I was happy to read this novel as I have a much read copy of the related novel `Given'. This interracial novel is set during the era of slavery and the two main characters are both conductors on the underground railway. The authors brush over the many obvious problems any interracial couple would face during those times. Such as the fact that such a relationship unless it was that of owner and property or master and his mistress, would have been considered by many as an excuse for lynching. Grace having witnessed the full horrors of slavery and the beginnings of Jim Crow laws doesn't in any way question her love for the handsome white doctor.
Grace Adams is more than a free born black woman and an abolitionist, she is Eshu, a group of warrior blacks who can change their form and literally sniff out their enemies, the Thakathi (a race of evil witches). Unlike most women of her time, she has never wanted to be married, because of its many restrictions and because she wants to become a doctor. Her overprotective father and brothers barely let her leave the house unaccompanied. Considering the vulnerability of free blacks during slavery and the brutal nature of the bigots who could have claimed them as escaped property and enslaved them, that is understandable. Dressing as a man in order to do her job on the railroad and posing as her fictitious twin Joseph. Her disguise is good enough to fool Englishman Dr. Parker Quinn, who is also involved in ferrying escaped slaves to safety. Parker is appalled to find himself so drawn to the young Joseph Adams, a boy, moreover one who appears to be barely out of his teens. Then he finds a wounded cheetah and tends its wounds and places it in a cage, but the next morning has to deal with an enraged young woman in the same cage, raising more questions than it does answers. As a man of science Parker is fascinated by Grace's abilities, and strongly attracted to her as a woman.
Grace's mother died when she was young and her father has always treated her like a child. He fails to understand that his headstrong daughter needs to be accepted as the adult she is, and that she needs her life to be about more than tending their home. Her ambition to become a doctor is ridiculed by her father and she has to fight to be allowed to be a conductor as her father, brothers and sister in law all do. Grace's often foolhardy behavior is a result of her feeling that she has to prove herself and that her life is full of constraints. In Parker, Grace finds someone who not only understands her but encourages her to be as independent as possible. If she has to fight to do the right thing, he would always stand by her and give her all his support, encouragement and love. This is a lovely historical romance.
Despite the forces allied against her Grace Adams is determined to become a conductor on the Underground Railroad and also a doctor. She is Eshu, able to shift into any animal form at will, and she knows this ability will help her in her difficult missions. Then one tragic mistake alters the trajectory of her ambition. Grace has not only to demonstrate her ability as a conductor, but also to resist the sensual allure of her passion for Dr. Parker Quinn.
Parker is a stationmaster on the Railroad and resistant to the notion of a woman, especially his woman, engaging in such a dangerous undertaking. But her passion only makes him more determined to have Grace for his own, despite the scandal and the laws against miscegenation.
Although Grace loves him, she doesn’t want to marry. She knows the domineering Dr. Quinn will be even more restrictive than her father, but he won't be deterred. It will take all of their passion and determination to survive social scorn and legal challenges while they make both their goals come true.
Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content and graphic language.