jenkins. (Seriously, if she writes it then I’m reading it!) Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Wild Rain, book two in the “Women Who Dare” series. This book included a character readers were introduced to in book three of the “Old West” series, Tempest. I’m a big fan of books featuring strong characters of color and this particular book introduced me to what has been termed a “cinnamon roll” male character. A “cinnamon roll” character is one that is described as kind and sweet, as well as being strong (physically and/or emotionally) and invested in the well-being of their love interest (yes, I’ve read other books with this type of character but hadn’t heard them referred to as a “cinnamon roll” before). If you enjoy reading historical romance with strong female and male characters, then look no further and grab yourself a copy of Wild Rain ASAP!

Wild Rain, Women Who Dare #2, by Beverly Jenkins
ISBN: 9780062861719 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780063075153 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062861726 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062861733 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B07ZTVKBPW (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B07ZP1NLD8 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Avon Books
Release Date: February 9, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Historical Romance | African-American Historical Fiction

 

The second novel in USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins’ compelling new Women Who Dare series follows a female rancher in Wyoming after the Civil War.

A reporter has come to Wyoming to do a story on doctors for his Black newspaper back east. He thinks Colton Lee will be an interesting subject…until he meets Colton’s sister, Spring. She runs her own ranch, wears denim pants instead of dresses, and is the most fascinating woman he’s ever met.
 
But Spring, who has overcome a raucous and scandalous past, isn’t looking for, nor does she want, love. As their attraction grows, will their differences come between them or unite them for an everlasting love?

 

 Read an excerpt here.


 

I’m sure you’ve probably heard of this next book, simply because it has been raved about online all year, Yellow Wife. If you haven’t heard anything about this book, then I’m pleased to introduce you to this amazing fictionalized historical read based upon a real woman and amazing circumstances in Virginia during the 19th Century.

YELLOW WIFE book coverYellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson
ISBN: 9781982149116 (paperback – released on December 28, 2021)
ISBN: 9781982149109 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781982149123 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781797118819 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08CM6NJBF (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08BZFTB1Y (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Coming-of-Age | African-American Historical Fiction

 

Called “wholly engrossing” by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Grissom, this “fully immersive” (Lisa Wingate, #1 bestselling author of Before We Were Yours) story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.

She’d been promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.

 

I especially enjoy reading stories about books or people dealing with books. This next book hit on both levels. The Personal Librarian presents the fictionalized story of the woman responsible for crafting the Pierpont Morgan Library, Belle da Costa Greene. This amazing woman of color passed as “White” for almost all of her adult life and had the amazing responsibility of assisting in the development of and subsequent management of one of the largest private libraries in the United States.

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
ISBN: 9780593101537 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780593101551 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593409701 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9780593409718 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08J8HRWP8 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08HL999ZD (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Literary Fiction

 

The remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian—who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture on the New York society scene and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps build a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths to which she must go—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

 

There seems to be an underlying theme of “strong women of color” within my historical fiction recommendations, and the next title fits this quite well. I had never heard of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas before reading Island Queen, but I quickly became fascinated by this woman that lived during the 18th and 19th centuries. This is a fictionalized story of a real woman that had great influence in the Caribbean and beyond across two centuries. This is yet another book that I passed to my mother to read. We both enjoyed it so much, we have print copies for our respective home libraries (okay, I also have a digital copy in addition to my print copy). I consider myself fortunate enough to have obtained the author’s signature on my print copy at a regional book festival (I forgot to take my mother’s copy to get it signed, sorry Mom).

ISLAND QUEEN by Vanessa Riley book coverIsland Queen by Vanessa Riley
ISBN: 9780063002845 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780063002869 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780063002876 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08MLPY619 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08KQD5J9T (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: May 11, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Literary Fiction

 

A remarkable, sweeping historical novel based on the incredible true life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies.

Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom—and that of her sister and her mother—from her Irish planter father and built a legacy of wealth and power as an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and planter that extended from the marketplaces and sugar plantations of Dominica and Barbados to a glittering luxury hotel in Demerara on the South American continent.

Vanessa Riley’s novel brings Doll to vivid life as she rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and leveraging the competing attentions of the men in her life: a restless shipping merchant, Joseph Thomas; a wealthy planter hiding a secret, John Coseveldt Cells; and a roguish naval captain who will later become King William IV of England.

From the bustling port cities of the West Indies to the forbidding drawing rooms of London’s elite, Island Queen is a sweeping epic of an adventurer and a survivor who answered to no one but herself as she rose to power and autonomy against all odds, defying rigid eighteenth-century morality and the oppression of women as well as people of color. It is an unforgettable portrait of a true larger-than-life woman who made her mark on history.

 

I had the pleasure of seeing this next author in a presentation with Vanessa Riley and others a few months ago at a regional book festival. And yes I got my print copy signed. This is another fictionalized history story featuring strong women of color. Sisters in Arms presents the story of several African American women in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. For those of you that enjoy WWII stories, I encourage you to grab a copy of this one to read.

SISTERS IN ARMS by Kaia AldersonSisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson
ISBN: 9780062964588 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780062964595 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780063096837 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08TN14WK9 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08FJHLBW3 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: August 3, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | African-American History | WWII

 

Kaia Alderson’s debut historical fiction novel reveals the untold, true story of the Six Triple Eight, the only all-Black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps, who made the dangerous voyage to Europe to ensure American servicemen received word from their loved ones during World War II.

Grace Steele and Eliza Jones may be from completely different backgrounds, but when it comes to the army, specifically the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), they are both starting from the same level. Not only will they be among the first class of female officers the army has even seen, they are also the first Black women allowed to serve.

As these courageous women help to form the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, they are dealing with more than just army bureaucracy—everyone is determined to see this experiment fail. For two northern women, learning to navigate their way through the segregated army may be tougher than boot camp. Grace and Eliza know that there is no room for error; they must be more perfect than everyone else.

When they finally make it overseas, to England and then France, Grace and Eliza will at last be able to do their parts for the country they love, whatever the risk to themselves.

Based on the true story of the 6888th Postal Battalion (the Six Triple Eight), Sisters in Arms explores the untold story of what life was like for the only all-Black, female U.S. battalion to be deployed overseas during World War II.

 


The final book on this list is a blend of contemporary and historical fiction, coupled with magical realism and time-travel. I’ve read and reviewed a number of titles in the “Found Things” series by Paula Brackston, including City of Time and Magic. This addition to the series is a bit darker than some of the others but it was still an engrossing read and one I hope you’ll enjoy when you read it.

City of Time and Magic, Found Things #4, by Paula Brackston
ISBN: 9781250260697 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250260703 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250818874 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08TZ38281 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R2HCFLR (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 23, 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Fantasy | Time-Travel

Xanthe meets Brackston’s most famous heroine, Elizabeth Hawksmith from The Witch’s Daughter, in this crossover story with all the “historical detail, village charm, and twisty plotting” of the Found Things series (Publishers Weekly).

City of Time and Magic sees Xanthe face her greatest challenges yet. She must choose from three treasures that sing to her; a beautiful writing slope, a mourning brooch of heartbreaking detail, and a gorgeous gem-set hat pin. All call her, but the wrong one could take her on a mission other than that which she must address first, and the stakes could not be higher. While her earlier mission to Regency England had been a success, the journey home resulted in Liam being taken from her, spirited away to another time and place. Xanthe must follow the treasure that will take her to him if he is not to be lost forever.

Xanthe is certain that Mistress Flyte has Liam and determined to find them both. But when she discovers Lydia Flyte has been tracking the actions of the Visionary Society, a group of ruthless and unscrupulous Spinners who have been selling their talents to a club of wealthy clients, Xanthe realizes her work as a Spinner must come before her personal wishes. The Visionary Society is highly dangerous and directly opposed to the creed of the Spinners. Their actions could have disastrous consequences as they alter the authentic order of things and change the future. Xanthe knows she must take on the Society. It will require the skills of all her friends, old and new, to attempt such a thing, and not all of them will survive the confrontation that follows.


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Thanks once again to the authors, publishers, publicists, book tour companies, library systems, etc. that afforded me the opportunity to read so many wonderful books this year. I hope you’ll return to see what books make the fourth part of this list, the contemporary romance reads.

Happy Reading, y’all!

2021 Book 42: WILD RAIN by Beverly Jenkins

Wild Rain, Women Who Dare #2, by Beverly Jenkins
ISBN: 9780062861719 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780063075153 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062861726 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062861733 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B07ZTVKBPW (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B07ZP1NLD8 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Avon Books
Release Date: February 9, 2021

The second novel in USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins’ compelling new Women Who Dare series follows a female rancher in Wyoming after the Civil War.

A reporter has come to Wyoming to do a story on doctors for his Black newspaper back east. He thinks Colton Lee will be an interesting subject…until he meets Colton’s sister, Spring. She runs her own ranch, wears denim pants instead of dresses, and is the most fascinating woman he’s ever met.

But Spring, who has overcome a raucous and scandalous past, isn’t looking for, nor does she want, love. As their attraction grows, will their differences come between them or unite them for an everlasting love?

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | BookDepository | Downpour Audiobook | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

 
 
Read an excerpt here.
 
 I was rather late in discovering Beverly Jenkins, but when I did I rapidly devoured every title of hers I could find. I’m a huge fan of her contemporary fiction the “Blessings” series (and it’s being developed into a television show). But I was introduced to her via her historical fiction and I reread all of them every year. (Yes, you read that correctly. I re-read all of her historical fiction titles every year!) I kicked off this year by re-reading her “Old West” series, and I’m glad I did because book three of that series introduced us to the Lees of Wyoming, Dr. Colton Lee, his sister, Spring Lee, and their cantankerous grandfather, Lee. Although it wasn’t necessary to read Tempest before reading Wild Rain, it helped to refresh my memory a bit. (Hey, you try reading 450+ books a year and see if you can remember all of the details of every book read!)

Wild Rain is the second book in the Women Who Dare series and the action takes place a few months after Tempest ended. Tempest featured Colton Lee and his relationship with his wife, Regan Carmichael Lee. Wild Rain centers on Spring Lee, her developing relationship with Garrett McCray, a reporter from the East trying to help his father’s sundown newspaper survive by bringing in stories of intriguing people of color from the US territories, namely Dr. Colton Lee. However, once Garrett McCray arrives in Wyoming territory, he finds that he is ill-prepared for riding horseback most of the day, days filled with snow, and his encounters with the unique Spring Rain Lee. Spring winds up saving Garrett on numerous occasions and introduces him to the folks in and around Paradise. Just when it seems as if Garrett is beginning to acclimate himself to life in Paradise and spending time with Spring, someone from her past makes an appearance in town and revives stories that belittle and demean her as a woman of worth. Can Garrett accept his attraction to a woman willing to stand up for herself and go against the norms of the time or will he succumb to his family wishes and return to D.C. and a life filled with constraints?

Although I had been looking forward to the next installment in the Women Who Dare series by Beverly Jenkins, I had no idea it was centered on a character from a previous book. Yes, I should have known and would have known if I had just read the synopsis. But all I saw was a new Beverly Jenkins book, historical fiction, and it was “hey, count me in!” Readers were introduced to a bit of Spring Lee’s backstory in the book Tempest, but Ms. Jenkins provides quite a bit more in Wild Rain. We’re also provided more information about Colton and Spring’s paternal grandmother, and parents. It was quite nice getting to know more about Spring and her family heritage and it helped to explain why she made the decisions made in the past and why she lives as she does in the present. To say that Spring had a bit of a harsh upbringing after her parents’ death would be a major understatement and most of that rests with her paternal grandfather, Ben. Garrett McCray was an interesting male protagonist. He was a former slave, former sailor during the Civil War, a skilled carpenter, and a reporter for a sundown newspaper (a newspaper that people worked on part-time basis after they worked their full-time jobs, usually after the sun went down). Initially, Garrett was taken aback by Spring’s lack of a male guardian, the fact that she owned and operated her own ranch, wore what he considered male clothing meaning denims, and went into saloons, but he grows to respect and love her for exactly who she is. Ms. Jenkins always provides interesting tidbits of Black American history in her fiction and her books usually feature an author’s note at the end with a list of suggested reading (just one of the many reasons I enjoy reading her books). Wild Rain is a romance so of course it has a HEA, but you’ll need to read it to find out how the couple arrives at their “Happy Ever After.” There’s plenty of drama and even trauma before they get there. If you’ve read Tempest, then you’ll definitely want to read Wild Rain. If you read Rebel, book 1 in the Women Who Dare series, then you should grab a copy of Wild Rain to read. If you enjoy reading historical romance or simply well-crafted romance, then I suggest you grab a copy of Wild Rain to read. For all you Ms. Bevy fans, I don’t have to tell you anything because I know you already have this one on your TBR list or you’ve pre-ordered it. I’ll be ordering a print copy to give to my 86-y.o. mother now that I have her hooked on reading Ms. Bevy’s books. Hope you enjoy reading this one as much as I did.
 

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2020 Book 57: ON THE CORNER OF HOPE AND MAIN by Beverly Jenkins

On The Corner of Hope and Main A Blessings Novel by Beverly Jenkins
ISBN: 9780062952202 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062699282 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780062699299 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062960887 (audiobook – digital)
ISBN: 9781094115788 (audiobook – CD)
ASIN: B07TLY72N8  (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B07T66G3T4  (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Publication Date: March 3, 2020


NAACP nominee and USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins celebrates her beloved Blessings series with a heartwarming novel set in Henry Adams, Kansas.

“If you haven’t yet gotten your hands on [this] author’s work, you should do so immediately.”—Shondaland

Citizens of Henry Adams, Kansas, know there’s never a dull moment in their small town…

Trent July has been the mayor of this historic town for the past four years, but now he’s ready to let someone else take up the mantle. Barrett Payne, a former Marine, decides he wants the job. But when a surprise candidate also enters the ring, the town has opinions on who would be the best candidate.

And of course that’s not the only drama, as Malachi “Mal” July continues to make reparations for the damage he’s caused and to the people he’s betrayed, especially his lady love Bernadine. Is she finally ready to forgive him and let the past go?

As the residents of Henry Adams have learned, life will throw obstacles their way, but it’s how they come together and rise above these challenges that keep the bonds of their close-knit community strong.






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Welcome back to Henry Adams, Kansas. It’s time for an election now that Trent July, the current mayor, has decided to pass the reins on to someone else, anyone else as long as it’s not former mayor Riley Curry. This small-town may not have much to offer in many people’s eyes since it doesn’t have any big-box stores or franchise restaurants, but it does offer a strong sense of history, family, and community. To that end, Barrett Payne, current VP of Security for the town has decided to run for mayor. Initially his only competition is found with former disgraced mayor Riley Curry and Thaddeus July, brother to town matriarch Tamar July and a native son and known trickster until his wife, Sheila decides she also wants to run for mayor. The Payne family drama coupled with Riley Curry running for office would be drama enough for one small town, but add in the reappearance of Bernadine’s ex-husband, Leo Brown and his behind-the-scenes scheming, this is going to be one election that the people of Henry Adams may be talking about for years to come. 

I found On the Corner of Hope and Main to be a fast-paced and enjoyable read and devoured it in one afternoon. I welcomed the return to the setting of Henry Adams and almost feel as if the families there were friends that I was revisiting. I love the small-town setting and the drama. And yes, there’s always some small-town drama happening and this story offers quite a bit including: seed and oil company conglomerations trying to cheat and steal from area farmers under the guise of helping them out, Riley’s continual delusions of grandeur and payback, Leo’s delusions of returning to the top of the food chain in his industry after being fired, new business developments within the town, gambling addictions, helicopter parenting, misogyny unveiled, dysfunctional families revisited, forgiveness, trust, hope for a better tomorrow, and yes, some romance. On the Corner of Hope and Main offers a little bit of something for everyone and Ms. Jenkins pulls it together in one neat package. And for those of you that have read the previous books in this series, look out for the return of your favorite hog, Cletus! (No, I’m not going to explain that last sentence, read the books and you’ll understand!) I’ve recommended books by Ms. Jenkins to you before, some historical romance and others from the Blessings series. If you haven’t taken my advice in the past, I encourage, no, I urge you to add this series to your TBR list immediately. For those of you that have read the previous books in this series, make sure you get yourself a copy of On the Corner of Hope and Main. In all seriousness, On the Corner of Hope and Main is an excellent addition to the long list of outstanding reads by the one and only, “Slayer of Words,” Beverly Jenkins. (Just in case you couldn’t tell, I enjoyed this book!)

Happy Reading y’all!


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2019 Book 148: REBEL by Beverly Jenkins

Rebel Women Who Dare #1 by Beverly Jenkins
ISBN: 9780062861689 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062861696 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062861702 (audiobook)
ASIN: B0796SHBJ6 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Avon Romance
Publication Date: May 28, 2019


The first novel in USA Today Bestselling Author Beverly Jenkins’ compelling new series follows a Northern woman south in the chaotic aftermath of the Civil War…

Valinda Lacey’s mission in the steamy heart of New Orleans is to help the newly emancipated community survive and flourish. But soon she discovers that here, freedom can also mean danger. When thugs destroy the school she has set up and then target her, Valinda runs for her life—and straight into the arms of Captain Drake LeVeq.

As an architect from an old New Orleans family, Drake has a deeply personal interest in rebuilding the city. Raised by strong women, he recognizes Valinda’s determination. And he can’t stop admiring—or wanting—her. But when Valinda’s father demands she return home to marry a man she doesn’t love, her daring rebellion draws Drake into an irresistible intrigue.






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Valinda Lacey was born into freedom in the North. Although she has always known freedom as a woman of color, she hasn’t been allowed the opportunity to pursue her dreams of furthering her education. Valinda’s father feels that an advanced education is wasted on women and educated women won’t be able to have children. Valinda doesn’t agree with her father, but since she can’t study without his permission she does the best she can. When the opportunity arises to get “engaged” to a childhood friend then travel South, Valinda does just that. Her fiance and his business partner travel to France seeking funding for their business and Valinda heads to New Orleans. The war between the states may be over, but there are still former slave owners that don’t feel the need to pay wages to their workers despite signed contracts. There are still bad feelings toward Northerners and Blacks, especially freed Blacks, and it doesn’t help that Valinda is a Northerner helping freed Blacks learn to read. Valinda has difficulties with one of her landladies, difficulties getting paid the small stipend she was guaranteed for her work, difficulties getting the supplies necessary to teach her students (children and adults), and then her school is targeted and destroyed. Fortunately for Ms. Lacey, she had come across one of New Orleans’ infamous LeVeq sons during an unfortunate run-in with some soldiers. Now Drake LeVeq and the entire LeVeq family is willing to help Valinda when things take a turn from bad to worse. Over the course of just a few weeks, Valinda has to make some serious decisions. Will Valinda marry her fiance even though she doesn’t love him and he doesn’t love her? If she foregoes a loveless marriage will she be forced to return North by her fierce and overbearing father? Can she turn her back on her growing attraction to New Orleans and Drake LeVeq?

I read Rebel the first in the Women Who Dare series by Beverly Jenkins in just one afternoon. Although I was dealing with a migraine that was rapidly progressing from a moderate to a severe level, along with some allergy and asthma issues, I could not put this book down. I love reading Queen Beverly’s books, and I do mean all of her books. Seriously, I reread a portion of her books at least once every other year. Rebel is a historical romance set in late 1860s in New Orleans during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. Blacks that have been freed from the bounds of slavery are searching for loved ones that were sold away. They’re trying to find gainful employment and, for the first time for many, learn to read and write. Although Valinda isn’t a trained educator, she can and does help freed Black adults and children learn to read and write. She also helps writes letters, reads letters, writes newspapers advertisements, and does whatever she can to help reunite families. Yes, Valinda is idealistic but she is also realistic having grown up in the North where slavery is outlawed but Blacks were still treated as less than. For the first time ever, Valinda feels needed and when she meets Drake she is more than a little bit infatuated. The great thing about reading romance novels is that you know that there will be a happy-ever-after (HEA) ending no matter what trials and tribulations the couple may go through, but it’s those trials and tribulations that make the story interesting. One of the many things I enjoy about reading Ms. Jenkins’ historical romance is that she weaves a lot of historical tidbits into her stories, the bitter along with the sweet. I enjoyed the characters, the settings, and the action. Yes, there are bad guys but the good guys prevail (yay!). So this is for my romancelandia readers, if you’ve previously read any books in the LeVeq series by Beverly Jenkins, then I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of Rebel to read. If you haven’t read any of the books in the LeVeq series, go and read those then grab a copy of Rebel to read. For those of you that don’t read romance, I encourage you to start (you don’t know what you’re missing), and Rebel is a good book to start you off. Seriously, Rebel is another fine addition to the long list of great reads by the one and only, “Slayer of Words,” Beverly Jenkins. I look forward to reading more in the Women Who Dare series by this author.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2018 Book 316: SECOND TIME SWEETER by Beverly Jenkins

Second Time Sweeter, The Blessings Series #9, by Beverly Jenkins
ISBN: 9780062846174 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062699268 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780062699312 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062882660 (audiobook)
ASIN: B072VFDQTN (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: August 28, 2018 


NAACP nominee and USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins continues her beloved Blessings series with a new heartwarming novel set in Henry Adams, Kansas.

Malachi “Mal” July has run into trouble in the past. With a reputation as a player, he’s now a recovering alcoholic and has made progress in redeeming himself in the eyes of his family and the citizens of Henry Adams, Kansas. He’s not only turned his diner into a profitable business, but also mentors the town’s foster kids. And he’s even staying true to one woman—Bernadine Brown.

But all it takes is a moment of pride to blind Mal to his blessings—a moment that makes him betray his friends and family, and lose Bernadine’s trust and love. Will he ever be able to win her forgiveness?

Meanwhile Homecoming Weekend is fast approaching, and store owner Gary Clark is reunited with his high school sweetheart. All it takes is a few minutes for them to realize the spark is still there, but is it too late for second chances?

A little help from the good people of Henry Adams may give both Mal and Gary the best second chance at the happiness they missed the first time around…  



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Welcome back to Henry Adams, Kansas. A rural town founded by former slaves in the late 1800s known as Exodusters. This town has the dubious distinction of being sold on eBay and purchased by millionaire Bernadine Brown. Ms. Brown moved in and provided much-needed upgrades for the town (such as paving the road, improving infrastructures, providing town-wide WiFi services, building homes, providing a school and recreation center, and more). Now, this once dying town is thriving as are its residents, old and new. Ms. Brown also brought in new families to foster children and all of those children have subsequently been adopted. Along with the town’s council, she’s overseen the influx of new residents and restored old historic businesses. The one thing she couldn’t control was how Malachi “Mal” July would feel when she was paying all of the bills when they went on vacation. Mal felt like a gigolo and, along with his best friend Clay, decided on a get-rich-quick scheme that quickly fell apart. Clay had the money for the “investment”, but Mal embezzled the monies from the diner he is co-owner of, The Dog and Cow (it’s a long story). Adding insult to injury, when the embezzlement was discovered, this 60-something-year-old man ran away only to return for his goddaughter’s wedding with another woman in tow. Talk about a double slap in the face for Bernadine. Now Mal is back and providing a feeble apology at best. Is it possible for him to make financial restitution to the town and regain some semblance of trust from his friends and family? Will Bernadine ever be able to trust him again?

While all of the Mal July drama is going on, Lily July (Mal’s daughter-in-law), has been busy planning the former Henry Adams high school reunion weekend. Lily is a great planner, but even she can’t plan for the crazy behavior of Gary Clark’s ex-wife. This woman didn’t want her daughters when she divorced Gary a few years ago, moved to Atlanta and remarried. Now that she’s getting a divorce from husband number two, she’s decided that she’s lonely and wants custody of the girls. It’s bad enough she lied about being pregnant and trapped Gary into marriage all those years ago, but now she’s trying to ruin their daughter’s lives as well as all possibilities for Gary’s second chance at love with his high school sweetheart. Will she be able to derail her girl’s lives and Gary’s chance to reconnect with the love of his life?

Needless to say, there’s a lot more drama and intrigue going on in Henry Adams then I’ve mentioned, but to find out more you’ll need to read Second Time Sweeter by Beverly Jenkins for yourself. I always enjoy returning to Henry Adams and feel as if I’m revisiting old friends. This town is more about the family you make as much as it is about the family you’re born into. There’s this greater sense of community that used to be prevalent in small communities. It’s also nice to see a character such as Bernadine Brown putting her money to such great use by helping the town of Henry Adams and others. (Yes, I know it’s a fictional town, but I still think it’s nice.) This little town has grown so much since the first book, Bring On The Blessings, and I’m not talking land wise. The town population has expanded. It now has a grocery store, a swimming pool, a hair salon/barber shop, a coffee shop, a medical office, a recording studio, and a fire department with plans for an upscale restaurant and a bed-and-breakfast along with more housing. Obviously, there’s a lot more going on in Second Time Sweeter than Mal trying to repay his debt and atone for his sins and Gary possibly finding love with his high school sweetheart, but if I told you more you wouldn’t need to read the book. I enjoyed the characters, their interactions, the action, the drama (and there’s a lot of drama), and the setting of Henry Adams. If you’ve read the previous books in The Blessings series, I won’t have to tell you to grab a copy of Second Time Sweeter to read. You probably already have it on your TBR list and have pre-ordered your copy. For those of you that haven’t read any of the books in The Blessings series, set aside a few evenings or weekends and begin with Bring On The Blessings and read through to Second Time Sweeter. I’m so hooked on this series that I reread it from the very first book to the latest book with each addition to the series. (Yes, I enjoy this series just that much!) Hopefully, you’ll enjoy Second Time Sweeter by Beverly Jenkins as much as I did. Happy Reading!


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the



Read an excerpt here.



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Second Time Sweeter: A Blessings Novel

Second Time Sweeter: A Blessings Novel

Second Time Sweeter :  A Blessings Novel

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Second Time Sweeter : A Blessings Novel

2018 Book 34: TEMPEST by Beverly Jenkins

Tempest (Old West #3) by Beverly Jenkins
ISBN: 9780062389046 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062389053 (ebook)
ASIN: B0713W4425 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 30, 2018 
Publisher: Avon Books


From USA Today Bestselling Author Beverly Jenkins comes a new novel in a mesmerizing series set in the Old West, where an arranged marriage becomes a grand passion . . .

What 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. 



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Regan Carmichael has an adventurous soul. When she lived with her Aunt Eddy and Uncle Rhine she drove the mail wagon locally and was always up for the next new adventure. When her sister Portia gets engaged, Regan knows that she needs to get away from home to begin her next adventure as a mail-order bride. After Portia’s wedding, Regan leaves the comfort of friends, family, and the familiar in Arizona to travel to Wyoming to marry a local doctor with a young daughter. All is going well until the wagon coach she’s traveling in is attacked by would-be robbers and Regan helps thwart their attempts by shooting at them. Moments later another group of riders approach the coach and once again Regan begins shooting. Unfortunately this time she’s shooting at the good guys and actually hits her intended. Dr. Colton Lee was expecting someone as docile and passive as his deceased wife and that’s definitely not Regan Carmichael. To say their relationship starts off on the wrong foot is a massive understatement. It continues in a downward spiral when Dr. Lee’s grandfather decides he doesn’t like Regan even before he meets her, Dr. Lee is upset to find out that Regan isn’t a virgin, her mother was a prostitute, she has opinions of her own (not to mention her own money), and she thinks that a husband and wife should share the same bedroom. The only plus in all of this is that Dr. Lee’s daughter, Anna, and his sister, Spirit, both like Regan and want her to stay. After deciding to get married for the sake of his daughter, the question becomes can they make the marriage work and become a united family or will Regan’s adventurous nature destroy their chance for marital success?

Tempest is the third book in the Old West/Rhine Fontaine series by Beverly Jenkins, aka Queen Bevy aka Slayer of Words. These books are all set in the West after the Civil War when the country was growing by leaps-and-bounds and the rights of freed Blacks and other people of color were sorely being trampled upon. Each book in this series presents historical tidbits that make me increase my TBR list by at least 2-3 books. Tempest presents historical information about the founder of Howard Medical School as well as information about germ theory in medical treatment, something radically new at the time. Tempest also presents a fiery relationship between Regan and Colton, interesting family dynamics for both Regan and Colton, details of the hard life in the West for minorities and women, and more. Ms. Jenkins can always be counted on for providing an intelligent, steamy historical romance, but she also imbues her characters with such charm and essence that they become part of the family. It has been fascinating watching Regan grow from her first presentation in Forbidden through Tempest, as well as watching the unending romance between her aunt and uncle throughout all three books. There are scoundrels, robbers, kidnappers, and more in this story and if you want to find out just what happens you’ll need to read the book. If you haven’t read Forbidden and Breathless, the first two books in this series, I strongly encourage you to grab copies of those to read along with a copy of Tempest. Seriously, if you’re into historical romance or romance you’ll want to read this series. Just in case you couldn’t tell, I enjoyed reading Tempest and am wondering if we’ll be seeing more in this series next year. I can only hope this isn’t the end of the Old West series (hint, hint). If it is, I’ll simply spend a few days next year revisiting Eddy and Rhine in Forbidden, Portia and Kent in Breathless, and Regan and Colton in Tempest to get my Old West reading fix in.


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




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2017 Book 221: CHASING DOWN A DREAM by Beverly Jenkins

Chasing Down A Dream: A Blessings Novel by Beverly Jenkins 
ISBN: 9780062412652 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062412669 (ebook)
ASIN: B01MCUOP4A (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 4, 2017 
Publisher: William Morrow 



NAACP nominee and USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins continues her beloved Blessings series with a heartwarming novel about what really makes a family.

There’s never a dull day in Henry Adams, Kansas.

Tamar July has always had a hate-hate relationship with her cousin Eula, which is why she’s shocked when Eula arrives with the news that she’s dying and wants Tamar to plan her funeral. Still, family is family, so Tamar is willing to drop everything for her. 

Meanwhile, after a horrendous storm, Gemma finds a young boy and his little sister walking on the side of the road. She takes them in and quickly falls in love with the orphaned siblings. But when Gemma contacts Social Services to try to become their foster mother, she’s told she’s not an appropriate candidate, leading to dangerous consequences. 

And in the midst of these trials, Jack and Rocky are trying to plan their wedding. The entire town comes together to lend a helping hand, and once again, Henry Adams’s irrepressible residents show that despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, families come in many forms.


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Welcome back to Henry Adams, Kansas the coolest “fictional” small town in America (in my opinion), for the eighth installment in The Blessings series by the incomparable Beverly Jenkins, with Chasing Down a Dream.

For those of you unfamiliar with Henry Adams, this town was founded by freed slaves in the late 1800s. This once prosperous town was down to a handful of residents before the current mayor, Trent July (grandson to the town’s matriarch Tamar July) put the town for sale on eBay (yes, eBay). That’s when the wealthy divorced Bernadine Brown stepped in and bought the town lock-stock-and-barrel. Over the past few years, she’s helped to rebuild the town’s infrastructure, paved roads, built a school, community recreational center, church, homes, and more. This once dying town is now a thriving small town where everyone comes together to help out the town and each other. 

Tamar July is the town matriarch and a speed demon (as evidenced by the speeding tickets she’s been accumulating lately). At 90+ years of age, she’s also wondering if her end is near as she’s recently begun having some strange dreams. The dreams begin to make sense when her cousin Eula Nance shows up, reveals she’s dying, wants to be around family near her end and wants Tamar to plan her funeral. Tamar, being Tamar, does the only thing she can do and takes her in, calls in the family. Gemma Dahl is making a new life for herself and her grandson in Henry Adams. She has a good job, a nice home, and is even going back to school to take a few business classes to give herself more opportunities for advancement. What she doesn’t expect to do is come upon two orphaned children and become a foster mother, but that’s exactly what she plans on doing until one social worker breaks up her newly enlarged family. Meanwhile, the town’s one restaurant, a diner actually, isn’t large enough and tentative plans are underway to build a slightly more upscale restaurant. Needless to say, the current restaurant’s owner isn’t really happy with that idea even though there’s more than enough business to go around. In just a few short years, Henry Adams has a world-renowned recording studio, a newly refurbished diner, a recreational center, a church, a school, a newly refurbished and historic hotel featuring one bedroom apartments upstairs and mixed-use space downstairs (a hair salon, medical clinic, and a coffee shop), a community swimming pool, a volunteer fire department, and more. Although this town is growing by leaps and bounds, there’s still plenty of drama, some from ancient feuds, some from newly minted feuds, internal and external family feuds, and more.


I love the Blessings series and Henry Adams, Kansas. Yes, this town is filled with drama, but the people are realistic with their problems, quirks, and idiosyncrasies. Some of these get worked out and some don’t, just like real life, but through it all the people of this small town work together to overcome obstacles. Ms. Beverly Jenkins has provided a wide array of themes in Chasing Down a Dream, including prejudice against past mistakes, racism (overt and covert), aging and the concept of usefulness, and family and she does it with respect for the weightiness of these issues and often a touch of humor to lighten things up. I feel as if I know the characters in this series, the women, men, and children. I can’t tell you what happens (read the book), but I was just as disappointed with Mal as others by his actions. I was a little worried at first that Tamar’s dreams might be foreshadowing her death, and I’ve got to say that I’m not ready to see Tamar die. I loved the drama around Rocky and Jack’s wedding, especially the drama caused by Jack’s cousin-in-law. I recently discussed this series with an online bookish friend and we both feel that The Blessings series are much more than just inspirational stories (no, there’s nothing wrong with being just an inspirational story); these are feel-good stories about family, community, and paying it forward (paying it forward even in the smallest way to make a difference). If you read this series, I don’t even have to tell you to grab a copy of Chasing Down a Dream because you know just how good this series is already. But just in case, go grab a copy of Chasing Down a Dream! If you haven’t read this series, you are really missing out, so go ahead and grab a copy of Chasing Down a Dream and then go back and read the previous seven titles. You can thank me later. If I hadn’t already reread this series earlier this year, I’d be re-rereading from book one, Bring on the Blessings, through book eight, Chasing Down a Dream. (Yes, I like this series just that much.) 


Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




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Chasing Down a Dream (Blessings Series #8)

Chasing Down a Dream (Blessings Series #8)

Chasing Down a Dream

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Chasing Down a Dream

Chasing down a Dream : A Blessings Novel

2017 Book #31: BREATHLESS by Beverly Jenkins

Breathless (Old West #2) by Beverly Jenkins 
ISBN: 9780062389022 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062389039 (ebook)
ASIN: B01FD9AZJ8 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 31, 2017 
Publisher: Avon Books

A strong-willed beauty finds herself in the arms of the handsome drifter from her past, in this second book in the sizzling series set in the Old West, from USA Today Bestselling Author Beverly Jenkins

As manager of one of the finest hotels in Arizona Territory, Portia Carmichael has respect and stability—qualities sorely missing from her harsh childhood. She refuses to jeopardize that by hitching herself to the wrong man. Suitors are plentiful, but none of them has ever looked quite as tempting as the family friend who just rode into town…and none has looked at her with such intensity and heat.

Duchess. That’s the nickname Kent Randolph gave Portia when she was a young girl. Now she’s a stunning, intelligent woman—and Kent has learned his share of hard lessons. After drifting through the West, he’s learned the value of a place to settle down, and in Portia’s arms he’s found that and more. But convincing her to trust him with her heart, not just her passion, will be the greatest challenge he’s known—and one he intends to win…



We were first introduced to Portia and Regan Carmichael, their aunt Eddy and her husband Rhine Fontaine in Forbidden (if you haven’t read this one, run and grab a copy today to read…seriously!). The action in Breathless takes place fifteen years after Eddy and Rhine married and Portia and Regan came to live with them. Due to hostilities in Nevada caused by Rhine’s living as a White man, the family was forced to flee Virginia City and are now living in Arizona Territory. Rhine and Eddy have a prospering hotel in the territory. Both Portia and Regan have received college educations and returned to live in Arizona with their aunt and uncle. Now in her late twenties, Portia has resigned herself to living as a spinster and is happy to be working as a bookkeeper for her uncle and assisting in the management of their hotel. Or she was happy until an old face from the past returns, the former bartender for Rhine’s saloon in Virginia City, Kent Randolph. The last time Kent saw Portia she was a somewhat standoffish twelve-year-old girl, now she is a beautiful and highly intelligent young woman and he’s definitely attracted to her. Fortunately for Portia, Kent has ample appreciation for her intelligence, independence, business acumen, and wit, not to mention her latent sensuality. To say that sparks fly between Portia and Kent is a major understatement, but will they be able to conquer the divide that separates them and build a successful relationship together?

First, if you’ve never read any of Beverly Jenkins’ historical novels and you are a romance reader, you have no idea what you are missing. These novels, including Breathless, combine great writing with amazing stories, little known Black American historical tidbits, historical locales, strong characters, plenty of intrigue and danger (no, I won’t tell you what kind of danger, read the book!), and scorching romance. Second, it was so nice reading about known and beloved characters, namely Eddy and Rhine Fontaine, and see that their romance is still going strong. It was beyond nice reading about the attraction and burgeoning romance between Portia and Kent. Ms. Jenkins always provides the perfect ratio of drama and romance to make the stories page-turners. Breathless is a historical romance with well-developed characters, plenty of personal and interpersonal drama, and sensuality that kept this reader’s eyes glued to the page. I enjoyed reading Breathless so much that I had to grab my copy of Forbidden to reread it. Just in case you couldn’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Breathless and strongly recommend it to all romance readers, especially those that enjoy historical romance. (It is possible to read Breathless without reading Forbidden, but again, I urge you to read them both.) I look forward to reading the third book in this series and until then I’ll satisfy my Beverly Jenkins historical romance needs by rereading some of her earlier stories and perhaps rereading Forbidden and Breathless (yes, they are just that good).

Disclaimer: I received a free digital advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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2016 Book 205: STEPPING TO A NEW DAY by Beverly Jenkins

Stepping to a New Day by Beverly Jenkins 
ISBN: 9780062412638 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062412645 (ebook)
ASIN: B015MOJ95A (Kindle version)
Publication Date: June 28, 2016 
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks


NAACP nominee and USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins returns to the town of Henry Adams with a story of family, friendship, love, and second chances.

In Henry Adams, Kansas, you can’t start over without stirring things up . . .

Many a good woman has had to leave a no-good man, but how many of them took a back-seat to his 600-lb. hog? On her own for the first time, Genevieve Gibbs is ecstatic, even if certain people preferred the doormat version of Ms. Gibbs. Finding someone who appreciates the “new” her has only just hit Gen’s to-do list when T.C. Barbour appears in her life. 

A tiny Kansas town is a far cry from his native Oakland, California, but it’s just the change T. C. needs. While helping his divorced nephew acclimate to single fatherhood, T. C. lands a gig driving a limo for the most powerful woman in Henry Adams. It’s a great way to meet people—and one in particular has already made the job worthwhile. All it takes is a short trip from the airport for Genevieve to snag T.C.’s attention for good. 

But it wouldn’t be Henry Adams without adding more drama to the mix. When Gen’s ex Riley returns with his hog in tow, it sets off a chain of events that can ruin everything—unless the residents pull together once again to save the day.


Imagine a small town established by freed Blacks in the 1800s. Imagine that same town in the 21st century, struggling to survive. Now imagine the town is posted on eBay and sold. The buyer is a wealthy Black American female and she’s willing to put her money up to bring this poor rural midwestern town into the 21st century. The population is growing once again, there’s a school, a recreation center, a church, a grocery store, a beauty salon, a recording studio, and more. Return to Henry Adams, Kansas in Stepping to a New Day, the latest addition in the Blessings series by acclaimed author Beverly Jenkins.

Genevieve Gibbs is a sixty-something-year-old woman finding her niche in life. She divorced her husband after he chose his hog Cletus over his wife and embezzled thousands of dollars from the monies left to her by her father. Adding insult to injury, her home had to be demolished due to the destruction wrought by her ex-husband’s favored hog. Genevieve had begun to rekindle her romance with her high-school love, but he can’t accept her new found spirit and free will. Enter the newest addition to the Henry Adams family, T.C. Barbour. T.C. had moved to Henry Adams on a temporary basis to help out his nephew. Within days he’s obtained a part-time job as a chauffeur and found that small town life isn’t as bad as he thought. T.C. has also finally decided to follow through on a promise he made to his dying wife, he’s going to learn to read. Both T.C. and Genevieve struggle with their new lives, but one area that is struggle-free is their romantic interest in one another.

Stepping to a New Day is the seventh book in the Blessings series by Ms. Jenkins. I found it to be a fast-paced and engaging read. Just in case you couldn’t tell, I really like the Blessings series and was greatly looking forward to this new addition and it did not disappoint me. Ms. Jenkins has provided a story about second chances in family, love, and life for a variety of ongoing characters, including Genevieve and T.C. We also see the ongoing struggles with the children of Henry Adams and other residents. These characters struggle with the normal day-to-day routines and more. It’s been fascinating to watch the development of this town grow from an isolated small rural community to one that is basically an extended-family scenario. It’s always a delight to read about the interactions of the Henry Adams natives, transplants, and visits from out-of-state friends and relatives. Ms. Jenkins has created a diverse, multicultural town that I’d be proud to call home. If you’ve never read any of the books in this series, then I strongly encourage you to begin reading it. Seriously, start with Bring on the Blessings and continue all the way through to Stepping to a New Day. This series provides tons of romance, family angst and drama, and highlights small town life as well as midwestern Black American history…a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy. Go, read, and enjoy! I look forward to returning to Henry Adams in the future. 


Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Beverly JenkinsAbout Beverly Jenkins

Beverly Jenkins has received numerous awards, including five Waldenbooks/Borders Group Best Sellers Awards, two Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times Magazine, and a Golden Pen Award from the Black Writer’s Guild. Ms. Jenkins was named one of the Top Fifty Favorite African-American writers of the 20th century by AABLC, the nation’s largest on-line African-American book club. She was recently nominated for the NAACP Image Award in Literature.


Find out more about Beverly at her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter



This review is part of a TLC Book Tour.



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