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A Q&A with Beverly Jenkins, Author of FORBIDDEN (with a review and giveaway!)

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Beverly, please tell us a bit about the new book and series.

The book is titled: Forbidden and is set in 1875 Virginia City Nevada. Our hero, Rhine Fontaine is a saloon owner and a pillar of the community. Our heroine Eddy Carmichael is a cook from Denver and is traveling to California to fulfill a dream of opening her own restaurant when things go awry. She is robbed by a man impersonating a priest and left to die in the desert. Rhine finds her. Books 2 and 3 will focus on Eddy’s nieces Portia and Regan.

 

Did you do anything different with your research this time around?

I didn’t do anything out of the norm for me.  A recently conducted archeological dig in Virginia City unearthed the remains of a high end 1870s saloon founded by a man of color. It, like many of the city’s other business establishments  was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1875. I based Rhine’s saloon on that real saloon.

 

What about the Wild West called you?

Who doesn’t like the scope and sweep of the Wild West? I’ve written quite a few westerns. That I get to add to the standard lore stories about men and women who looked like me along with the Buffalo Soldiers, the all Black townships of Kansas and the black and the brown outlaws and lawmen of Indian Territory makes it even more of a blast.

 

Who did you have more of a connection with while writing, the hero or the heroine?

It depends on the story. Sometimes the story belongs to the hero and at other times the heroines. It can also belong to both. I let the characters decide.

 

Can you share a small teaser from your favorite scene of the book, or describe your favorite scene?

Eddy awakened in a four-poster in a large room barely lit by a turned down lamp. Having no idea where she was or how she came to be there, she shook the cobwebs dulling her thinking and noticed she was wearing a man’s shirt! Perplexed, her eyes moved around the room to a well-appointed sitting area and then to the face of a White man watching her from one of the chairs. Panic flared. She snatched the blanket to her neck and she drew back fearfully.

     “Don’t be afraid. You’re safe. I’m Rhine Fontaine. My friend Jim and I found you in the desert.”

Confused, she tried to force herself to calm down so she could make some sense of this, but she couldn’t. Watching him warily, she asked, “Where am I?” Her throat was dry as sand. She wanted water badly, but needed to solve the mystery of this first.

“Virginia City.”

“And this place is?”

“My bedroom.”

Her eyes went wide. “I need to go, I can’t stay here.”

“Maybe in a few days, but right now—”

Alarmed, she didn’t let him finish. She swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her mind was so foggy she wasn’t sure what was happening, but she knew she had to get away.

He stood and said urgently, “No! You’ll fall!”

He was right. The moment she stood, she was hit by a wave of weakness so strong her legs folded as if they were made of cards. She cried out involuntarily as she hit the floor.

He walked over to her. “As I said, maybe in a few days. Are you okay?”

Drawing away again, she looked up and recognized the face of the man from her dream. She stilled. Had it been a dream? “I’ll scream!”

He sighed. “If you feel that’s necessary, go right ahead, but I’m not going to hurt you—in any way. When you’re done, I can help you back into bed, or carry you to the facilities, whichever you’d prefer.”

Heated embarrassment burned her cheeks. Her needs were not something she talked about to a stranger, and especially not a White man stranger. “I can walk.”

“No, you can’t, but if you want to try, I’ll wait.”

At that moment she saw her bare legs sticking out from beneath the long-tailed shirt, and also realized she had on no underthings! Not drawers. No shift. As quickly as her weakened state allowed, she reached up and pulled the blanket down. Ignoring him as best she could, she covered her bare legs. This was getting worse and worse.

“As I said, my name’s Rhine. And yours?”

“Eddy. Eddy Carmichael.”

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Carmichael. You gave my partner Jim and me quite a scare out there in the desert, but I’m pleased to see you are recovering.”

Then her muddled brain remembered Jack Nash’s perfidy and her walk across the desert, but nothing else. “How long have I been here?”

“Four or five hours.”

Lord, she was thirsty. “May I have some water please?” she croaked. She felt so weak. It was not a state she was accustomed to.

He poured her a glass from a pitcher on the nightstand and handed it to her. “Slowly,” he advised softly. “Just a little for now.”

She nodded and took a few short swallows. The water tasted so good and she was so thirsty she wanted to down the entire offering, but heeding his advice, she took only a few more slow pulls. Done, she handed the glass back and her parched throat savored the relief. “Why am I so weak?”

“Walking the Forty Mile Desert under a full sun takes its toll. So, Miss Eddy—facilities or back to bed?”

She hated to admit it but she really needed choice number one. Thoroughly scandalized, she confessed softly, “The facilities, but I can walk. Just point me in the right direction.” Looking around, she didn’t see a screen of any kind.

“It’s at the end of the hallway.”

“Oh,” she said disappointedly. Still bent on getting there under her own power, though, she wrestled with the blanket in an attempt to fashion it around her waist. Trying to get it out from under her hips and secured without treating him to another show of her legs was a struggle, however. He’d seen more of them than any man ever before.

“Do you want to go today?” he asked in a tone of muted amusement.

She shot him a glare. Reasonably certain the blanket was secured, she said, “Yes.” Now she just had to get up. No small task. The fullness of the blanket made it difficult to get her feet planted so she could stand. She decided she’d use the side of the bed to give her the leverage she needed. She scooted closer.

“You always this stubborn, Miss Carmichael?”

“It’s called determination, Mr. Fontaine.”

“I stand corrected.”

Giving him another withering glare, she grabbed hold of the bed’s wooden side panel and began working herself to her knees. She made a bit of progress, but her weakened state conspired against her efforts. Refusing to surrender and breathing harshly, she slowly inched herself to a standing position, careful not to get her feet fouled by the swath of blanket, and promptly keeled face forward onto the mattress.

Chuckling softly, he picked her up from behind and placed her gently into the cradle of his strong arms. He smiled softly. “It’s called stubbornness.”

Rolling her eyes, she allowed herself to be carried from the room.

 

What is next for you?  What are you working on now?

Next up for me is the June debut of the 7th book in my Blessings series which is women’s fiction. The title: Stepping To A New Day. I’m presently working on Portia’s story which I hope will be out in the fall.

 

Thank you for taking the time to talk about FORBIDDEN.

Thanks so much for this opportunity to meet you and your readers.

 

Ms. Jenkins is the nation’s premier writer of African American historical romance fiction and specializes in 19th century African American life. She has over thirty published novels to date.                                                                                                                                                                                                      She has received numerous awards, including: five Waldenbooks/Borders Group Best Sellers Awards; two Career Achievement Awards and a Pioneer Award from Romantic Times Magazine; a Golden Pen Award from the Black Writer’s Guild, and in 1999 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 has also been featured in many national publications, including the Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, Dallas Morning News and Vibe Magazine. She has lectured and given talks at such prestigious universities as Oberlin University, the University of Illinois, and Princeton. She speaks widely on both romance and 19th century African-American history and was the 2014 featured speaker for the W.W. Law Lecture Series sponsored by the Savannah Black Heritage Festival.

 

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FORBIDDEN
Beverly Jenkins
Releasing on January 26, 2016
Avon 

 USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins returns with the first book in a breathtaking new series set in the Old West

Rhine Fontaine is building the successful life he’s always dreamed of—one that depends upon him passing for White. But for the first time in years, he wishes he could step out from behind the façade. The reason: Eddy Carmichael, the young woman he rescued in the desert. Outspoken, defiant, and beautiful, Eddy tempts Rhine in ways that could cost him everything . . . and the price seems worth paying.

Eddy owes her life to Rhine, but she won’t risk her heart for him. As soon as she’s saved enough money from her cooking, she’ll leave this Nevada town and move to California. No matter how handsome he is, no matter how fiery the heat between them, Rhine will never be hers. Giving in for just one night might quench this longing. Or it might ignite an affair as reckless and irresistible as it is forbidden . . .

 

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Rhine Fontaine, the hero of Forbidden, the light-skinned and green-eyed son of a slave and her master, made the decision to pass as white when he moved west after serving in the Civil War. He’s carved out a very successful life for himself in Virginia City, Nevada, and is making a real difference for the people there–especially the people of color–as a white person. Only his business partner at his saloon (the only one in town that allows African American patrons–which essentially means no whites spend time there) knows the truth of his heritage. He’s content with his life and planning on marrying the only daughter of a prominent family–he doesn’t love her, but then he’s had very little experience with romantic love–until he finds and rescues Eddy Carmichael out in the desert.

Eddy’s a strong heroine–she’s determined to make it to California, where she’s planning on working hard until she can eventually afford to buy her own restaurant. She’s already had her hard-earned train ticket from Denver to San Francisco stolen, but managed to make her way to Utah working as a mule team driver. When she trusts the wrong person to get her as far as Nevada, though, she ends up robbed and left for dead out in the middle of nowhere. Rescued by Rhine and Jim, his partner, she feels an almost immediate pull to Rhine but resists, knowing a relationship between them is forbidden. The chances that a white man would want a respectable relationship with her are pretty much nil anyway; and she has too much respect for herself to settle for anything less. Besides, Eddy’s focused on earning enough money to make it the rest of the way to California.

Though I understand why Rhine kept his secret for so long–before Eddy burst onto the scene he never intended to reveal the truth, and really, once he’d made the decision going back on it would completely change his life so I don’t blame him for that–it did bother me that he let things go so far with Eddy without at least telling her the truth first. That he let her be so conflicted about their relationship for so long just rubbed me the wrong way–he knew she wouldn’t be his mistress, and she came right out and told him on multiple occasions that if she let herself fall for him he’d break her heart when he moved on to someone “suitable”. I had a tremendous amount of respect for her standing up to him like that, over and over. He was the one with all the power–even more so than in a typical 1870s male/female relationship that didn’t deal with (perceived) race differences–and he came on pretty strong, both in private and in public, which put her in a very difficult position.

All’s well that ends well, though–Eddy and Rhine get their HEA, and the book’s setting and characters make for entertaining reading. I’m definitely interested in seeing where this series is going in the future.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars / C+

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

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