I’ve long had a soft spot for Beverly Jenkins’ historicals. She tends to put a lot more history into the romance than many authors, and one could never accuse her of writing wallpaper. With Destiny’s Embrace, she starts a new series in 19th century California with a romance between two very strong-minded people who have to learn how to get along with each other before they can fall in love.
Before Mariah Cooper can even get to California, she needs to learn how to stand up to her abusive mother. Mariah’s mother owns a dress shop in Philadelphia, and spends her time stealing Mariah’s ideas, belittling her, and sometimes getting physically abusive. Mariah has known no life other than that under her mother’s rule, but finally things go too far even for Mariah to stand, and she flees to the home of her mother’s estranged sister. The aunt thankfully welcomes Mariah with open arms and helps her build a little backbone. She also finds a job for Mariah as housekeeper on a ranch in California.
Fearful she might not be hired otherwise, Mariah represents herself as a respectable widow and gets the job. She takes the long trip out to northern California and upon arriving at the ranch, learns that her employer, Logan Yates, is none too happy to have a woman with ideas of her own telling him how his house needs to be put in order. And yet he finds himself doing all the things that Mariah told him were needed.
Mariah and Logan both have strong wills. Mariah sometimes wavers, but given her background, that’s easily understandable. After reading about her treatment in Philadelphia, I was concerned we would see even more doormat-like behavior from her, so I found the story of her coming into her own out in California every bit as refreshing as the romance.
Given that both lead characters have their own stubborn bents, this could easily have turned into a curl-tossing flouncefest as each tries to show the other who’s going to be the boss of this relationship. I am sooo thankful that Jenkins did not go there. Do Logan and Mariah bicker? Oh yes. However, even though they argued and even argued over things I as a reader found a little tiresome, I could easily forgive it because I could see them growing as friends and as a couple with each passing chapter.
As much as I loved the historical detail, the one weakness in this story for me were the occasional infodumps. I’ve been reading Jenkins’ books for years, and I get the feeling that sometimes she finds out so many cool things in her research that she just can’t resist sharing them with the reader. And this sometimes results in awkward dumps of information. However, I will say that in this book, the info dumps pop up with much less frequency than in some of the her earlier works. By and large, the historical detail is worked in far more naturally this time around – though if you just can’t stand infodumps, you might want to skip Mariah’s train ride to California near the beginning of the story.
Even though some of the events in this book are a little on the unbelievable side, it’s fun to read. The lead characters have a well-developed tension between them and watching them fall in love was a delight. I always learn something new about history when I read Beverly Jenkins and I almost always enjoy the characters she creates. This story was no exception, and hopefully I’ll be in for even more treats when Logan’s brothers get their stories.