by Beverly Jenkins
When the injured and beaten Galen Vachon, aka, the Black Daniel awakens in Hester's cellar, he is unprepared for the feisty young conductor providing his care. As a member of one of the wealthiest free Black families in New Orleans, Galen has turned his back on the lavish living he is accustomed to in order to provide freedom to those enslaved in the south. However, as he heals he cannot turn his back on Hester Wyatt. Her innocence fills him like a breath of fresh air and he is determined to make her his, but traitors have to be found, slave catchers have to be routed and Hester's refusal to trust her own heart have to be overcome before she and Galen can find the freedom only love can bring.
I'm finding that I'm kind of an outlier in my reaction to this book, not quite as enamored with it as everyone else. And for that, I'm feeling a bit conflicted. Because, on the one hand, Indigo was written well, with a wonderful premise and an amazingly created heroine. Even some of the side characters were brought to life, and I feel like Ms. Bev did a great job showing us the times and reality of slavery during this era in American history. She doesn't sugar coat anything, and gives depth to how terribly cruel slavery truly was--not that we didn't already know, but it's great that she simply lays it all out there.
Hester's history is a heavy one, and I found her little flashback of the moment in which she and her childhood friend Ella learned the harsh truth of their reality to be quite heartbreaking. This is a heroine you love to root for, because she's level-headed, resourceful, and has no trouble standing up for herself. I loved her sarcastic returns to Galen in the beginning while he was still healing and being super surly about his situation. I rooted for her big time when she faced down the nasty Ezra Shoe and his men with nothing but a rifle and her own gumption.
I wished she'd have given Foster more of a verbal thrashing after the way he treated her throughout the book. But nonetheless, she wasn't too meek to throw him off her property when he got to be a general jackass.
My only quibble with Hester was that she might have been too created to be too innocent and too perfect, which is quite typical of a lot of romance novel heroines, so I didn't dwell on that for too long.
Meanwhile, in the same turn, I'm not sure that the romance between Hester and Galen really worked all that well for me--specifically the courting phase of the relationship. The married phase of their romance was a bit more fun, in terms of flirty barbs and witty banter, but otherwise, I felt that the romance itself was rather too cookie cutter for my liking. And I never really warmed to Galen, having not been able to get past the scene wherein he sneaks into Hester's bedroom at night while she's sleeping and watches her without her knowledge--this kind of behavior is a hundred percent NOT OKAY in my book. And his advances come on rather too strong, and I'm not sure how I felt about the whole lavish gifts scenario that came across like a typical Cinderella story after we find out how wealthy Galen is and how he can afford pretty much everything in the world. I'm afraid it made it hard for me to appreciate all of his other, more charming behaviors and attributes in the latter parts of the book.
Truth be told, the story starts out very strong, with the hiding of the Black Daniel, and the anxiousness you felt for Hester as slave catchers entered into the picture, searching her home, and lobbing threats and insults at her. The talk of a traitor amidst the Conductors in Whittaker was a great way to start off the book, and I found it kept me intrigued, just wanting to know what Galen and Hester would end up finding out.
But after Galen heals up and leaves Hester's care, I feel like the story kind of plateaus from there, becoming more romance... which this book is, first and foremost anyway, so I don't know why I'm complaining. Probably because, as a romance, it doesn't really stand out much, nor satisfy my own expectations. I guess I just wished there'd been more about the Underground, and Hester's part in it. And even the investigation of the traitor kind of gets set aside for a while. The ending picks up a bit in terms of action and the final reveal to the traitor--which I found rather more complex than I'd predicted, but in a good way.
In the end, I found that I was much more interested in all the little history lessons that Ms. Bev peppers into the story throughout than I was in the outcome of Hester's and Galen's romancing. The little news snippets about different activities and movements of the abolitionists, as well as prominent figures of the Road were quite educational, being the parts that I enjoyed the most out of this book. Although, I will admit that the ending info dumps about John Brown and Harper's Ferry felt a bit awkward in terms of narrative.
Overall, this was still a very enjoyable read, and I will definitely be looking into more works by Beverly Jenkins.