As a child Hester Wyatt escaped slavery, but now the dark skinned beauty is a dedicated member of Michigan’s Underground railroad, offering other runaways a chance at the freedom she has learned to love. One of her fellow conductors brings her an injured man to hide, the great conductor known as the “Black Daniel”, but Hester finds him so rude and arrogant she begins to question her vow to hide him.
When the injured and beaten Galen Vachon 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.
This is one of Jenkins’ best loved historical romances for a reason – it starts off with a bang and I was hooked from the start. In the last third I started losing interest, but that probably has more to do with me than the book.
- I was all in from the start. Hester’s life story riveting, and I love the look at the abolitionist movement in Michigan.
- Everything is well researched and there’s tons of history here. I learned so much about not only what life was like in this particular time and place, but the laws and events that shaped the era.
- Racism is a big topic, of course, but Jenkins also dives into prejudice within the Black community at the time and a bunch of other spoilery complexities.
- There are lots of side characters that we get to know and love, from servants and neighbors to random people in town.
- The writing is solid, and I would expect nothing less from Jenkins.
- Hester is a strong woman with a sharp tongue and it’s wonderful watching her do her thing, from helping someone break out of jail to bantering with the hero.
- Galen is awesome with for consent… until he isn’t.
- This book reminded me of Night Hawk in that the plot isn’t a solid arc. There’s one concern with a slave catcher that drives most of the conflict but it’s forgotten for chapters at a time so people can move from place to place or hold a fundraising fair. It’s not bad, but go in expecting episodic narrative interspersed in the main plot.
- As the romance evolved it got into some not-for-me tropes. There’s the virgin who has sex not knowing it may make her pregnant, and the hero who showers the heroine in luxurious gifts that she doesn’t want and fill up entire rooms.
- And the claim that he was able to have dozens of dresses made because he’s felt her up enough to figure out her measurements? I’m not buying it.
- Late in the book Galen takes away Hester’s agency in a very public way that she is unable to fight against. All the side characters are like, “I’m so mad for you! I can’t believe he did that! You must be so mad!” which helps, but she forgives him in less than 24 hours because love, I guess.
If you’re interested in reading Indigo I urge you to check out Wendy the Super Librarian’s review. She talks about it way more intelligently than I can manage at the moment and makes some amazing points about the loose-ish plotting not being a fault because Jenkins is writing what she calls a “community based romance”. Her insight has given me a lot of food for thought so go read that review to soak it in.
All in all a gangbusters beginning fell flat at the end for me but there is still so, so much to recommend this book. 3.5 stars.