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The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology Paperback – December 5, 2015
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"A fantastic historical anthology highlighting resilient women who don't necessarily need a man but can get the one they want." -Library Journal, STARRED review (2015)
About the Author
Alyssa Cole is an award-winning author of sci-fi, historical, and contemporary romance. When she's not busy writing, traveling, and learning French, she can be found watching anime with her real-life romance hero, tending to her herd of animals, and finding ways to get around her Twitter-blocking app.
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Top customer reviews
I never learned much about Juneteenth. It was not taught in schools and my peers seem to consider the day as more of a celebration of slavery than a celebration of freedom. Via the foreward from prolific black romance author Beverly Jenkins, I learned more about Juneteenth. On June 19th, 1865 in Galveston, TX, a proclamation was set forth that all slaves were free. Most celebrated that day January 1 because of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation... however Texas celebrates this day of freedom on June 19th, when the proclamation was read, and their descendants still do.
Each of the stories in this anthology revolve around freedom and civil rights, including the right to love the one you choose to love. Lena Hart tells us the story of Gracie Shaw in Amazing Grace. Gracie is a young southern black woman, promised to a good man in Montana. She must make the trip to meet the man she is contracted to marry by train... where she happens to meet the love of her life, Logan Finley, half Mexican, half Irish. Not only is he not of African descent, but Gracie's family had already received payment for her agreement to marry Robert Whitaker. In addition, there's something in Logan's past that Gracie isn't sure she can forgive.
Kianna Alexander shares a story about baker Rosaline Rhodes, who's so sweet on ship builder Will Pruitt, the attraction wafts from the page. When Rosaline is advised to choose a mate who was not a former slave-- in an effort to elevate herself, it was suggested-- it becomes the impetus she and Will need to begin their lives together aboard a Juneteenth cruise down the Cape Fear River. This story was really SO Sweet and one of my favorites!
Piper Hugely is my new #BAE. She writes such glorious historical romances, I'm just in love with her novels! A Sweet Way to Freedom is set Winslow, a Georgia Hamlet. This story appears to be a one-off of the Milford College series that Hugely has been releasing since 2014. Teacher Missouri "Missy" Baxter finds her self in a curious predicament, having become pregnant whilst unmarried... But everyone knows who the father is. Arlo Tucker is a man who seems afraid of the future. Watching these two come together was humorous and delightful as well as seeing Arlo come into the man he was destined to be. GREAT read.
Alyssa Cole's Let it Shine is my first read from her but it won't be my last! Her depiction of 'Good Southern Girl' Sofronia 'Sofie' Wallis's forbidden romance with a Jewish neighborhood gentleman Ivan Friedman during the Civil Rights movement was educational and entertaining. The first scene brought a giggle to my lips... I remember hearing the older ladies in the church gossiping about so and so who's pregnant but not married and feeling all kinds of weird about witnessing that. This story reminded me so much of my upbringing as a PK (Preacher's Kid) in a COGIC church... the expectation to be a good girl, because no man wanted a hussy. The idea that everything you do is a reflection on your parents and how you were raised. How unwavering obedience and unquestioned adherence to strict rules and guidelines are expected-- and are the norm. And how a person aches to be defined by themselves, their own achievements and not what the previous generation wants from them. Just as I had to, Sofie had to find a piece of herself and take a step into her future. Hand in hand with, not just a white man... but a Jew. Really great read and it brings to mind a friend of mine that recently married a Jewish man. What a cultural divide to cross... but they're making it, and I have every assumption that Sofie and Ivan lived to grow old together!
This anthology is important because I believe that we need to know our history, and because people that look like me and share my ancestry fell in love and created the future that I live in. Romance is not just about white faces on book covers... and historical romance is more than Dukes and Queens and Regency. Our historical romances are our pasts brought to life.
I picked up this book originally because of Piper's involvement in the project. Before reading, I'd never heard of Juneteenth, so I had no idea what to expect. What I found were four very different styles and stories, all of which reflected the kinds of reading experience I wish I found more often in romance. There's a depth to the storylines, the characters, and even the writing itself that I really enjoyed. All too often, even in my own writing, the characters' individual stories suffer at the expense of giving page space to the romantic relationship. In women's fiction or mainstream, of course, it's rather the other way around. I'm not used to seeing such balance between the heroine's personal journey and the romantic journey and it took my concept of the romance genre to a new level. Something about that balance created a sense of groundedness, of realism, that made me forget I was reading fiction. I felt more as though I were reading the fictionalized versions of four real women. This is not the way I usually experience fiction. I think the last time it happened so completely was Memoirs of a Geisha.
The craftwork in these stories was pretty incredible as well. I know some reviewers have commented about mistakes and, yes, there were some typos and wrong words and whatnots mixed in. But I guess I'm willing to be more forgiving of those types of errors in this case because, outside of them, language is used with such sophistication -- and yet the words never seemed overwritten or heavy-handed or self-satisfied. It was simply... effective. We got right into the stories, right into the characters, and right into four other worlds. I'm honestly not sure I've ever been sucked in so quickly to a romance that didn't have a suspense or thriller component and it happened all four times for me.
The subtlety of each story's underlying eroticism fairly well blew me away as well. Because I write erotic, I often hear the word "raw" used to describe scenes that I might more properly classify as explicit or envelope-pushing. The love scenes in these stories were neither, and yet the sexuality was beautifully raw -- intoxicatingly so at moments. All in all, they are wonderfully mature stories, and not in the "adult content warning" kind of way.
Several people have commented that readers of multi-cultural romance will like this anthology and I reckon that's so. But I think there's also a lot of enjoyment to be had here for people who wouldn't normally consider themselves as such. If light, fun, romantic comedy or chick lit is your thing, this book might not be your cup of tea. But I'd absolutely recommend it for women's fiction and mainstream readers and for readers who enjoy American historical romance.
I also think -- and let's just be honest here, okay -- that you should try this book if you're a white reader who's been hesitant to read about heroines of color because you think you won't be able to relate to them. I suspect folks would assume exactly the opposite to be true, given the theme that ties the stories together, but it's not. Yes, these stories deal with issues of slavery and discrimination and prejudice, but they are just as much about women who are afraid of loving too much or unwisely and of women taking chances and coming into their own. In some way I can't quite put my finger on, all four authors have managed to highlight the unique struggles of African-American women while simultaneously making their stories the story of every woman.
So, yes, they are good multicultural romances. But, it's also just a good book, period. Read it and you'll see what I mean.