Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Book Review: BRING ON THE BLESSINGS (Blessings #1)

HARPERCOLLINS/William Morrow – @HarperCollins; @WmMorrowBks

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

AUTHOR: Beverly Jenkins – @authorMsBev
ISBN: 978-0-06-168840-9; paperback (January 27, 2009)
384pp, B&W, $13.99 U.S., $17.50 CAN

Bring on the Blessings is a 2009 novel from bestselling author, Beverly Jenkins.  It was the first novel in what became known as Jenkins' “Blessings” novel series.  Bring on the Blessings introduces the fictional small town of Henry Adams, Kansas, which is largely the setting of all the following “Blessings,” books, including the recent (as of this writing) ninth novel in the series, Second Time Sweeter (2018).  Henry Adams is a fictional town established by freed slaves after the Civil War.  [Henry Adams is based on a real town founded by freed slaves, Nicodemus, Kansas.]

Bring on the Blessings introduces Bernadine Edwards Brown.  Two days after her thirtieth wedding anniversary and a day before her fifty-second birthday, she walks into her husband, Leo's office and finds him having sex with his secretary on top his desk.  One divorce later, she ends up with a $275 million dollar settlement.  Having been raised in the church, Bernadine believes that when much is given, much is expected, so she asks God to send her a purpose.

That purpose turns out to be a town: Henry Adams, Kansas, one of the last surviving townships founded by freed slaves after the Civil War.  The town is failing and has put itself up for sale on the Internet, so Bernadine buys it.  To the town's mayor, Trent July, Bernadine Brown is a savior.  After he meets Bernadine, Trent is even impressed by her vision and strength, and especially the hope she wants to offer to the town and its few remaining residents.  Bernadine also wants to offer hope to a handful of foster kids in desperate need of a second chance, changing their lives and the lives of the people who will become their foster parents.

But not everyone is down with Bernadine Brown and her vision for a promising future.  There will be bumps along the road – for her, for the residents, both old and new, and for the children.  In Henry Adams, Kansas, there is never a dull day.

As I have written in previous reviews, I had heard of author Beverly Jenkins, but had never read her work.  Then, I received a review copy of her 2016 novel, Stepping to a New Day (the seventh “Blessings” novel).  I immediately fell in love with the characters and with the town of Henry Adams.  I went on to read Chasing Down a Dream (2017 – #8) and Second Time Sweeter (2018 – #9).

Over a few exchanged tweets, Jenkins suggested that I go back to the beginning and read the series in order.  I was able to squeeze in the first “Blessings” book, Bring on the Blessings.  It was worth setting aside time to read this book, which I really love, and it may be my favorite.  That is difficult for me to decide because I have thoroughly enjoyed all the “Blessings” books that I have thus far read, especially Second Time Sweeter, which has some dark and edgy moments, belying its title.

Jenkins is an excellent character writer, creating a cast that the reader wants to know intimately.  I am exciting about all of the characters, even the detestable Riley Curry, and I must say that even the ill-fated Morton Prell is worthy of his own story.  I think that people who like Jenkins' books can't wait to get back to the characters, which is the case with me, dear readers.

Bring on the Blessings isn't all cozy and comfort.  Jenkins depicts the suffering of abandoned and abused children in stark terms.  My late aunt and uncle were foster parents to numerous children, and one of the many things that Jenkins gets right is the horrid situations from which many children in foster care came.  Even when foster children are placed in better situations, a whim or act of fate can threaten whatever good fortune... or blessings they found.  Jenkins is known as a romance writer, but readers should not underestimate the sense of verisimilitude that permeates her novels when it comes to depicting real-world dilemmas.

Bring on the Blessings is one of the best novels that I have read this past decade.  If the books that come after this first novel also keep it real, I say bring on more “Blessings.”

10 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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