Review – Destiny’s Embrace by Beverly Jenkins

Cover for Destinys Embrace by Beverly Jenkins

Publisher: Avon
Publish Date: January 29, 2013
How I got this book: eARC from Edelweiss

Gentleman Seeks Housekeeper. Must be willing to travel.

Desperate for another life away from Philadelphia, headstrong and beautiful Mariah Cooper answers an advertisement for a housekeeper at the other end of the continent. Waiting in California is the most breathtaking–and arrogant–man she has ever met…and he’d like nothing better than for Mariah to go back home!

Logan Yates has run Destiny, the family ranch, since he was a boy. He doesn’t need this Eastern miss his stepmother hired, though his home’s chaotic state suggests otherwise. Still, he’s secretly pleased that Mariah gives as good as she gets–and he must fight the urge to take her in his arms and kiss her whenever she proudly stands her ground. But when he’s in danger of losing her, Logan will have to choose between pride…and his heart’s true desire.

*blurb from Goodreads

When the opportunity to review Destiny’s Embrace came my way, I jumped at the chance as I’ve had Jenkins’ Night Hawk on my TBR pile for a while. Typical historicals are usually based on the ton, however Jenkins creates characters who are ordinary people trying to survive in a world where things don’t always come easy. I appreciate the diversity of Jenkins’ stories and the focus on historical accuracy in her depiction of daily life in the late 1800’s.

I think one of Jenkins’ strengths is in the development of her characters. Sadly, this is one of the primary reasons Destiny’s Embrace didn’t work for me. I never really warmed up to Logan. He was a bit of an ass. He was selfish and arrogant and although there was an attempt to show his character development, I never really bought his “redemption.” Toward the end, as we were supposed to see him in a different light having been transformed by love, I felt his motivations continued to be rooted in his own self-interests. I had mixed feelings about Mariah. She had a tragic upbringing and suffered her mother’s abuse and hatred for thirty years. While under her mother’s thumb, Mariah exhibited a meek and submissive demeanor. But then, as if overnight, she becomes a feisty, independent woman. While I like the idea that someone who has been so mistreated for so long could wake up one day and decide to be a completely different kind of person, in reality I don’t think the transition would be so easy.

I found the narrative to be heavy on the tell and light on actual character interaction. I also felt the narrative often drifted away from the forward momentum of the story and into backstory. There were frequent POV shifts, sometimes without clearly defined transitions. These contributed to a pace that felt jarring and slow. There were a number of passages that read more like a history text than as a part of the story narrative. While I can certainly appreciate why the author chose to put that information in, it felt more like a research info-dump that didn’t add to the characters, plot or story development and the inclusion felt intrusive. However, the few times when the historical information was presented via dialogue actually worked better.

I found many of the plot points to be predictable and the story just lacked a fresh approach. Even down to the cliched “the so-called widow who turns out to actually be a virgin” trope. When Logan finds out she’s not really a widow but an “innocent virgin” he gets all excited about “being the first to initiate the hellion into the realm of pleasure” as if her “innocence” increases her worth and her seduction is a full-blown conclusion. There were a couple scenes where Logan and Mariah engage in heavy petting, but Logan is careful not to “take” her “innocence” despite the fact that he brings her to orgasm several times. When they finally do make love, he refers to the “gift of her innocence.” Ug. Can we please stop equating a woman’s “innocence” with the status of her vagina? And can we please stop referring to a woman’s virginity as a “gift?” I don’t have a problem with the female protagonist being a virgin and I can appreciate a good sex initiation scene. But I reject the perpetuation of the idea that a woman’s worth and virtue are somehow inextricably linked to her sexual history. I love the Romance genre, but this THIS alone is enough to get me to stop reading. These messages are demeaning and outdated regardless of their “historical accuracy.” The story would still be just as compelling if not more so without them.

I don’t mean to offend anyone who enjoys this particular characterization. I guess I’m just looking for something new as I feel I’ve been reading about a woman’s innocence and virginity since I picked up my first Romance back in 1990.

/rant

I didn’t realize this book was meant to be the first in a new series. As a result, when I came upon the final paragraph in the epilogue I experienced a bit of a jolt. There I was, enjoying the HEA after-glow and then seemingly out of nowhere, the final paragraph portended of some future upset for someone at Destiny. It just seemed an odd bit to tack on at the end. However, in retrospect, it made some aspects of the story fall into place that had previously felt out of place. Specifically, the very brief introductions of Logan’s brothers. In one brother’s case, his only scene was basically a “hello, nice to meet you. Well I better be going now” encounter and that was it. I’m guessing that the brothers will each get their own story.

So, while Destiny’s Embrace didn’t quite work for me, it did have some bright spots in the historical setting of California and diversity in its characters.

I give Destiny’s Embrace a C-.

Comments

  1. Lisa says

    Thank you for the rant! You have put it much better than I could. Let’s retire “innocence” and its baggage.

    ReplyReply

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