This was my first romance by Beverly Jenkins. Set during the immediately pre-civil war era in Michigan, the romance centers around Hester Wyatt, a freed slave, and Galen Vachon, a free man of color from an extremely wealthy New Orleans family. Hester is active on the Underground Railroad, which assists in the escape of enslaved black men, women and families from the southern slave states north to Canada.
Jenkins did a fantastic job developing her characters. Hester is a heroine well worth rooting for, and Galen is the sort of handsome, wealthy playboy that will become the billionaires of contemporary romance about a decade later (this book was originally published in 1996). There is nary a Duke to be seen in this refreshing romance.
The history in this historical romance was heartbreaking. It is not for Ms. Jenkins to pull her punches on the misery that slavery produced, and she does a great job reminding the reader of the horrors that it caused - family separation; rape; abuse; emotional abuse; child abuse, just imagine any kind of abuse and it was present - in a way that adds to the story. She does not romanticize the culture that produced slavery (and nor should she), nor does she romanticize the heart-stopping terror that results from fighting slavery, even while she does provide a satisfying romance and believable HEA between her hero and heroine.
I found myself completely immersed with this small band of people, quietly doing the work of heroes at great personal risk and with great humility. If you are a romance reader at all, I highly recommend reading this book.