by Jo Goodman, historical (2003)
Zebra, $6.50, ISBN 0-8217-6868-9
Everything I Ever Wanted would do better as a standalone book, as the secondary characters tend to distract from the main plot (that and Jo Goodman's writing of male interactions and repartees here ring false), but I find it a solid enjoyable tale. The heroine India Parr's permanently dour and too-serious nature takes some getting used to, but the hero Matthew Forrester, Viscount Southerton (the "South" in this author's Compass Club series) is gallant and sensitive like a dream romance hero.
Like every other romance hero who happen to be born in the Regency era, South has ties with the Intelligence and now he is investigating the murder of an agent. Popular stage actress India Parr may or may not have been involved, so he orchestrates their meeting. India, of course, is a typical Jo Goodman heroine with some secrets of her own, and soon South finds himself trying to protect her from the villain as well as trying to nab that fiend. This book is related to Let Me Be The One, in fact, the time line of the two books actually overlap early on in the story. Still, if I can't remember much about that first book but can understand this story just fine, I don't think there will be any problems with this book standing alone.
South is a really nice hero. He is not an alpha guy, he doesn't walk in and take charge of a situation, he's just nice while being a capable guy in the process. While I find Let Me Be The One tedious and the romance icy, I have a complete opposite reaction to Everything I Ever Wanted. Some of the scenes where South goes all protective and gallant make me feel all mushy inside. That guy is really, really nice. "Nice" is a vague description, I know, but that's what South is. He's polite, he's understanding, he's gallant, and he'll be a handy guy to have around when a killer is out for your blood. Some of the things India does here can be a bit on the unnecessary side, but there's no complains from South. Like I said, he's just nice.
While South display an easy wit, India is unfortunately a typical Jo Goodman heroine: dour, humorless, and trigger-happy with the self-blame thing, although India isn't as bad as some of the author's heroines in the past when it comes to being a martyr. When India responds to South's jokes by searching his eyes with a worried look on her face, the whole levity of the scene falls flat. India is also perversely vain: throughout the entire story, she seems to operate under this idea that everything happens as a reaction to her presence or actions. Combine her taut nerves, humorless countenance, and her tendency to fret over what she has done to make the world a horrible place together and I can't help but to wonder if this woman will one day experience a nervous breakdown of Mariah Carey proportions.
The suspense part of the plot is deftly paced. When the author wants me to feel nervous, okay, I'm more than happy to do so. When she wants me to go "Awwww!" when South goes tender and gallant over India, okay, "Awwwww!" I have serious reservations about some of India's actions in this story, but the story pulls me in so well that I really don't have much to complain. It is only when South is with the other Compass Club guys and the author puts in some tedious backstory that the story gets bogged down.
With a very engaging story and has a very memorable hero, I guess that this book is definitely alright with me. A little humor would have helped lighten the solemn mood, but still, it's alright.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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