|Beverly Jenkins is at an interesting phase of her career. She is experimenting with different forms and has produced two young adult historicals for Avon and a historical novella in St. Martin’s Gettin’ Merry holiday anthology. Edge of Midnight, Jenkins’ twelfth novel is, perhaps, her most risky undertaking to date.
Edge of Midnight is the author’s first mainstream contemporary romantic suspense. The novel, which is set in twenty-first century Detroit, is the story of social worker Sarita Grayson and Mykal Chandler, architect, philanthropist and erstwhile vigilante.
In a misguided effort to save her community social service program and neighborhood families from eviction, Sarita makes a bad decision. As a result, she and Myk come face to face on opposite sides of a shipment of diamonds earmarked for an international gangster. Their first brief meeting ends badly and sets the stage for a second long-term encounter. Sarita escapes and Myk is determined to find the woman who bested him.
Myk heads a covert operation designed to rid the city of hard-core criminals. In order to buy him time and space to run it, he needs a “wife” to help divert attention from his clandestine activities. Fate brings Sarita to Myk’s doorstep and she is blackmailed into service as the ersatz Mrs. Mykal Chandler in a marriage of convenience that will last a year. She has the money to save her center, but at what cost?
As Myk and Sarita act out their scripted marriage in public, they become increasingly attracted to one another. She is forced to reconcile her social worker values with Myk’s largesse. For his part, Myk is put in the position of protecting Sarita from the man who wants his diamonds, while protecting himself from his growing feelings for her. They also learn that love is a home-cooked meal and a sewer pump.
Like all Jenkins’ heroines, Sarita is stubborn and opinionated. She wants to be an equal partner in all things. Sarita is aware of the danger she is in due to her involvement with the diamonds but knows she has been kept in the dark about Myk’s covert operations. Sarita tells him “Sometimes a damsel in distress doesn’t need a knight. Sometimes she just needs a map of the castle so she can get out on her own.”
Jenkins is a good storyteller and her skills translate well in the new form. The essence of her alpha male heroes and her funny, feisty heroines have been carried over two centuries. The secondary characters lend needed support and humor. In writing her first contemporary, Jenkins had to trade in her nineteenth-century vocabulary for the wealth of idioms and phrases consistent with life in the twenty-first century.
However, Edge of Midnight is not a perfect book. The book has a much darker tone and there are several loose ends. The author missed an excellent opportunity to forge a necessary connection between the past and future. Myk and Sarita have historical connections to characters in two early Beverly Jenkins novels. The author teases the readers with artifacts and references that her die-hard readers will pick up. But she does not connect the dots. And, while the readers are aware that the Myk and Sarita’s ancestors actually knew each other, the characters never find out.
Edge of Midnight is a good first effort for a writer who has made her reputation on African-American historical romance. It is a solid four-heart read. I am looking forward to stories about Myk’s brothers, Drake and Saint. I am also looking forward to her next historical.