I think the first romance book I ever read was a historical romance. This was back in the 1980’s when many covers featured a bodice-ripping Fabio with an overwrought damsel-in-distress. I don’t remember any particular titles, but I do know that most of the books I read were written by Johanna Lindsey and Catherine Coulter. It may have seemed strange that someone like me could have found those books so entertaining. It’s not like I could identify with the characters. They were from another time and place, and let’s face it, did not look like me AT ALL.
Fast forward to the mid-1990’s on a typical day when I was doing what I love best…book shopping. I saw a book that stopped me dead in my tracks. I had to do a double, maybe even a triple take before I slowly approached it, and touched it to see if it was real. Yes, it was real alright. What was it? A historical romance with African-Americans on the cover – a Black man and a Black woman, like me. Needless to say, I bought it and couldn’t get home fast enough to read it. That book was “Night Song” by the incomparable Beverly Jenkins.
“Night Song” was the first historical romance that did not feature a Scottish rogue from the Highlands, a Viking warrior from Norway, or an incorrigible yet lovable rake of an English duke. No, the hero was Chase Jefferson, Sergeant of the Tenth Calvary, also known as the Buffalo Soldiers. He was just as hot and dashing as any other romantic hero, and I still love him to this day, but I digress. It was also the first historical romance that actually provided facts about the time period in which the story occurred, in this case, post-Civil War. This book, as well as all of Beverly Jenkins’ historicals, is the best of both worlds – you get a l’il bit of lovin’ and a l’il bit of learnin’.
If you’re not familiar with Ms. Jenkins’ books, I’ll let you in on a little secret – her characters like to appear in each other’s stories. And if you’re really savvy, you’ll notice that the descendants from the historicals are in her contemporary novels as well. Don’t worry, these books are stand-alones, but it’s really fun to recognize the names of some of the more infamous characters – the July family comes to mind.
Beverly Jenkins set a trail ablaze in this genre and there are a few writers on her path. Roberta Gayle’s “Moonrise” is a historical romance set in New Orleans and Altonya Washington’s “Passion’s Furies” is set in 1860’s Charleston.
Two authors with more recent releases that I’ll be reviewing in the next few weeks are Kianna Alexander with the multicultural The Roses of Ridgeway trilogy – “Kissing the Captain,” “The Preacher’s Paramour,” and “Loving the Lawman” – and Piper Huguley with her inspirational Home to Milford College series which currently includes “A Lawyer’s Luck” and “The Preacher’s Promise.”
What are some of your favorite historical romance books or authors? I’m always open to suggestions. 🙂