Listen, I don’t want to point fingers and assign blame, but I must get this off my chest. Beverly Jenkins has caused me a lot of sleepless nights this year. At the end of 2021, as I was looking back at my reading over the course of the year, I was also thinking about making a reading resolution, one that went a little bit beyond setting a reading goal on Goodreads. I decided to focus a part of this year on reading Ms. Bev’s extensive historical romance backlist. I had already read 8 of her historical romance titles previously and there were 19 left to read, which included her newest release that came out in August of this year. I figured I could parse them out over the course of several months, doing a couple per month.
Herein lies the crux of the problem. Much like a can of Pringles (once you pop, you can’t stop!), once I start a Ms. Bev book, there is no way I can just stop reading it until the very last word. Her books are so engrossing and captivating and she just immerses you in the world she creates, with her fascinating and bold characters and the way she weaves real-life history through the narrative in a way that feels so incredibly organic to the story. Hence me spending much of this year reading her words late into the night and you know what? ZERO REGRETS.
If you are familiar with Ms. Bev and her body of work, you might have suggested I attack this plan by going in order of publication, but alas, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll note I approached this goal with the mindset of a total chaos monster. I had jotted down the titles and aside from bundling Breathless and Tempest in the first month and reading the Women Who Dare series in order, I dived into the titles without a second thought as to series order or chronological publication order. I will definitely be rereading some of these titles again and now, knowing what I know, I have a much better understanding of how to arrange the reading order in a way that feels more organized and cohesive. That being said, having read these 19 books (2 of them are novellas) in the chaotic manner that I did, did not take anything away from the experience. I enjoyed them all and loved the fact that every month, I got to dive into a book set in, as I like to term it, the Beverly Jenkins Multiverse.
From January to September, these are the books I read, in the order that I read them. In parenthesis is the year the book was published:
- Breathless (2017)
- Tempest (2018)
- Night Song (1994)
- Indigo (1996)
- Always and Forever (2000)
- Before the Dawn (2001)
- Midnight (2010)
- Winds of the Storm (2006)
- Something Like Love (2005)
- Topaz (1997)
- Rebel (2019)
- Wild Rain (2021)
- Prisoner of Love (novella) (2013)
- To Catch a Raven (2022)
- Wild Sweet Love (2007)
- Captured (2009)
- Homecoming (novella) (2002)
- Through the Storm (1998)
- The Taming of Jessi Rose (1999)
I don’t want to take up anyone’s time reviewing each and every book here. I thought what I might do instead is a list of overall general takeaways from the books, to give you a sense of what her books are like and furthermore, what about them speaks to me in particular. I also tweeted about the books on Twitter – you can find my thread of all the books listed in this post along with a brief description of each.
- Heroines: Ms. Bev writes some of the most fierce and feisty heroines I’ve ever read in any historical romance. Truth be told, there isn’t a single Ms. Bev historical I’ve read where I didn’t absolutely love the heroine. There are no wilting lilies or wallflower debutantes, waiting for their hero to come rescue them. More often than not, as is the case in Winds of the Storm, the story kicks off with the heroine coming to the rescue of the hero. They can cook and clean and keep house and they can hunt and ride and shoot, as well as leading runaway slaves to safety and running cons on men of unimaginable wealth and power. They are business owners and teachers, bankers and town mayors, runaway slaves, and outlaws. Her most recent book, To Catch a Raven, even features a grifter heroine whose mission is to reclaim the stolen Declaration of Independence. They run the gamut from sophisticated city dwellers like Kate in Topaz to ranchers in the wild west, like Jessi in The Taming of Jessi Rose. They are strong and outspoken, driven and fearless, and know just how to go toe to toe with the men they love.
- Heroes: I looked through her books and the year of the publication and then looked at my reviews and it’s interesting but also unsurprising that I love the heroes in her later books much more. I found some consent issues between Cara Lee and Chase in the first book, Night Song, published all the way back in 1994 as well as my personal favorite, Indigo, which was published just two years later. As much as I love Galen, there’s a very pivotal moment in the book where he takes away Hester’s agency that feels very uncomfortable. And Ryder in Before the Dawn, published in 2001, seems a little too judgmental and overly critical of what he believes to be Leah’s loose morals and seemingly gold digger ways. But those heroes give way to Garrett in Wild Rain which came out just last year and features maybe the softest and gentlest of Ms. Bev’s heroes. Her heroes also span a wide range of backgrounds and professions, from outlaws and bank robbers to lawmen and doctors to businessmen and privateers. They give as good as they get, strong enough to match wits with their bold and fearless love interests. They are both tough and tender, alpha heroes with hearts of gold willing to do whatever it takes to take care of the women they love.
- Tropes: Having now read all 27 of Ms. Bev’s historical romances, I can confidently say that there is literally a book for everyone in her back catalog. You want spies in the American Revolution? Try Midnight. Maybe a road trip romance is more your jam? Check out Always and Forever. Want a book about a mail-order bride traveling hundreds of miles west to meet her intended groom, a virtual stranger to her? Tempest has you covered (btw, when Regan finally lays eyes on her intended spouse, she shoots him and then gets righteously upset when he refuses to accept her apology!). Or perhaps you’re into the classic good girl falls for a bad boy trope in which case, let me suggest Something Like Love, featuring a romance where seamstress turned mayor Olivia falls for outlaw Neil…after he robs her on the train. Ms. Bev even got me to like a book that involved cheating (off page and in the past) with the novella, Homecoming. There’s enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, second chance, you name it, Ms. Bev has written it (and if she hasn’t, give her time, she is probably working on it).
- Community: One of my favorite aspects of Ms. Bev’s writing is the strong sense of community and found family she cultivates in a lot of her books. This is especially true in the books that take place in the West and also the books that take place in New Orleans. Breathless as well as the LeVeq books, particularly, Rebel and Through the Storm do this so well, with their families and members of the surrounding community rising up to protect them and support them when they need it. The way these people rally around the central characters is a heartwarming depiction of the power of neighborly love. This also speaks to the way that a lot of these books are interconnected and beloved characters keep showing up in multiple books.
- History: I know most people probably don’t read romances, historical or otherwise, for educational purposes. But a bonus feature of Ms. Bev’s brand of storytelling is the way she weaves in facts of historical significance within the narrative of the book and does it in a way that feels so natural to the story she’s telling as opposed to making it feel like a classroom lecture. And then, she brings the receipts, dropping the details of her research in her expansive Author’s Notes, along with a list of titles in case the reader wants to learn more. I don’t say this lightly – I have learned more about our country’s history from Ms. Bev’s historical romances than I have from any of my history classes. Take for example, Captured, featuring a romance between a privateer and slave, in which I learned about the contributions made by people of African descent during the American Revolution. Likewise, Wild Sweet Love features Ms. Bev’s only female outlaw as the heroine and her Author’s Note mentions Belle Starr, one of the most famous female outlaws in the Old West.
- Sex: I’m not ashamed to say that I prefer my romances with high heat. To that end, Ms. Bev delivers and then some. Her characters are not afraid to get down and dirty. They have sex in the bedroom and on wagons, on kitchen floors, and in the middle of nature. And aside from her first few books leaning heavily on the virtuous, virginal heroine trope, I’m glad to report she’s mostly gotten away from that, giving us heroines who are sometimes a bit more experienced and know what they want and aren’t afraid to ask for it. One of her steamiest books is actually a novella called Prisoner of Love, a 78 page novella that includes something like 4 very detailed love scenes in it. Let me clarify, this is not a complaint. Jordan and Elizabeth go from a marriage of convenience to a very lusty and passionate marriage and I am here for all of that.
I know this is a very cursory overview of Beverly Jenkins’ historical romance backlog but I hope I’ve managed to convey just how unputdownable and addictive and engrossing her books are. There is a reason why she is one of the most beloved and popular authors writing in the romance genre today. For the past 9 months, I got to immerse myself in historical cross-country road trips and in the Old West and sailing the high seas, and in the hustle and bustle of post-Civil War New Orleans. It was a wild and epic adventure and I already can’t wait for her next historical romance to be released. But until then, I know I’ll be revisiting many of those stories time and again. If you’ve never picked up one of her books, I highly recommend them. They’re great reads with fantastic characters and action-packed plots, sexy and tender and sweet all at the same time. But just a word of warning when you do – you’re probably in for a sleepless night as well.