Topaz links Katherine Love and Dix Wildhorse. Katherine wears the gemstone – her mother’s legacy – around her neck. Dix wears his grandfather’s legacies in one ear and on his badge as a U.S. Marshal. They meet when he rescues her from the clutches of Rupert Samuels, swindler, thief, and all-round bad guy masquerading as a pillar of society. Why does he rescue her, you may ask? Seems her father stole Dix’s cattle and sold them while Dix was on the job. Rather than go to jail, he instead convinces Dix to accept Katherine as his wife. Two problems, though. Rupert has caught Katherine trying to get the goods on him and now he and his wicked mother plan to force her to marry him, then shuttle her off to an insane asylum. After Dix rescues her from the altar, he must contend with Katherine’s being one independent woman, a journalist who must write under a man’s name, a woman who doesn’t take kindly to being given to Dix.
If you think from this set-up you will encounter one alpha male and one feisty heroine, you will be wrong. While Dix is strong and arrogant about his masculinity, he is also most reasonable and accepting of change. And while Katherine is fierce in her independence, she is smart, rational, and does not get herself into predicaments as do many “feisty” heroines. Oh, and did I mention that Katherine is black and Dix is half Seminole Indian, half black?
This is important only in that I learned more about American history by reading this book than by reading twenty other western romances combined. The author weaves together pre-Civil War black, Indian, and black-Indian history, in order to provide a foundation for the conditions encountered by post-war blacks and Indians. While sometimes the historical information detracted from the narrative, the usefulness of the lessons learned evened things out.
Katherine and Dix are convinced their union is only temporary – how many lasting marriages begin in a brothel? The wedding scene is just one of many humorous circumstances set up by the author. Katherine shakes up the small western town she and Dix settle in with her “Eastern city” ideas of equality for women. When she and the other town women withhold their favors from the menfolk in order to convince them to allow women more rights, I was laughing out loud. Later, when Katherine and Dix give in to their passion, I found their union quite luscious. And when I read the scene that takes place the next day where all the women meet to discuss things, I was LOL, reminded of Jerry Seinfeld’s classic episode about no longer being “master of his domain.”
Both Katherine and Dix come to love the other fairly early on, but don’t spill the beans until much later. Dix is afraid Katherine will leave him to go back East and swears he won’t give his heart only to have it broken. Katherine is convinced Dix is only in lust, even when the townswomen, including those once jealous of her for landing Dix, tell her he loves her. They may not speak the words, but they live them, each caring for the other in supportive ways.
While the two share incredible passion, they are also friends, and that is delightful to see. . . up to a point. This book, while certainly never dull, lacks non-sexual oomph between the two lead characters. Author Jenkins substitutes action and small-town western life instead, which makes Topaz part road romance and part a slice of Americana.
This is a book I recommend with qualifications. Some readers might find the history heavy-handed, although this reviewer, who generally likes history in very small doses, found the lessons learned definitely worth it. And some readers might miss conflict between Katherine and Dix, although their love scenes certainly are passion-filled. Overall, however, the humor, the slice of Western life, and the good-natured souls of the lead characters make this a good read.