Jenkins, Beverly. Belle and the Beau. Harper Teen, 2002. ISBN 978-0064473422 296 pp. $
Avon True Romance presents Harlequin-style fare for teens: beautiful people fall in love at first sight and then must overcome some conflict to be together, the conflict usually being that one of them already has a significant other. In this series, the beautiful people happen to be young adults.
In Belle and the Beau, a prominent black family takes in a fugitive slave girl who falls for their oldest son, who is already practically engaged to fast Francine. Details about the abolition movement in the United States are neatly woven throughout the story as the Best family educate Belle about the Underground Railroad, Frederick Douglass, and anti-slavery conventions. She even learns to read. Jenkins really presents an intelligent romance with accurate historical details and fleshed out characters.
The stories are predictable, sweet and innocent, but the writing is solid, the covers attractive and the historical details accurate. I don’t think any teens will pick these up if they are already avid fans of adult series romance, but younger teens may find them appealing and won’t find any objectionable material–perhaps to their dismay.