Yes, I AM participating in the 2011 TBR Challenge. And it’s still Wednesday in my time zone. Barely.
This year the Challenge is hosted by Wendy, the Super Librarian. I’m glad she took it on, and hopefully I’ll do better posting, reading and responding to reviews when Challenge Day doesn’t fall on the first day of classes at my college.
I did finish my book, though. And I really enjoyed it. Jo Goodman is the author of some of my favorite romances, most recently Marry Me, and I’m slowly making my way through her backlist. More Than You Wished is the second book about the Hamilton family, plantation owners near Charleston, a few years after the end of the Civil War. It was originally published in 2001.
The Hamilton family lost ownership of their rice plantation after the war, and the only daughter Bria is determined to get it back. Her mother married a Northerner wealthy enough to take it over (he renames it Concord); Bria manages it under her stepfather’s ownership, but he physically abuses her mother, verbally abuses Bria, and exploits the black freedmen and -women who work for him. Her father and brothers are dead, except for her brother Rand (hero of the other Hamilton book) who is away searching for lost family treasure.
Lucas Kincaid has his own reasons for being in Charleston and getting hired at Concord, but Bria becomes as important to him as anything or anyone else in his life. Bria is afraid of intimacy; Luke doesn’t challenge that in a conventional macho way, but instead allows her the time and distance she needs to learn to trust him. I love a hero who is secure enough in his masculinity that he doesn’t need to prove it.
The Reconstruction South is a tough place to set a romance; there are social problems after the war that really play against the romance. Goodman doesn’t shy away from the issues of Yankee profiteering or of Southern reluctance to integrate freed slaves into the culture; the Klan makes an appearance, and there are several former slaves who help illustrate some of the complexities of this place and time. The black characters have agency and transcend stereotypes (not without commenting on them), and I think Goodman’s treatment of the difficult race issues is as evenhanded and thorough as you can expect in a novel where they are essentially background. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that other readers had more problems with this than I did.
The plot took several twists that I didn’t expect but that were completely believable; this is a marriage of convenience plot (love those!), and there was a nice mix of internal and external elements keeping Bria and Luke from resolving their feelings and their situation. As always, Goodman’s secondary characters are a rich and interesting community — I don’t want to return here quite as much as I do Reidsville, Colorado, but I was disappointed to find that there were no more books set among these people. I don’t have More Than You Know in my TBR pile yet, but I will. WIN