One of the things I love most about owning a Barnes and Nobles Nook, besides the convenience, is the access to free reads. Each Friday, BN.com’s Nook Blog offers a free download for Nook owners, as well as anyone who uses the Nook app. Not only do you get a free book, but the featured author is then asked to recommend something else that you might want to check out. Fiction, nonfiction, classics, romance, and thrillers – it’s all there. So, when I find myself looking for the next book to read, I search my virtual book shelf for one of these hundreds of books I’ve downloaded. And that’s how I found the Blessings Series by Beverly Jenkins. The first in the series was a Free Friday selection. I’m currently on the fourth book, and hoping for a fifth one soon!
What makes this series special isn’t sophisticated writing style, steamy romance, or gratuitous violence – but a sense of hope that drives the narrative. The story follows the town of Henry Adams, Kansas, an all-black township with a rich history. And it’s for sale on eBay.
Enter Bernadine Brown, a wealthy divorcee, looking for a sense of meaning and purpose in her life, after catching her husband of 30-plus years cheating on her with his secretary. You go on this sort of spiritual journey with Bernadine as she rebuilds and restores the town, its residents, and herself. It makes you nostalgic for a time when people had a real sense of community, instead of looking for a taller fence to block out the neighbors. Part of her project also involves bringing new families to Henry Adams and pairing them up with 5 foster children. The entire town gets involved in raising these kids, bringing to mind the adage of “it takes a village.” Though the good heavily outweighs the bad in Jenkins’s story-telling, you still get the expected problems foster families endure, even if some of the tougher emotional scenes feel a bit rushed.
Woven throughout the books are also great historical references to real towns like Henry Adams, settled by The Exodusters – freed slaves who migrated to Kansas after the Civil War and Reconstruction. W e learn details about Black Seminoles and their grievances with tribes and the government, as well as tribal traditions still practiced by Henry Adams townspeople. Who knew that braves wooed their would-be brides by playing the flute? We learn what it was like for all-Black regiments in the Armed Forces during the World Wars and the black outlaws of the 1880s. I immediately went on a Google search to learn more.
If I had any criticisms about the series so far, it would be that it all seems too perfect and “happily ever after.” Henry Adams is too idyllic at first glance. This changes somewhat as the series continues. There are a few deaths and hard truths, especially for the children, which must be faced. Even Bernadine begins to question her actions; maybe throwing money at a problem isn’t the best solution? None of it takes away from the overall feeling of optimism as people find love, forgiveness, and independence. In short, these are stories about growth and finally coming into your own. I think readers will easily fall in love with Bernadine, the Julys, Paynes, Garlands, and all of the people of this little modern-day Main Street U.S.A.
To find out more about The Exodusters, visit this PBS link for a brief article.
Tqwana Brown is in her first semester in the MS in Publishing program. A former high school English teacher, Tqwana is shifting gears to the publishing career track. She is interested in working on in the editorial side of book publishing or as a Literary Agent.