I've read this book so many times that I'm now able to skim through it in afternoon. I love Jordan - complete jerk that he is. The misunderstandings a...moreI've read this book so many times that I'm now able to skim through it in afternoon. I love Jordan - complete jerk that he is. The misunderstandings are many, the angst palpable, but some of the exchanges between Alexandra and Jordan are hilarious and the love scenes are as good as any of McNaught's other books. There are some great secondary characters here as well - Roddy Carstairs is a particular favourite of mine. This is one of my 'go-to' comfort reads and it sure did the trick today.(less)
No one wrote a love story quite like LaVyrle Spencer did. I haven't read another author who got me to care that much about her characters -- butterfli...moreNo one wrote a love story quite like LaVyrle Spencer did. I haven't read another author who got me to care that much about her characters -- butterflies in my stomach, ache in my heart, lump in my throat.
Spencer had a very specific talent. Her heroes weren't always impossibly handsome, nor were her heroines long-tressed beauties with perfect lips. There were no pirate ships or ballrooms or carriages. She took run-of-the-mill folks and made them beautiful. Just ordinary people, leading regular lives. Spencer's talent lay in making these people come alive - they virtually jump off the pages.
In Morning Glory they were people like Elly Dinsmore - five months pregnant, poor, with brown hair that needed washing and a tired face that was old before it's time. And Will Parker. He is thin, hungry, desperate. Needing a haircut with "brown eyes that looked as if he worked hard to keep the expression out of them".
Elly has spent most of her life living in a house with the blinds drawn. She was born out of wedlock to the daughter of a travelling preacher and watched her mother go crazy and die inside the house. She has always been a recluse, known as "Crazy Elly" to everyone in town. She married to escape; now widowed, with 2 small boys and pregnant with her third, she advertises in the classifieds for a husband.
Will has never belonged anywhere. Abandoned as an infant, living in foster homes until he struck out on his own at 14, he bounced around from place to place. His last bounce ended him in prison convicted of murder. He has just been fired from a labourer's job after his record is discovered. He is mocked by the foreman who suggests he reply to Crazy Elly's ad for husband. Desperate and almost starving, he does.
No one had ever given either a chance. This book is about Elly and Will - and the chances they took with each other. To Will, Elly represents everything he never had -- a home, a family, a mother, a lover, a wife, a place where he belongs. For Elly, Will is a father for her children, a provider, a man. Most of all, he shows her what love is - passionate, romantic, unconditional love. They become so much more together than they ever were alone. They stand taller, prouder, they are beautiful - first to each other then to themselves. They each redeem the other.
I won't give away much more of the story than I already have -- Will and Elly marry, of course, but there is so much more to the book -- a wonderfully drawn secondary character, a couple of villians. Will joins the Marines and ships out to the South Pacific. A section of the book is simply their letters to each other, full of love and yearning. Beautifully done. Will returns home with Purple Heart and a bit of PTSD; there is a murder and their relationship is tested.
My rating when I re-read this book recently was 4 stars. I've been thinking about it while writing this, and looking at other reviews. One review had as it's tag line "A tender story of longing and fulfillment..." and it really is. Another said "Spencer is a master storyteller, and this is one of her best", and it's that too. So I'm changing my rating to a 5 star.
This book made my heart hurt. I didn't want it to end.
I've been reading nothing but raves about this book for more t...more(LANGUAGE WARNING, I'M GOING ON A RANT)
Oh, it's lonely here in I-didn't-like-this-land.
I've been reading nothing but raves about this book for more than a year, so I was looking forward to reading it. I'm not going to say anything about the story, it's been done to death, other than to say I liked the story itself right up until I just. could. not. read. any. more.
I liked Ryan very much; I felt his background and situation was portrayed realistically and not melodramatically. If I lived next door to him I'd have fallen for him like a rock as well. My problem, AND IT WAS A HUGE ONE, was with Sara. It must just be me; I found only one other review that even mentioned it. My response to her was almost immediate and completely visceral; my update says it all:
It started when Ryan told her what he did for a living. First of all, she didn't understand what he meant by "escort". Colour me skeptical, but what female DOESN'T know what that word means? Then she freaks out (ok, that I understand) but then turns it around so it's about how he's betrayed her. HUH??? Then she's mad because she babysat his dog while he was out fucking other women.
"I don't think details are a good idea, Sara." There was a difference between honesty and stupidity, after all.
"No, I want to know," she said, some more anger creeping in now. "How many women were you sleeping with on your trip last week while I was here, walking your dog, and feeding your fish, and taking your cat to your vet, and - "
I'm sorry, how about NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.
Sheesh. You've lived next door to the guy for a couple of months, hung out together as friends. You thought he was gay, for crissake. You hid how much you wanted to jump his bones because you thought he didn't like you.
Now you can't understand how it's a job, how he feels trapped, how he tried to get out once before but couldn't. How he feels like he owes his life to his "boss", how he has no skills to do anything else. So you say things like this:
"Why won't you quit this life?"
The plaintive question was out of her mouth before she even knew she was thinking it, let alone contemplating saying it out loud.
He sighed and rested his forehead against the broom for a moment. "I tried. I can't. That's why I've been avoiding you ever since you asked about it. Because this..." He made a vague gesture indicating the two of them, "...this will only hurt you. And I don't want to hurt you."
"Too late now."
He met her eyes. "I'm sorry."
"What do you mean you tried? How? What happened?" When he didn't reply, she said querulously, "Try harder."
Again, I'm struggling to understand how this is ANY OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS. What gives you the right to demand to know why he has or hasn't done anything? And how has this hurt YOU, when you made it clear that you were disgusted and hid from him for days after he told you?
Sara is also a bit uptight sexually, and about comes unglued when her sister tells her she's gay. Ryan knows before she does (he's a bit more observant than Sara is) and her response to him is to make a rude noise and say "Well, obvious to a sex professional, maybe, but I had no idea."
Ryan straps a set on at that point and tells her exactly what he was up to the day before -- in great detail. "I screwed one woman while her lesbian lover watched. Then I did a three-way with them." ( HAH! Point to Ryan. Take that, Sara, you bitch.) Sara can't even respond, she has to "wait for her revulsion to subside".
After avoiding him for three days she demands, "where have you been?" when he isn't around when she decides she needs to talk to him. When he tells her he was working, she rolls her eyes and says something snide. Another day she says, "I've spent all evening waiting for you to come home." She frowned at him. "You can't keep doing that. You have to give me your cell phone number." Then she gets bitchy when he tells her his cell phone belongs to his boss.
Ryan has his pocket picked by a street kid, and tells Sara about him. She immediately takes over, researching how they could take care of him, where he could go, including contacting an outreach organization run by an ex-prostitute. When Ryan is surprised, she says, "Some people actually get out of the sex trade and do something worthwhile with their lives, Ryan."
Wow. You're all heart, lady.
She goes on to tell Ryan that she's made an appointment for him at the shelter. Ryan, again surprised ("You made an appointment for me?") says he has to work. Uh-oh.
He could tell from her expression that it was very much the wrong thing to say. "God forbid," Sara said, "that saving Adam's life should interfere with your Wednesday afternoon trick."
She goes on to lecture him, telling him he couldn't know anything about it because places like that didn't exist when he was a street kid (which was, um, probably early 90s, so I'm betting that they DID) and how the worker took all that time out of her busy day to make the appointment,
"and do you think I'm so naive that you can't trust my judgment or do you think you could take an hour out of your busy day of well-paid sex to keep this appointment for Adam's sake?"
He lowered his head, embarassed and confused. "I'm sorry. I just..."
"Right now, you're thinking like a street boy - and like a prostitute, I guess", she said gently. "But I happen to know that when you put that attitude aside, you're an intelligent and sensible adult."
Really. And did you pat his head and offer him a cookie after that?
Is it just me???? Am I the only person who thought this woman was a complete bag, who didn't think Ryan was good enough for her unless he quit the life?
All right. At this point in the book I'm thinking I hate this woman so much I can't believe he still wants anything to do with her. And the LAST thing I want to do is read about Ryan having sex with her. Just based on her character I know an ultimatum is coming. And I freaking hate those more than anything in the world.
So I bailed at 63%.
Someone, please help me. Please tell me Sara has a split personality and this person I absolutely DETESTED disappears after they have sex and a more understanding, less self-absorbed Sara takes over? That she quits with the bitchy, derogatory remarks and becomes a more supportive friend/lover? That there is no more preaching and heavy-handed tactics to make Ryan feel even more worthless, that Ryan finds the strength to leave the life and help others ON HIS OWN, and not because some shelter worker and his girlfriend ganged up on him, or because the woman he loved gave him an ultimatum? Pretty please?
Story gets 4 stars Heroine deducts -200 stars (setting a personal record for detesting a fictional character) (less)
Third time was DEFINITELY the charm for this book. The first time I read it, it was meh. Second time, I gave up and didn't finish.
This time, I don't k...moreThird time was DEFINITELY the charm for this book. The first time I read it, it was meh. Second time, I gave up and didn't finish.
This time, I don't know what happened, I just must have been in the right mood for it. ST's writing is amazing: the angst, the pain, the sorrow, the love...my chest hurt the whole time I was reading it.
A couple of little things kept this from a 5 star, but somehow this book has quietly become a favourite.
This book took me completely by surprise. I opened it up, not expecting much out of the ordinary and was completely swept away. It is beautifully writ...moreThis book took me completely by surprise. I opened it up, not expecting much out of the ordinary and was completely swept away. It is beautifully written, with clean and evocative prose that pulls you into the world created by Carolyn Jewel. Her writing is haunting, melancholy and full of longing. All that with a Hero to die for. Seriously.
I absolutely LOVED this book. So much that I posted quotes on my updates (something I rarely do). So much that I found it on my other GR friends tbrs and sent them messages saying "You've gotta read this!!!" So much that I read it slowly, WORD FOR WORD, no skimming. Twice. In a row.
The chemistry between the H/h is front and centre and the author doesn't let up for a minute. Simply a look, a touch, a word is enough to keep the very air between them sizzling. Beautifully done.
Some of the story is told in flashback, little bits at a time, and only enough information to help us understand the H/h's thoughts and feelings in the present is given. This story is all Banallt and Sophie, with no real secondary romances or other annoyances anywhere to be found.
I felt the story was mainly told from Banallt's perspective, which of course meant I fell completely for him.
"Shh," he crooned. He held her while she cried, her hands against his chest. He loved her still, and there didn't seem to be anything he could do about it. He would probably love her until the day he died, a pathetic, dried-up old man married to some worthy woman who would give him his heir and a spare and would never, ever be to him what Sophie was right now and forever."
That also meant I was the teensiest bit impatient with Sophie towards the end (which I thought was a little bit rushed) but not enough to change how much I loved the book.
Here's my checklist, as I gave it to a GR friend when flogging recommending the book to her:
Tension - check; angst - check; gorgeous Hero desperately in love with heroine (but she doesn't believe him) - check; Hero hugely scandalous - check; heroine in love with hero but doesn't/won't realize it - check.
This is one of the best romance novels I have ever read -- 5 huge, waving hands in the air, jumping up and down stars. (less)
February must be 'courtesan' month at my house. Somehow I've managed to read three in a row, all with variations on the same theme. All with...more4.5 stars
February must be 'courtesan' month at my house. Somehow I've managed to read three in a row, all with variations on the same theme. All with a different spin, all wonderful.
When I joined GoodReads and starting reading reviews I noticed that lots of people have issues with 'courtesan' romances. I don't get it, myself. It's a plot device, no different than the spinster, or the rake, or the wallflower. The courtesan is never really a courtesan; she is almost always forced into it due to circumstances beyond her control. Most of the time if she isn't still a virgin she is so inexperienced she might as well be. It is always a romanticized version of a kept-woman or mistress; no street-walkers, doxies or gin-hounds inhabit the pages of historical romance novels. Or at least, not as the heroine. Some of the most romantic, sigh-worthy stories I have read have been about courtesans. And look at Pretty Woman - there's a reason that movie was so popular, and it wasn't all because of Richard Gere.
The first one I read this month was The Duke.
I loved Robert, Duke of Hawkscliffe. Uptight, somewhat repressed, shouldering an overwhelming burden of duty and honour for no other reason than that he has been told all of his life that he must. Just the type of Hero that needs rescuing from himself.
And Belinda Hamilton. I have been reading historical romances for years, and the sheer tenuousness of a woman's position in that society has never been brought home to me more clearly than in this book. In the blink of an eye, Bel loses her father to gaol, her position as teacher at a finishing school, her home, her intended and her future. When we meet her she is selling oranges on a street corner. All of this due to the whims of a spoiled wastrel named Dolph. When she refuses him, he ruins her life. Bel is attacked and raped by the warden from the gaol one night and when she recovers, she approaches a famous courtesan and finds sanctuary in her home.
Hawkscliffe and Bel ally themselves in order to gain revenge on a common enemy. In the process, they fall in love.
Their story is full of choices - heartbreaking ones, like those in real life usually are. Robert must choose between the life he has always thought he would lead, and the life that he actually wants. Watching him fall in love (very much in spite of himself), profess his love, then make some really bad decisions based on what he thinks he should do rather than what he wants to do, is wrenching.
And Bel - she must choose as well. To stay with the man she loves and share him, or to leave him, knowing how much he loves her, in order to be true to herself.
I cheered for these two all the way through the book. To be honest I wasn't sure how it would end or if they would get their HEA, even though they deserved it so much.
Their story is wonderfully written. The flirting they do with each other, when they dance together, when she hosts a political dinner at his home, when they kiss, it all feels REAL. The joy they find in each other, the love they feel for one another fairly jumps off the pages. (And so do the love scenes, btw. Very nicely done. There is also a progression to their physical relationship that seems very real - all in stages, just like real life.)
What a wonderful story. Angsty, full of emotion, a historical Pretty Woman. With an ending as big, and as romantic, and as "Aaaawwwww" invoking as the one in the movie.
Wow. I gotta say this book is unlike any historical romance I can remember reading. I'm going to use the word dark simply because I can't think of ano...moreWow. I gotta say this book is unlike any historical romance I can remember reading. I'm going to use the word dark simply because I can't think of another at the moment but I'm not sure it fits.
THIS REVIEW IS KINDA SPOILERISH.
The Portrait is extremely well-written. Not only can the author create heart-breakingly beautiful imagery, but I'm thinking she either spent a LOT of time researching bipolar disorder or she has some first-hand experience with it. Her portrayal of the Hero's cycle -- he's ok, he's WAY up, then down is so realistic I felt uncomfortable through parts of the book.
It would be SO hard to love someone with this disorder.
I found as I was reading the book that I was more drawn into the story as a whole than I was connected to either the H/h. It felt to me as though the author simply dropped you into their world at a particular point in time and you followed along from there. No big build up, no history or backstory. Most of the time this annoys the crap out of me - I like to be told a BIT before I'm shown - but the writing here was so strong that before I had time to get too annoyed I was pulled in and held there by it.
Good thing, because I wasn't sure WHAT I thought of the main characters. Jonas was fairly easily understood -- he's your basic tortured Hero with some extra angst.
"The thought made his chest tight. Not seeing her again, not touching her...It was absurd how desperate it made him feel. But there was no choice, and he knew it. He knew what happened to the people who stayed with him, God knew he'd seen it a hundred times before. He could picture it in his mind, knew that eventually he would see a painfully familiar look in her eyes, the same look he'd seen in those of his family, of his friends. The dull expression, the fear, the pain. And finally, the good-bye.
"They say they love you and then they leave."
Well, it was true. It had always been true. And he suffered for it not just because he was losing them, but because he knew he'd beaten them down, because by leaving they were only trying to survive."
So, so sad and alone.
Imogene, on the other hand....hmm. I'm still not sure what I think of her. She didn't strike me as having any sense of self -- she saw herself as nothing, as having no physical beauty, no wit, no charm and no talent. She thinks she is invisible compared to her memory of her dead sister. I'm not certain whether she actually was or it was just her own perception. Whichever, it makes her out to be pretty damaged.
"Thomas had always been good at seeing through her, ever since she was very small and he had come visiting every few months bringing her a special book, or a doll, because "A sick little girl needs reasons to get better, don't you think, dear heart?" Almost as if he knew that even her own parents never made time to visit her sickroom, as if he knew he was her only friend.
She lowered her eyes and stared at the thin leaves floating to the bottom of her teacup and hoped he would believe her, hoped he wouldn't see how afraid she was of failing, how afraid she was of disappearing completely in her father's eyes the way she had in her mother's."
Somehow these two bring out the good in each other. He makes her beautiful and in turn she is his beacon - without her there is nothing but darkness.
So in the end, this is a dark, poignant tale of two damaged people finding each other and the redemptive quality of love. I dare you to finish it without finding a huge lump in your throat.
I've thought about this book quite a bit since finishing it yesterday. The beauty of it becomes more apparent later on, as does the sadness. The biggest problem I had was that I wasn't really sure Jonas and Imogene would make it.
And for me that was the saddest part of all. (less)