It could be my love of historical fiction, but nowhere is Beverly Jenkins’ writing more potent than in her historical romances. Wild Rain delivers on this high praise with its vivid setting, compelling character arcs, and masterful entwining of Black history into an original narrative.
Wild Rain is book two in the Women Who Dare series yet it’s heroine, Spring Rain Lee, is actually the sister-in-law of Regan Carmichael Lee, heroine of Tempest in another series by the author. Set in Reconstruction-era Wyoming territory, we follow Spring and her beau, Garrett McCrary, as he comes into her smalltown of Paradise to interview her brother, a doctor educated at Howard Medical School, from Washington, D.C. Any initial attraction is deterred by the poor state that Spring finds Garrett under, as he is injured by being thrown off his horse while making his way to town during a snowstorm. Never one to waste time with niceties and decorum, Spring hastens to save him by taking him and his horse back to the home where she lives alone and patching him up. As he starts to recover under her care, the two get to know what makes the other tick — his chivalry and penchant for asking loads of questions and her reservedness — and the differences between his city and her rustic lifestyles. Over the few days — scandalous in this time period — that Garrett spends at Spring’s house, the two fall into a rhythm where he supports her self-sufficiency and she comes to appreciate his care.
Once the snow melts, they go into town where we meet more of the colorful townsfolk who make up the hard yet communal populace of Paradise, Wyoming, including Spring’s aforementioned sister-in-law Regan Carmichael Lee. Regan picks up on Spring’s conflicting feelings of being happy as a Black woman living alone on her own terms yet also having a strong attraction to the care that Garrett offers. I loved that even this early on in the book we gain insight into what is really going on under Spring’s aloof demeanor by the gentle probing and general thoughtfulness of Regan. In fact, most of the people that Spring regularly interacts with show her a deal of respect and seem to have maintained good relationships with her as her whole life has unfolded in Paradise — her father being freeborn and raised there. It is through these interactions that we come to understand that the societal snubbing and outright violence that Spring faces from the primary villains of the novel are particular cruelties by awful people. Matt Keachem and his father abused Spring when she was turned out of her home at eighteen by her still living and judgemental grandfather, Ben. Throughout the greater romance of this story, the interactions with these antagonists and their schemes hint towards what Jim Crow justice looked like in the ‘Old West’ and supply Spring and Garrett with real obstacles to work through together instead of relying on tired romantic tropes that would take one open conversation to overcome.
I genuinely appreciate the levels to this story. It takes an author dedicated to their craft and the shape of the history they want to integrate into their story to bring the urgency and intimacy of history to life successfully in present-day releases. Jenkins’ longevity not only in writing or romance, but in bringing history to the page compellingly makes Wild Rain a story to treasure. I look forward to adding a physical version of it and more of Jenkins’ historical romances to my collection!