**spoiler alert** I really wanted to like this book. I really, really did. The premise was great. The deep glimpses into African American and Spanish...more**spoiler alert** I really wanted to like this book. I really, really did. The premise was great. The deep glimpses into African American and Spanish culture during this era of history is fantastic. The women in this book are fantastic, but they're dragged down by the men and a plot that moves so fast that you nearly get whiplash.
I started off liking Logan and by the end I wanted to hurl him off a cliff and tell Mariah, "Girl, you can do better, now go back and hook up with that preacher man." Mariah voices the issue I had with the romance. It was too, too fast and events that could naturally be spread out over days and weeks were instead crammed into one week. The timing of the final plot twist doesn't make sense either. There was no need to have this story go along as fast as it did. I think if the events were spread out over a year instead of a week, it would go a long way toward making the plot less jarring and Logan, especially, more likable.
**SPOILER ALERT** The book is then capped by an encounter with Mariah's mother that goes over the top. The timing doesn't work out well, and no reason is really given for Mariah's mother pursuing her to California other than for control. There was a lot of actual, solid reasons why Mariah's mother would demand her back, namely the huge impact to her income since Mariah is no longer there to design and make dresses. But we see how it affected one client, and suddenly she's in pursuit. She's one-dimensional to the point where she's a cartoonish villain, which is sad. The layers are there, but we're told about them, not shown them.
My biggest advice to the author: Slow down. Please, just slow down. Try not to have everything so over-the-top and let Mariah and Logan develop at a slower pace. Let her gradually win him over, not just repeat the same situation over and over until it's hammered into our heads. Let her go out on that date with the preacher, and let her gradually become friends with Logan's mother. Don't have everything be magically solved for Mariah. She's a strong, strong woman, she can take a setback without giving up. You have such great ideas and the bases for great characters. Let stuff happen on page, don't just tell it or rush through it. We know they'll reach a happily ever after in the end. So, let us enjoy the journey along the way.(less)
This felt like a rehash of Amanda's story, but with a more likable heroine ... until the latter half of the book. This volume suffers from being far t...moreThis felt like a rehash of Amanda's story, but with a more likable heroine ... until the latter half of the book. This volume suffers from being far too long, and everything comes to a screeching halt when the main plot is resolved and they begin going around and around in circles. I found myself glancing to see how many pages were left repeatedly and was left with the sense of just finish it already. I read the final book in the trilogy before I read this one, so it was interesting to see the build-up to the third book sprinkled throughout. This particular volume would be a lot better if about 50 pages was cut, but the bloat makes it fall down the scales for me.(less)
ON THE FRONTIER OF A NEW LIFE... Tired and hungry after two days of traveling, Susanna Hopkins is just about at the end of her tether when her train finally arrives in Cheyenne. She’s bound for a new life in a Western garrison town. Then she discovers she doesn’t even have enough money to pay for the stagecoach! Luckily for her, the compassionate Major Joseph Randolph is heading in the same direction. As a military surgeon, Joe is used to keeping his professional distance. But, despite Susanna’s understated beauty, he’s drawn to this woman who carries loss and pain equal to his own and has a heart that is just as hesitant and wary....
Miss Lydia Charingford is always cheerful, and never more so than at Christmas time. But no matter how hard she smiles, she cannot forget the youthful mistake that could have ruined her reputation. Even though the worst of her indiscretion was kept secret, one other person knows the truth of those dark days: the sarcastic Doctor Jonas Grantham. She wants nothing to do with him...or the butterflies that take flight in her stomach every time he looks her way. Jonas Grantham has a secret, too: He has been in love with Lydia for more than a year. This winter, he is determined to conquer her dislike and win her for his own. It all starts with a wager and a kiss...
One title to change his life... A disgraced son with a dark reputation, William "Ferguson" Avenel is content to live in exile - until his father dies in the scandal of the Season. With rumors of insanity swirling around them, his sisters desperately need a chaperone. Ferguson thinks he's found the most proper woman in England - and he won't ruin her, even if he secretly desires the passionate woman trapped beneath a spinster's cap. One chance to break the rules... Lady Madeleine Vaillant can't face her blighted future without making one glorious memory for herself. In disguise, on a London stage, she finds all the adoration she never felt from the ton. But when she's nearly recognized, she will do anything to hide her identity - even setting up her actress persona as Ferguson's mistress. She'll take the pleasure he offers, but Madeleine won't lose her heart in the bargain. One season to fall in love... Every stolen kiss could lead to discovery, and Ferguson's old enemies are determined to ruin them both. But as their dangerous passion ignites their hearts and threatens their futures, how can an heiress who dreams of freedom deny the duke who demands her love?
A not-so-merry widow… The widowed Marchioness of Folkestone is notorious for her parties, her art collection, and her utter disregard for the rules. But Ellie Claiborne knows her destruction is near. The new marquess is her first lover – the man whose sculpted body and sardonic grin haunt her every time she picks up her paintbrush. If he ever returns to claim his inheritance, her heart won’t survive seeing him again. A man determined to destroy her... Nicholas Claiborne hasn’t stepped foot in England since watching Ellie marry his cousin. He has no use for the gorgeous, heartless girl who betrayed him, or the title she abandoned him for. But when his business in India turns deadly, Nick must return to London to uncover a murderer – and take revenge on the woman he couldn’t force himself to forget. A love they can’t escape… Nick hates Ellie’s transformation from sweet debutante to jaded seductress. Ellie despises him for leaving her behind. Still, the sparks between them reignite the passion that should have been their destiny. As their demands of each other turn darker and a potential killer closes in, they must decide whether to guard the fragile remnants of their hearts — or find a way to fall in love all over again.
She never wanted marriage... When a friend is forced to consider a marriage of convenience, Lady Amelia Staunton is determined to rescue her. But her plans trap her in an illicit seduction, and Amelia must marry him herself. Malcolm's all-consuming kisses and devilish humor might make up for her lost freedom, but she believes he will force her to abandon the Gothic romances she yearns to write. Since she can't escape him, she must distract him from her secret... He isn't looking for love... A powerful autocrat with a well-hidden rebellious streak, Malcolm MacCabe doesn't need another beautiful mistress - he needs an obedient wife. Obedience is not one of Amelia's virtues. But he's too enthralled by her wit and passion to let her go - even if it means risking the political reputation he is building to save his clan. Their hearts can't survive the scandal... Despite their intentions, every wicked embrace binds them together. But as their conflicting desires combust into insatiable hunger and unavoidable ruin, they must decide whether to pursue their personal destinies alone - or fight for the love that could destroy them both.
This was pretty much the only Julie Garwood book that escaped my devouring her backlog when I was a teenager. It's the first Garwood I'd read in awhil...moreThis was pretty much the only Julie Garwood book that escaped my devouring her backlog when I was a teenager. It's the first Garwood I'd read in awhile, and the thing that struck me is how Bradford pretty much uses borderline rape tactics to woo Caroline. I understand it was written in a different time (1986) when that sort of thing was more popular, but reading it now made me extremely uncomfortable. Caroline's action and body language were all screaming at her not wanting Bradford's kisses at first, and he overpowered her. He even forced her mouth open with his hand at one point. If a guy did that to me, I'd bite his hand, knee him in the balls and run.
The main reason I finished it was that I wanted to figure out the mystery. The characters were all OK, but it was like barely scraping the surface. Caroline magically falls back into good terms with her dad, which seemed too sudden. I don't think this is a Garwood I'll be reading again.(less)
This was not my favorite of the Cynster novels. After getting to know younger Amanda and Amelia in the earlier books, like Hyacinth in Julia Quinn's B...moreThis was not my favorite of the Cynster novels. After getting to know younger Amanda and Amelia in the earlier books, like Hyacinth in Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series, you knew that the twins were bound to be headstrong to go toe-to-toe with the dominating members of their family that came before them.
But how Amanda is presented isn't that sympathetic. The way she pursues Martin is eerily parallel to the suitor pursuing Amanda in the story itself. But while the guy was set in his place, it's apparently OK for Amanda to stalk Martin in the name of finding a husband because she is a Cynster. There's no doubt that there's women who do that both in the Regency era and today, but I expected better of Amanda Cynster. Her parents and sister are curiously absent throughout most of it, hand-waved away with thin excuses. You could have the same story, the same outcome if Amanda had decided just to be friends with Martin then fallen for him rather than turn him into her personal version of "The Bachelor." It would keep Amanda headstrong and sympathetic, yet far more likable. Her characterization evens out as the book proceeds, but you have to get past that creepy, stalker beginning to get there. This is not a Cynster novel I will be coming back to.(less)