4 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Shades of Twilight by Linda Howard

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Dear listener,

Shades of Twilight is the story of Roanna Davenport, who grows up in a wealthy southern family but never quite fits in. She isn’t pretty or popular, and she has a real talent for saying the wrong thing at precisely the wrong moment. She’s in love with a distant cousin, Webb Tallant. But Webb marries their cousin Jessie, the bane of Roanna’s life. When Jessie is found murdered, Webb is blamed for her death, even though there isn’t enough evidence to charge him. Webb leaves town, and Roanna is left to pick up the pieces.

All of her life, Roanna has tried to win the love of her grandmother, of Webb, and of her extended family – and every time she’s been slapped down. She’s had enough. Roanna withdraws from the family, and that’s when her grandmother, Lucinda, realizes how very important this misfit is to all of them. Lucinda tries to make amends to Roanna by setting in motion a chain of events that brings Webb back home. But the plan disturbs a killer who is set on vengeance – and this time, the whole family seems to be the target.

I hope you enjoy Shades of Twilight.

Sincerely,
Linda Howard

I actually dithered over whether or not to add this to my shame files, or if I should just be ashamed period. In any event it is available through OpenLibrary if you are interested, though the usual disclaimers apply.

This is a tough book for me to parse, and spoilers for this book will abound. It turns out that while the first sex scene and the heroes initial abhorrent behavior toward the heroine are what stick in my mind, that actually isn’t what bothers me most upon further inspection. Yes, the hero treats her awfully when they meet after 10 years, but he realizes his actions are awful (to an extent) and gives her the chance to back out. And yes, for the most part Roanna is a doormat. But frankly they aren’t really the problematic characters, nor are their actions what make this story somewhat objectionable.

That family, they are freaking awful. We have basically all the adults treating Roanna awful, talking about how they don’t care to have her around. They don’t really love her or care for her, and they let her older cousin treat her abysmally. They spoil and cosset Jessie to ridiculous levels to the point that she becomes such a sociopath that she actually starts sleeping with her own father (who is unknown to them), and when she gets pregnant she plans to pass the baby off as Webb’s. This leads to the matriarch of the family bashing her brains in, and then letting first Roanna and then Webb be accused of the crime. Not only that, they don’t pay attention or show much real care to anyone beside themselves. They don’t note when their family members are drug addicts or collapsing. They basically let Roanna starve to death before finally noticing her, and it appears no one gets her any therapy or help. And later with another cousin Corliss, they let her grow up just that spoiled too and don’t even really notice that she has a substance abuse problem and is spiraling out of control. And when she upsets them instead of getting her help they just boot her out of the house. She is painted as wholly a villain when really she is a product of that toxic family. And then, when the truth comes out about the fact that the matriarch killed Jessie, it is all forgiveness. Seriously, an awful family.

So why do I even like this book? Well, honestly, I kind of like Roanna, strange as it might be to say. She gets a bad rap from reviewers for being such a doormat, which from a certain perspective might be true. But I think there are a lot of ways to be, and not everyone has to be a ball buster, or spunky, or a spitfire. And she works on herself and I don’t know, she just hunkers in when there are things she can’t change, which is I think where a lot of us are at in our lives. So it is kind of nice to see someone like that have her dreams come true. Now Webb, he isn’t one of those heroes I swoon over, he’s somewhat overbearing and autocratic, he doesn’t give the women in his life the information they need to protect themselves. But, once he gets over himself, he really is rather sweet in his head about Roanna, and to his credit he likes for Roanna to stick up for herself and buck him on things. And here is where it got me, the whole deal was that the matriarch would give him the inheritance, despite the fact that he wasn’t a direct line descendant, while Jessie and Roanna were. He marries Jessie for it even. It was the lure that the matriarch used to bring him back, even though Roanna had been heir in his stead during the 10 years he was gone. And he just gives it up, the land and the house and the money, he wants Roanna to have that power and security.

I don’t know, the two main characters work for me, and the rest of it is like a trainwreck of a soap opera and it keeps me entertained. This definitely isn’t a book for everyone, you’ve got father daughter incest, abuse, maybe not your most upstanding main characters, completely ignoring birth control, and accidental pregnancies. And oh, I almost forgot, but yes, cousins marrying…but I don’t know if it is geography but I just don’t have that big of a hang-up about 2nd cousins getting married. Down here it isn’t that uncommon for people to show up at big weddings and a couple to realize they are actually 2nd or 3rd cousins. So yeah, there is a lot to be bothered by in this book.

Shades Of Twilight

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5 star review

Review – The Price of Desire by Jo Goodman

Price of Desire

Jo Goodman is one of those authors where I can only wonder, how the heck did I never stumble upon her when I first started reading romance, particularly historical romance. I’ve read a few now and I have to say I am going to be trolling through her back list with all haste.

USA Today bestselling author Jo Goodman delivers a deliciously wicked tale of forbidden desire that knows no limits. . .

Olivia Cole is devastated to learn that her ne’er-do-well brother has promised her to the operator of a London gaming hall as payment of his debts. Olivia accepts her fate–even if it means that her reputation will suffer from living among rogues and gamblers. But when she meets the sexy and mysterious Griffin Wright-Jones, Viscount Breckenridge, Olivia has more than just her good name to worry about–for he rouses in her wanton thoughts she’s never dared entertain–until now. . .

Griffin wears the scars of his life on his striking face. Although he wants Olivia like no other woman before, he doesn’t force her to share his bed–a difficult task considering how beautiful she is. But with each passing night, Griffin and Olivia’s resolve weakens until finally they take their greatest gamble on one night of reckless pleasure. . .

Note: This is a highly triggering book. If you are easily triggered avoid this book.

I fell in love with Olivia Cole the moment that I met her. She was so self-possessed, even in the face of the small hardships we know of initially. She is living with her brother and is on poor terms with the rest of her family, due to some mystery. Her brother is a wastrel who has gotten himself in debt and put his sister up as collateral. Whether he meant to do her a kindness or even assumed she would be safe is a matter for debate. What is not for debate is that her brother doesn’t really think and is still a child in many ways.

It sounds like the usual fluffy in romance novels/terrifying in real life trope, but in this case it really, really isn’t. Yes, Griffin is attracted to her, but he isn’t the one orchestrating the trade. He is trying to solve the mystery and trying to keep his reputation for not being cheated. And so, Olivia ends up living under his roof, where he feeds her, cares for her, brings in a doctor as needed, pays for her staff and keeps things going so she will have a home to go to should she leave. But he knows that it is unlikely her brother will ever come up to scratch. Mostly Griffin is kind and patient, and of course attracted and curious about the mystery of Olivia.

Griffin isn’t perfect. While he didn’t purposefully try to push Olivia into becoming he mistress, when she jumped that way, he didn’t abuse her of the notion. That is not precisely ok, but for the time period, and compared to how other romances were typically written, it was wonderfully, refreshingly restrained. And he doesn’t just take, he pays attention, he is kind and gentle and caring, things she has never known. He starts to figure out her past, and becomes even more caring, trying to help her deal with her issues. For Olivia’s part, she is reveling in the first care she has ever received. In Griffin, we have the wonderful experience of actually watching the hero falling in love with the heroine, long before he even knows, and way before she knows. He even says I love you first, knowing she is unlikely to be able to say it back. And he isn’t aggressive about forcing her into it.

I know some people are likely to claim an issue, that this is just the stupid trope of the heroine’s past traumas being “cured by magical peen”. I didn’t see it that way at all. Olivia is strong, she recovered a great deal on her own and became self-sufficient in ways women of her birth station almost never could. And she healed more with Griffin because of his care, his trust, his respect. That she was able to love him physically was just one small part of the puzzle, and really the smallest part. The biggest part was learning that she was brave, that things weren’t her fault, and learning to trust herself and others. And frankly, she taught much of that back to Griffin, he needed those lessons too. Really it was a lovely romance.

The story itself isn’t fast paced, it kind of puts me a little to mind of The Escape in how it is plotted. There were some mysteries, and a few tight spots, but mostly this is a character driven story. And since I genuinely liked the characters, faults and all, I enjoyed living their lives with them. I enjoyed figuring out the mystery, and seeing the characters come into their own.

My one issue with this book is that there was no dramatic comeuppance for the villains in the piece. Basically it focuses more on Olivia’s being to get over what happened to her, and her no longer fearing the villains, not feeling she got justice. Or at least I waffle on this issue. On the one hand, I appreciate that this isn’t wish-fulfillment and completely unrealistic. Not everything is tied up and happily finished, except for the hero and heroine. All too often that is a frustration of mine, things that get tied up in ways that make no sense for the time period, just to make readers happy. On the other hand the villains were awful, awful awful people and there is a real sense that other children may be in danger if not now then in the future. So there is a true feeling of regret on at least this reader’s part that something diabolical didn’t occur against these miscreants. So, in moments that I’m bitter that nothing really bad happened to them, I like to consider Griffin and how he has a tendency to quietly and competently manage things. I like to assume that once things calmed down he put his skills and resources to work and settled things with the villains once and for all. Did that happen, or did the author make any provisions for me to assume that he would? Nope. But that is what I like to do in these cases, think about what the hero I know might do in the future. In any event, even with that, this is a 5 star book for me.

The Price Of Desire

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