Avon / January 29, 2013 / $7.99 print & digital
Gentleman Seeks Housekeeper. Must be willing to travel.
Desperate for another life away from Philadelphia, headstrong and beautiful Mariah Cooper answers an advertisement for a housekeeper at the other end of the continent. Waiting in California is the most breathtaking—and arrogant—man she has ever met . . . and he'd like nothing better than for Mariah to go back home!
Logan Yates has run Destiny, the family ranch, since he was a boy. He doesn't need this Eastern miss his stepmother hired, though his home's chaotic state suggests otherwise. Still, he's secretly pleased that Mariah gives as good as she gets—and he must fight the urge to take her in his arms and kiss her whenever she proudly stands her ground. But when he's in danger of losing her, Logan will have to choose between pride . . . and his heart's true desire.
Mariah Cooper, the heroine of Beverly Jenkins latest historical romance, Destiny's Embrace, is a woman who has yet to truly live. She's 30 and chained to her mother's dress shop in Philadelphia. Life hasn't been easy for her; her father passed when she was a toddler, leaving her to grow up under her strict and unloving mother's thumb. Teased as a child by most of the neighborhood children for her unusual eye color and without a healthy support system at home, Mariah's optimistic approach that things will get better has served her well. That outlook on life allowed her to survive her circumstances without being browbeaten into cynicism and despair.
Following a vicious fight with her mother and the revelation of some painful facts about her family, Mariah decides to take a job in California as a maid on a ranch. There, she meets the hero of the story, Logan Yates, who is also owner of the ranch where she's gotten her job. They don't hit it off well in the beginning at all. There's an attraction, but the two characters are so obstinate that sparks aren't the only things that fly the day they meet.
Something that I really enjoyed about this novel was the author’s entertaining way of writing the hero and heroine's bickering. Often I am wary of too many verbal altercations between the main characters as they fall in love, because the scenes either begin feeling monotonous or the writing becomes heavy-handed, showing the hero as an arrogant alpha male needing to dominate, or the heroine fighting the hero for no reason other than to remind the reader that she's willful and headstrong. Too many of those types of scenes and I start thinking of it as a running joke. There were several times while I read the book where I chuckled out loud or nodded at a scene as I could totally envision it playing out in front of me.
Another aspect of the book that worked is the two main protagonists are inherently good people. While secrets and lies unfold throughout the book, there's no malicious deception that hangs between the characters for long. There's no mystery to solve and no deep dark secret waiting to destroy their burgeoning love. The issues that are between them are more internal than external. He's been independent and wary of the commitment marriage would entail, so he's happy to have his mistress to visit when he needs intimacy. Mariah is basically a spinster who wants all the things she didn't have growing up and she'll only be involved with a man who wants marriage and a family. I found it easy to relate to the struggle Mariah has with herself wanting Logan yet resisting becoming his mistress because her desire for the loving family she lacked growing up is so strong.
I haven’t read many historical novels featuring Black characters as leads. My previous experiences made me wary because of the tendency of those authors to write in broken English and slave lingo with a side of voodoo mysticism if the book was set in the Caribbean or South. I was incredibly happy not to see that in Destiny’s Embrace.
From my previous column about reasons why there are readers who won’t or are reluctant to read romance novels with people of color as leads, one of the reasons mentioned was the dialect was too difficult or not understood. With Destiny’s Embrace, that is not a problem. Mariah and Logan are appealing characters in a sweet love story, thus I would encourage all readers to check out this novel, as it is a highly entertaining traditional romance.
Miss_D has been reading romance books for over 25 years. A native Californian making her way in the Big Apple, she likes to spend her downtime relaxing in front of the TV, chatting with friends, sitting in Central Park and playing beach volleyball. Miss D can be reached via Twitter @bonobochick.