Saturday, October 12, 2019

Rebel and Captured by Beverly Jenkins

When I pick up a Beverly Jenkins romance I personally go in ready to learn something new about Black history. I think romance is such a good medium for exploring the perseverance of Black people in America; because it shows that despite all the suffering it's possible to carve out your own happiness in the face of injustice. I've always been reluctant to encounter stories about Black people in American history because of all the visceral pain, I feel like Jenkins books let me confront the past while also getting a happy ending.

I've heard Jenkins make a point about how history acts like after slavery, Black people disappeared until the 1960s. Rebel and Captured filled in some of those historical gaps and opened my eyes to the varied experiences of people of color in America's past.

Rebel takes place in antebellum New Orleans, where Valinda--a Northern woman born free--has come down South to teach newly freed slaves to read and write. Her dreams are smashed when her schoolhouse is destroyed by wayward soldiers. When the soldiers come after Valinda she is rescued by Drake LeVeq, a dashing architect and son of the prominent LeVeq family.

Valinda is taken in by the upper-class LeVeq family and the book follows her as she and Drake use their resources and privilege to help former slaves adjust to freedom. Race relations are taught and there is violence and danger at every turn, Throughout the hardships, Drake and Valinda find an unbreakable bond.

Throughout the book, Drake references his family's pirate heritage and the whole time I was like..."This sounds like the synopsis of another one of Jenkins books",  so I went on her website and realized this series chronicles the ancestors of the characters in her 2009 book Captured. Once I finished Rebel I grabbed Captured from the library. I've literally always wanted to read this book, I have a vivid memory of seeing this cover in Borders and the idea of a swashbuckling Black pirate rescuing a slave woman and bring her to freedom is an intriguing premise.

When gentlemen pirate Domonic LeVeq learn his French father's family wants to illegally enslave the people of a Martinique plantation he spirts the workers away to freedom. A year later he does the same for enslaved Clare Sullivan when he steals her away from a ship taking her and her masters home. Clare is becomes immersed in Domonic's life of piracy and finds friends among his diverse crew.

Again the highlights for me in this book was the history and learning about how Black people navigated the world on the brink of the Revolutionary War. It's not always easy to handle the horrors of chattel slavery that are central to this book, but Jenkins balances it us by creating a paradise for her characters in a satisfying way.

There is one character Yves who has just a major character arc in just a few pages. Does he show up in other books? Inquiring minds.

I've been dabbling in Jenkins books for a while reading a few chapters here and there.  I feel like her older books are filled with more daring escapades (and are certainly steamier) than her more current ones. Her newer books feel more domestic.

The New Orleans Leveq family first appears in Through The Storm which came out in 1998. Seriously how do her OG fans wait so long  ???

I like the cover of Captured but the models don't really match the characters. Clare is Ethiopian and has short hair and Dominic is bi-racial with long curly hair.

I often get the rep-sweats whenever a Black character shows up in a white-centric Regency because it often feels like the author goes out of the way to make sure we understand the main characters are the "good" White people. In Captured there are a few White people in Clare's life who are sympathetic and see her as human, but there is also this understanding that no matter how well-meaning-- they are still ultimately products of their privileged and biased upbringing...making them complicit.

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