A biracial saloon owner hides his heritage after the Civil War but can’t bring himself to marry a spoiled white woman instead of the strong African-American woman who’s taken his fancy.
Jenkins (Homecoming, 2015, etc.) explores the years after the Civil War with the story of Rhine Fontaine, the son of a white plantation owner and the enslaved descendant of African queens. Rhine’s light skin and green eyes allow him to pass as white, and he rises to prominence in the town of Virginia City, Nevada. He’s a man of property, a rising local politician, and he’s engaged to be married to a beautiful white socialite. Only his business partner and his half brother know the truth about his parentage. When Rhine comes upon an African-American woman who's been robbed and left to die in the desert outside town, he brings her back to Virginia City, nurses her back to health, and helps her find a job cooking at a local boardinghouse. Eddy Carmichael’s cooking may be divine, but she's spent much of her life scrubbing floors to avoid ending up a prostitute like her younger sister. She’s thrilled by the new job and determined to save up money to open her own restaurant. When Rhine casts aside his fiancee and starts hanging around Eddy’s kitchen, she’s sure his motives are anything but honorable. For Rhine, the idea of marrying Eddy makes him reconsider his decision to renounce the African side of his ancestry. In spite of a few forgivable anachronisms, Jenkins’ prose is lively and fluid, her characters complex and engaging, and her plot full of interesting side stories.
For readers who enjoy love stories with steamy interludes against historical backdrops, Jenkins’ latest is not to be missed.