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Wild Sweet Love

Wild Sweet Love

4.4 26
by Beverly Jenkins

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Teresa July has led a hard life, but now she has a chance to put her train robbing past behind her. Armed with a new job as a cook to one of Philadelphia's elite families, Teresa is determined to start her life anew, and nothing––not even her boss's stuck–up (and far too handsome) son––is going to stand in her way.

Madison Nance


Teresa July has led a hard life, but now she has a chance to put her train robbing past behind her. Armed with a new job as a cook to one of Philadelphia's elite families, Teresa is determined to start her life anew, and nothing––not even her boss's stuck–up (and far too handsome) son––is going to stand in her way.

Madison Nance is sick of his mother taking in women from the wrong side of the tracks, just to see them turn on her generosity. That's why it's up to him to keep a close eye on Teresa's every move. At least, that's the only logical explanation for why he can't get the young woman out of his mind.

But when a woman from Madison's past threatens Teresa's future, the two reluctant lovers must join forces is they're ever going to have a chance at happiness.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Taking two minor players from earlier novels (Something Like Loveand A Chance at Love), Jenkins pulls together a clever story of crime, class, race and redemption in late 19th-century America. After Black Seminole Teresa July's bank robbing career is cut short by a three-year prison sentence, Teresa is released to the probationary care of the wealthy Molly Nance, a compassionate Philadelphia woman charged with turning the young, tempestuous bandit into a respectable 19th-century lady. For Teresa, forsaking her beloved leathers and pistols for dresses and manners is a small challenge compared to dealing with Molly's son, Madison. Heart-stoppingly handsome, this polished gambler-turned-banker regularly ignites Teresa's fiery temper with his arrogance. As Molly realizes how well suited the two are for each other, she conspires to keep throwing them together until they realize their own hearts. As the fish-out-of-water hijinks come to their apex, Jenkins turns the tables on her characters, throwing Molly and Madison in with Teresa's boisterous frontier clan just in time for a threat from Teresa's past to resurface. Jenkins's sassy heroines, well-drawn secondary characters and seamless incorporation of black history result in a fresh, winning historical. (May)

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Wild Sweet Love

Chapter One

Summer 1895
Outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Scrubbing sheets on an iron washboard, Teresa thought about her capture. Although it had taken place three years ago, the memory felt like both yesterday and a lifetime. She wondered how Cloud was faring up in Kansas with her brother Neil and her sister-in-law Olivia. Did the stallion miss her as much as she missed him? Because musing on the past brought on a sadness she refused to acknowledge, she turned her attention back to the sheets she was supposed to be washing and stuck her red raw hands down into the hot lye-laced water.

The sheets piled on the ground beside her were waiting their turn on the washboard, and it would be dark before they were all done. But being a Black Seminole, she didn't mind the work; the necessity of living a hard life was in her blood. What she did mind was that she was in prison in Pennsylvania. Because she'd chosen to stay on the wrong side of the law instead of turning herself in, as her brother had, Hanging Judge Parker wanted to teach her a lesson. He'd sentenced her not to a prison in her beloved West, but here, up North, where she'd had to suffer through cold, mean winters, was too far away for family to visit her, and where she knew no one.

Teresa wiped the sweat from her brow and looked out at the other women in the yard. There were about fifty of them, and they too were hanging laundry and standing over wooden barrels. They'd been sent here for everything from stabbing their husbands to picking pockets. All were dressed in the same faded and worn blue sacks that passed for gowns, and prisoners wearingshoes outnumbered those without.

Teresa transferred the wet clean sheets to the female prisoner operating one of the many ringers, then returned to her own vat to start on the next sheet. Today's batch of linens had come from one of the area's hospitals. Tomorrow's would be from the fancy Philadelphia hotels. Washing and hanging sheet after sheet, day after day, was mindless, backbreaking work, but at least they were outside. In the winter the prisoners were forced to stay indoors, which bred fights, petty thievery, and sometimes madness.

By late afternoon she was tired, as they all were, and there was nothing to look forward to when the day ended but a plate of beans and salt pork that would be, and had always been, dinner. As a result, most of the women were thin and listless. Teresa doubted she'd ever again fit the leathers she'd worn here. Her once vibrant midnight skin was gray, her chopped-off hair matted and as full of lice as everyone else's.


Teresa turned. It was Mrs. Cassidy, a burly brown-skinned matron whose sour expression had never changed in the three years Teresa had been in residence.

"Warden wants to see you."

Being summoned could be related to anything from a death in the family to punishments for infractions, real and imagined. Teresa wordlessly dried her hands and followed the matron across the field to the buildings a few feet away.

The warden was a White man named Burns. He rarely ventured out of his office. Teresa had only seen him twice before.

He looked up at her, but his face gave nothing away as to what this grand summoning might be about. "You're probably wondering why you're here."

"Yes, sir."

"It's about that fight last month."

The fight had been between a surly prisoner named Ethel and the only matron in the place who seemed to care at all about the inmates, a woman named Doreen. When Ethel had jumped Doreen, Teresa jumped Ethel.

"I submitted a request to the prison board," Burns said.

Ethel had been sent to another facility, and Teresa was certain they were about to do the same to her. She waited, steeling herself for the blow to come.

"The board has decided to give you credit for your time served as a way of rewarding you for coming to the aid of the matron."

Teresa blinked and her legs wobbled for an instant. She took a deep breath to steady herself, then met the man's emotionless blue eyes.

"This means that in two hours you will be free to leave here in the company of a charity representative who helps women like you readjust to the outside. You will be her ward for the next year. Any infractions and you will be returned here to serve out the rest of your five-year time. Is that understood?"

Teresa was so moved she couldn't speak, so she nodded.

"Is that a yes, July?"

"Yes, sir."

"Mrs. Cassidy will help you get prepared. Good luck, July."

"Thank you, sir, and thank you to the board."

"Don't make me regret this decision."

"I won't. I promise."

Two hours later she walked out of prison and over to a wagon waiting by the side of the road. An elderly Black man held the reins. "You Miss July?"

She nodded.

"I'm Mr. Boswell, I'm here to take you to Mrs. Nance. Crawl in the back."

Teresa complied and made herself as comfortable as she could amidst the straw and farming implements in the wagon bed.

"We got about an hour worth of traveling."

She didn't care if the journey took six hours. She was free! "Mind if I sleep?"

"Not a bit."

A weary but happy Teresa closed her eyes, and before he even pulled away from the prison walls, she was asleep.

Teresa didn't realize she'd slept through the entire ride until she was jostled awake. Her slumber had been so sound that it took her a few moments to shake off the bleariness and focus on the stern brown face of the woman who was gently shaking her shoulder.

"Come," the woman said. "Mr. Boswell needs to get back to town."

Wild Sweet Love. Copyright © by Beverly Jenkins. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Beverly Jenkins has received numerous awards, including five Waldenbooks/Borders Group Best Sellers Awards, two Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times Magazine, and a Golden Pen Award from the Black Writer's Guild. Ms. Jenkins was named one of the Top Fifty Favorite African-American writers of the 20th century by AABLC, the nation's largest on-line African-American book club. She was recently nominated for the NAACP Image Award in Literature.

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