Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Season to be Sinful by Jo Goodman

This story was my Author of the Month selection for my Yahoo Reading Group. Jo Goodman was a new author for me and I will say she did not disappoint in the least, although I might be weary selecting her again to read. She reminded me alot of Laura Kinsale in the sense that this book was very dark, from the moment it started until we actually turned the last page. Even with a HEA ending, you still felt somber since the book was emotionally draining.

Viscount Sheridan finds himself putting his affairs in order because he plans to retire to the country to regroup, when there is an attempt on his life and death is forestall by a young boy that has taken a grievous wound on his behalf. He is determined to find out who the boy is and delays his trip to the country to investigate the incident. It's at this point that 3 street urchins find themselves at his door demanding that he pay for the medical expenses of 'Miss Rose' since they believe that Sherridon had done the stabbing. Sherry (Sheridan's nickname) is surprised to hear that the 'boy' that stepped between him and death, is in fact a young woman. But his surprise is only heightened when he hears her speak in a upper class manner.

Lily has been in hiding for a while and although she has witnessed great depravity in her life, she still holds true to her principles. This is what took her to interfere when she realized that Sherry was to be hurt. What she didn't expect was to lose her life in the act. After days of lingering between life and death she wakes to find herself at the home of Viscount Sheridan. After her initial shock has passed she recognizes the opportunity that has fallen in her lap to get her three young charges (Pinch, Dash & Midge) off the streets.

Sherry does in fact take a liking to the young rascals and decides to make them his wards, hiring Lily (Miss Rose's real name) as their governess.

If the story seems fanciful and light, you have been fooled. The background of how Lily ends up in the streets of London as well as why she is trying desperately to hid her identity is a dark omen for the secrets that Sherry has in his closet. Each have made choices that have lead them to where they are now. No trust in their hearts and even less capacity to love, yet they find themselves opening to each other in wonderful ways.

I found that by Goodman not putting the whole story out there at once, she built the tension so that when the truth of the assassination debacle unwinds we are actually surprised to see how Lily & Sherry's life have been driven in parallel until the moment of the stabbing when their lives collided.

The Darkness of the piece is what leads me to believe I will have to think seriously on picking up Goodman's work again any time soon. Such despair in books are digestible in small doses and I have alot of Kinsale in my TBR pile for me to seek more books of that nature. Still the book was delicious and will be highly recommended in the future.

Grade: A

Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Another installment to the Chicago Stars series. We met Dean Robillard in Match me if You Can and at that time he charmed the socks off of us. Now he returns with his own story which unfortunately was a bit of a miss with me.

Dean is recovering from shoulder surgery but feels himself slipping into a bit of a rut since he always felt invincible, and with the injury to his shoulder he now has to face a vulnerability he has worked hard to avoid. On his way to his new farmhouse in Tennessee he encounters a woman dressed in a Beaver outfit and his life turns upside down.

Blue Bailey has had a horrible few weeks when she gets into Dean's car. She left her life in Seattle to come assist her distraught boyfriend, Monty, only to find that he has run off with a 19 year old just days before she arrives. Her mother, who is a humanitarian, has emptied her bank account to help some girls in a third world country and after Monty steals her last dollar, she gets kicked out of her new apartment. With no place to go, hanging on to Dean sounds better every minute.

As with all SEP books there is a secondary romance which is between Dean's parents April and Jack. There is alot of baggage that needs to be cleared between Dean and his parents and that needs to be done before he can bring himself to fully give his heart to Blue.

Blue is also a bit damaged, and has her own abandonment issues. She has learned to stay away from caring for anyone since they always leave. Now, Dean asks for a commitment that she cannot give, or can she?

Honestly, I really enjoyed the story until the very end when you would have expected some growth from these characters but the truth is that they had stayed static until the last few pages.
the banter between them was priceless, though!

I loved April, Dean's mother, but Jack, his father, did nothing for me. The scenes where Dean finally made peace with his parents were well done and were very believable, as well as poignant, but when it can for the same reconciliation with the woman he had fallen in love with... I felt there could have been more. The secondary characters in the town of Garrison as well as Riley, Dean's half sister gave this book the push that it needed for me to keep it a B.

Grade: B-
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