You should probably block Tuesday, January 31, off as a “Me Day,” because once you read the first page of Breathless, the new historical romance by Beverly Jenkins, you won’t be able to stop. There’s heart-stopping romance and fascinating history in her second in the Old West trilogy. We chatted with Beverly about her books, her research and more.
You are a romance pioneer, one of the first authors to write historical romance starring African-American characters. And those books have made you a mainstream romance success. What did it feel like when your first book came out? Did you ever imagine your career would last so long?
I am still as geeked now as I was 23 ago when Night Song debuted. Seeing that first book baby in the stores was incredible. I had no idea I’d still be doing this but I’m grateful every day.
How has the romance industry changed since you’ve been a part of it?
Romance has changed in that there are so many more branches on the tree: African-American, paranormal, LBGTQ, interracial, erotica, etc. They’ve all added vitality and new readers to the genre.
What made you choose to write historical romance instead of contemporary?
My first submission was a contemporary, and ironically enough it was to Avon. It was so bad, the rejection letter almost beat me home from the post office. I was also working on an historical. It had probably 500 pages and 400 of them were love scenes. When Ellen Edwards, then executive editor at Avon, purchased the manuscript, she adored the writing but gently reminded me that I needed a story to go with all that heat. To me it didn’t make sense to place Cara Lee’s and Chase’s story against a mainstream background when there was so much rich African-American history at my disposal, so I set Night Song in the little known, all Black towns of Kansas. More irony: nearly a decade later, that terrible contemporary turned out to be my first romantic suspense from Avon, The Edge of Midnight.
The love scenes you write are incredibly steamy! When it comes to writing sex in a historical novel, is there research involved?
Sex has been sexy since the dawn of time. Researching is unnecessary. The words may change but the feelings and mechanics are the same whether you’re writing historical or contemporary.
Breathless takes place in the American West in the late 19th century, a period and place that’s unique for a romance starring African-American characters. What drew you to the Old West with this series?
I love westerns. Always have. I also owed the readers of Through the Storm Rhine’s story. He made his debut there in 1988, and they’ve been clamoring for him since then.
When you started this trilogy, what came first, the characters from Forbidden, Eddy and Rhine, or the setting?
As I said, readers have been waiting for Rhine for many years, but I didn’t know where he was. Running across the archaeological dig of the Boston Saloon, referenced in Forbidden’s end matter, solved the mystery for me. How Eddy came to life is also revealed there. Each book I write comes to me differently, but historical nuggets drive them all.
You based some of the locations and plotpoints of the story on real historical places and news. But what about Portia and Kent?
As with all my historicals the story of Portia and Kent is also painted against real events and figures. Portia is heavily involved in the African-American side of the suffragette movement, and we get a fleeting glimpse of Lozen, the celebrated female Apache warrior, among other mentions.
You can read more about Beverly’s latest in the RT VIP Salon! Subscribers can click here to read the rest of her interview (and if you’d like to subscribe, we’ve got ya covered). Breathless will be available in stores and online January 31. You can preorder your copy here: Amazon | BN.com | Kobo | GooglePlay | iTunes. Digital copies start at $5.99. Happy reading!