After finishing this book, I can say with all certainty that it has been much too long since I read a Jo Goodman. I enjoy the current offerings in Historical Romance, but sometimes I long for something a little different. That’s where Jo Goodman comes in. Twisting plots, clever dialogue, subtle characterization…it all works so well for me.
I was a little nervous when I started this book. Goodman is usually a sure thing, but I wasn’t sure what I would think of a romance that starts with the heroine cast as in love with someone else. Sometimes those plots work, but sometimes the transition from loving the first guy to loving the hero comes off as rushed and disingenuous. I shouldn’t have worried myself. The transition from Bram to Bode is extremely smooth and is aided by Comfort’s memories of her come out ball at sixteen. The author is also not content to let Comfort’s feelings for Bram rest simply. She delves into what motivated Comfort to feel that way and forces her to look at what their friendship actually consisted of.
Bode is one of those heroes that I find it near impossible not to like. He’s been in the wings of Comfort’s life since she was sixteen and has been attracted to her from that very first meeting. Unfortunately for him, the vivacious Bram is the brother that fixes her attention. He’s left to watch them from a distance and deal with her growing feelings for Bram, no matter how much it chafes.
“What do you and my brother find to talk about? Or for that matter, what did you find to write about for so many years?”
“When you ask that question, I can never tell if it’s your brother you mean to insult, or me.”
“Bram cannot be insulted.”
Mixed in with his unhappiness with Comfort’s feelings for Bram is his frustration with his brother. Again and again he’s forced to bail him out of scrapes, yet Bram never internalizes the wrong he has committed. It’s a vicious cycle that Bram always seems to come out on top in. Despite his surprise and unhappiness when he learns of Bram and Comfort’s engagement, Bode refuses to believe it’s too late. He’s determined to finally make Comfort see him.
You may wonder why Bode would do that to his brother, but calling Bode’s family close would be quite a stretch. Comfort’s family, which was cobbled together when she was five, was immeasurably stronger than any family relationship Bode had ever experienced in his life from his blood relatives. Speaking of Comfort’s family, her uncles were fabulous. I loved the strong friendship they had with each other and the care they had for Comfort. Watching them interact was both amusing and heartwarming. They were two cantankerous old men, but they had nothing but love for Comfort.
“…but I don’t know what else we could have done, since you’re about as necessary as gravy is to biscuits.”
“As gravy is to biscuits?” Newt said before Comfort could comment. “That’s the best you can do?”
Tuck shrugged. “You try to say something pretty.”
“You’re as necessary as sunshine is to flowers.”
Tuck snorted. “Now you’re sayin’ we’re flowers. If I had my druthers, I’d druther be a biscuit.”
“And I’d druther be a tea cart, but that’s not going to happen.”
“A tea cart? Now what kind of fool thing is that to say?
This is a very character driven romance. There are outside influences making trouble for them, but the main focus is of the book is on Comfort and Bode and their ever deepening relationship. Watching them fall in love was absolutely lovely. I love the way Goodman writes her characters and their interactions together. You won’t find the hero and heroine thinking perfectly obvious things just to make sure that we, the reader, are clear on that fact. The characters and their emotions are subtle. You have to watch and pay attention to follow the clues of their slow fall into love. You’ll know it before they ever end up saying it to each other, because their actions show it so well.
I enjoyed the twists and turns this book took, and appreciated that although the overall plot and motivation behind it was lighter than some of her books, the hidden motivation and surprising character developments were just as layered as ever. The only real complaint I have about the book is how Comfort and Bode consummated their relationship. I was a little confused and uncomfortable with the circumstance and with how quickly that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Once I saw more of the Comfort’s take on it I was better off.
He held her gaze, and Comfort didn’t look away; she didn’t want to. His eyes no longer reflected the violet-blue spark of light glancing off steel. What she saw were deep, warm pools that invited her to stir their perfect stillness.
Without quite knowing why, she accepted their invitation. She raised her head. Her lips parted. She waited.
She understood what she hadn’t in the moment before he touched her mouth with his.
Bode’s eyes had been the calm before the storm.