Listed as an honorable mention for Beverly Jenkins in NPR’s recent 100 recommended romances list, I gave Topaz a try as it covers two bases I haven’t much encountered: Westerns and African-American hero/ines. All things considered, I liked Topaz very much; though, admittedly, I found the prose to be lacking in sophistication (which is what knocks off the fifth star.) Still, Jenkins obviously has her finger on the pulse of what makes a romance successful.
Katherine Love is a newspaper reporter in the late 19th century, writing for a predominantly black publication under a pseudonym to obscure from readers that she is a woman (her editor knows.) She’s on assignment to gather evidence of corruption in the enterprise of a well known black entrepreneur in Chicago. But her plan goes sideways, and before she knows it, she’s being rescued from an unwanted wedding to said corrupt businessman by Dixon Wildhorse, a Black Seminole deputy marshall who patrols the Indian Territory around Kansas City.
Little does Katherine know that Dix is there to rescue her because of an agreement he made with her father: in exchange for Katherine’s hand in marriage, Dix won’t put Bart Love on trial for the hanging offense of stealing his herd of cattle. As Katherine had never planned on marrying anyone, she’s miffed that she has just escaped one marriage only to enter another, but she agrees to do so to save her father. Thus, the two embark on a marriage of convenience that takes them on a wagon train through the Territories and ends in the Wild, Wild West (or so it is to Katherine, who is East Cost city-born and raised.)
The story is good, marriages of convenience are GREAT, and Dixon Wildhorse is flawless. On top of being a solid romance, there are some history lessons here, which are a little bit infodump-y but interesting nonetheless. Overall, if the four stars weren’t an indicator enough, this is recommended.