March 10, 2015
Libraries! What would we do without a convenient library in our romance?
Yes, in One Forbidden Evening we have a heroine who must go to the library. Of course our hero is there slouched in a chair. All heroes slouch in the library chairs which have been
placed in the dark corner of a library. How they can read a book in the dark baffles me. When Cybelline meandered into the library I found my mind wandering. You know heroines wander into dark secluded libraries a lot? In fact I bet libraries might be at the very top of the list of trysting places in romance books, (if there were such a list). I wonder just how many books have a library scene in them. A gazillion? I'm thinking that would make some meticulous person (not me) a wonderful project in their spare time. All one needs do is start going through romance books and record all the library scenes. Once the number is tabulated one could even make a list (we all love lists) of their favorite library scene, their most romantic library scene, their most erotic library scene, etc. I'm not saying the use of a library is a bad thing; actually I think it's one of the better plot devices used to maneuver our couple into each other’s arms. I vaguely remember a library scene in which the heroine was angry with the hero and she rearranged all of his books by subject matter. I don't remember what book it was from, but I remember thinking it was funny. I’m done wandering now.
On to One Forbidden Evening, 2006. This is the second in Jo Goodman's Grantham series and yes it was published in 2006. I loved the first book so much I decided to check out the others in this series and I may take a look at her other historicals. Another author to read in between waiting for new books!
There was a lot to like about One Forbidden Evening. First of all, the witty dialogue between almost all of the characters in this book made me smile. Ms. Goodman seems to know her way around a word or two. She has also managed to take a plot device I don't particularly care for and make it into something that didn't irritate me. That would be the disguise plot line, in fact this book has two people pretending to be someone else. Our heroine pretends to be someone else in the very beginning of the book and our hero pretends to be his best friend in the rest of the book. But that's ok, because the people who really count know the truth of the identities – those people would be Cybelline (heroine) and Ferrin (hero).
When the story begins, a recently widowed Cybelline is having a pretty hot dream about a man (we assume it's her husband). This dream is too much for her and she decides she must scratch that itch, with a little encouragement from her aunt and maid she does. She shows up at a costume party dressed as Boudicca – dyed red hair, spear and everything. She also has someone in mind to scratch that itch. Unknown to our hero Christopher Hollins, the Earl of Ferrin, Cybelline has been watching him for a while. She's heard of his reputation and believes he would be easy to seduce, plus she believes he wouldn't be interested in pursuing her once they've had their encounter. Oh silly girl, this is a romance. But even if it weren’t taking place in Romanceland, I would think that most men would not easily forget a woman who is the aggressor - at least not for a while. So after some really hot whankee-roo on the stairs (ouchy) she departs leaving Ferrin determined to find her. But, Cybelline has left more than just the party, she's fled into the countryside with her daughter.
It does not take our hero long to figure out who she is and where she has raced off to. He follows her. Now here is where the book took a nose dive for me. There is another reason he's off to the country - helping his friend Wellsley improve his reputation. You see, Wellsley's grandmother is concerned about Wellsley's reputation. She thinks the only way to improve that reputation is for him to marry. But Wellsley doesn’t want to be forced into a marriage of his grandmother’s choosing. Thrown into this is the fact that Wellsley is in love with Ferrin's sister, but Wellsley thinks Ferrin's parents don't like him because of his reputation - so for some reason the solution to all of this is for Ferrin to pretend to be Wellsley and go off to the country and do good things - I guess. This whole Wellsley/Ferrin pretend disguise thing was very silly, didn't make too much sense and was distracting to the rest of the story. I didn't get it.
Anyway, Ferrin is in the countryside pretending to be Wellsley. Cybelline is there and of course she knows he’s not Wellsley and he knows she’s Boudicca. But before they confess to each other that they know who is who, they do some circling and baiting. There is also a little bit of a mystery plot going on. After Cybelline’s husband committed suicide, she started receiving threatening letters from his lover. A lover she had no idea existed and one who blames her for her husband’s death. Also included with these threatening letters are correspondence which her husband (Nicholas) sent his lover. Not only is she frightened, she is also hurt by Nicholas’ betrayal. As the story progresses, the threats start to include Cybelline’s daughter. Phewwww, there's a lot going on in this book. The mystery surrounding Cybelline's marriage/husband was a nice bit of discovery. There are clues all over the place but you have to read carefully to catch them because Ms. Goodman tries to lead you down the wrong path. Don’t follow the Red Herrings. And, that's all the hint I am going to provide.
This book also contained a rather silly villain resolution, but I wasn't as irritated with that as I was with Ferrin’s strong-arm techniques in the bedroom. I found myself becoming rather annoyed with Ferrin's compulsion to have Cybelline plead for her pleasure. I'm not sure why he felt the need to do that over and over again. Cybelline has let Ferrin read some of the letters, so he knows what a jerk-face Nicholas was, how Nicholas used her but still Ferrin insists upon Cybelline’s begging. I found Ferrin's demands of Cybelline not only disturbing but degrading - especially since he was supposedly falling in love with her.
Overall, I found most of the book a pleasant read. I was enchanted with Ms. Goodman's use of "the Word". The dialogue was fun, the characters were well-rounded. I would have given this a much higher rating but for a few things: I didn't buy into the Wellsley/Ferrin switch reasoning and Ferrin's bedroom antics were unsettling.
Time/Place: Regency England