Through the Storm
Rebel Spies, royal ancestors, and a marriage of convenience. Sounds like a typical romance! Beverly Jenkins’s Through the Storm also has a surprising twist – the hero and heroine are black. Other than the characters’ color, Jenkins follows a conventional “Big Misunderstanding/Marriage of Convenience” plot line, adding a few twists. I liked the interactions between the characters but I did not like the way Jenkins presented historical facts.
Sable Fontaine was born a slave on a southern plantation. Her mother was repeatedly raped by her owner, so Sable and her brother are mulatto (half white and half black). Upon the death of her wise aunt, Sable discovers she is born of a long line of African queens. After Sherman’s army ruins the Fontaine plantation and Sable is sold to a new, cruel owner, Sable gathers her courage and heads North toward freedom. She meets with Harriet Tubman (called Araminta in the novel), and finds herself at a contraband camp (a place for former slaves to start their new lives).
Raimond Le Veq is the Major in charge of the contraband camp. He is immediately attracted to Sable’s green eyes and copper skin, and tries to help her survive the harsh life of the camp. Raimond courts Sable, and finds her as innocent as he hopes. The pair fall in love. However, Sable’s cruel owner follows her to the camp and tries to steal her back. Raimond protects her, but one night she is forced to escape, “borrowing” some of Raimond’s money to pay for her passage North.
This accounts for the big misunderstanding portion of the book, which occurs when the pair meet again in New Orleans. Sable befriends Raimond’s mother and four brothers. Unbeknownst to Raimond, his mother chooses Sable as his bride, and the pair marry. This is truly a family book, with lots of characters (and lots of opportunity for sequels). I liked Raimond’s family a lot, as well as Sable’s brother who appeared for a short while, early in the book.
However, instead of weaving important historical events and characters into the story, I found myself reading passages that seemed too reminiscent of my high school American history textbook. A strong historical context is essential to a good historical romance novel, but Jenkins seemed to climb on a soapbox at times, bombarding me with paragraphs of historical facts. A lot of this information was unnecessary, and it drew away from the romance of Sable and Raimond’s story.
If you can tolerate reading “everything you ever wanted to know about the end of slavery” between the passages of a straightforward romance, you might like Through the Storm, but I prefer to have history in smaller doses that don’t distract so much from the narrative.