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Willaful Review: This Time Forever by Kathleen Eagle

foreversensuality rating: steamy

This RITA winning romance from 1992 has some serious meat on its bones, and as always, Eagle manages to make hard, complicated themes utterly enthralling to read.

Rodeo star Cleve Black Horse is on trial for first degree murder, with a lawyer who believes he’s guilty and a jury nothing like his peers. His faith is pinned on one juror, a white woman he can tell believes his story — but he winds up convicted anyway.

Fate seems determine to intertwine Cleve’s life with that of the juror, Susan. She’s the nurse in the emergency room one night when Cleve is stabbed by another prisoner. And that same night, Susan falls in love with an infant boy prematurely taken from his dead mother — a baby that may be Cleve’s. Susan can’t get permission to adopt an Indian child, so she desperately approaches Cleve in prison, despite knowing he has good reason to hate her.

This was such a vivid, compelling story, especially the first half. Even pretty much knowing how it would end, I was fascinated by Cleve’s trial. Eagle skillfully shows how culture clashes and racism are working against Cleve; at one point, the prosecutor make a big deal about Cleve taking his saddle with him when leaving the murder scene, while to Cleve, the saddle is so much a part of his identity, he can’t even find the words to explain it. His incompetent lawyer never picks up on this to help him, but we learn more later when Cleve tells Susan, “You know what being a cowboy mean to me? It meant not being an Indian. I mean, when I was winning, you know? When I was the man to beat. I didn’t have to be an Indian every time anybody looked at me.”

The writing is honest and unsparing. Ugly things happen, and they often have ugly consequences. But both Cleve and Susan are good people who’ve made mistakes, and their essential warmth and humanity and growing feelings for each other keep the story from getting bleak. Not everything gets wrapped up neatly at the end but Susan and Cleve wind up right where they belong, together.

Although I didn’t find the second half as riveting as the first, this was such an extraordinary novel I have to give it 5 stars. You can buy it from Amazon here (and as of this writing it’s only $1.99 for Kindle, but I’m not sure how long that will last.)

Originally published by Avon. Reprint published by Bell Bridge Books. Review copy from NetGalley.

Willaful Review: The Lady Who Broke the Rules by Marguerite Kaye


Sensuality Rating: Surprisingly Steamy

I’m not sure which surprises me more: a Harlequin Historical featuring an interracial romance, or a Harlequin Historical featuring juicy sex.  The language isn’t graphic — we’re still in the land of potent manhoods here — but it’s definitely steamier than I’m used to.

Virgil, a fiercely determined and intelligent plantation slave, was sold after a failed rebellion. His buyer chose him for those same qualities, freed him, and gave him opportunities which have led to Virgil becoming an extraordinarily successful businessman in Boston. His goals in life are to help others who are shackled or downtrodden, fueled less by his own experiences than by a need to make reparation to his former lover Millie, who was punished for his crimes.

On a business visit to England he meets Kate, a “ruined” duke’s daughter who is also a progressive free thinker.  (And astonishingly, not obnoxious about it.) They’re both attracted to each other, though at first Virgil questions her motives: “I hope, Lady Kate, that you are not thinking of using me as a weapon in some private war. Are you perhaps eager to prove your reputation for being a revolutionary to your father and your aunt?” Kate can’t deny the charge entirely, but her interest is mostly sincere — and she’s sincerely hot for him.  Which is a tremendous relief to her, since her “ruination” by her louse of former fiance left her fearing that she’s frigid.

I don’t know enough to comment on the historical plausibility or authenticity of this novel, though I suspect they’re iffy.  Race issues aside, it seemed surprisingly easy for the characters to find private places to have trysts — although according to the author’s note, the house and grounds for the series were designed with that in mind!  (The book is part of a multi-author continuity series, but stands fine on its own.) In any event, the overall tone felt appropriate, and that’s generally good enough for me.

I did find it odd how little race is addressed in the story.  Virgil encounters very little hostility and when he does, it’s not shown as a race issue. For example, here are Kate’s father’s thoughts on their proposed match: “That the man was an America, albeit one of that country’s richest inhabitants, was bad enough. That he was a commoner, and ex-slave with a lineage that could be traced back precisely one generation and only on one side, made the marriage, as far as the duke was concerned, simply impossible.” This comes off as somewhat disingenuous. And except for one mention of his discomfort at being the only black person in a room, Virgil himself seems as color-blind as everyone else, and surprisingly detached from his former slave status.

Aside from its unusual premise, this wasn’t particularly groundbreaking or original, but it was an absorbing story with appealing characters. I give it 3 stars. You can buy it from Amazon here or from All Romance here.

Published by Harlequin Historicals. Review copy borrowed from the public library.

Michelle Reviews: I'll Catch You by Farrah Rochon

Heat Level: Steamy

African American female; African American male

Like pretty much everyone in the known universe I read and enjoyed Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Chicago Stars series. However, as a lifelong fan of the game of American football I was all too conscious that her football team looked nothing like any football team in existence since the 1970s. The lack of diversity was glaring, and the scenes where she did include minorities were so painfully self-conscious, I always skipped them. However, I dearly love football, and when this book came across my desk,  I jumped on it.

Note, this is the second book in what is a four-book series. I started with this one because I found the title of the first one, Huddle With Me Tonight, just unbearable. I don’t think I missed anything by starting the way I did, this book can definitely stand alone.

The book starts with the heroine, Payton (named for the legendary Chicago Bears running back Walter “Sweetness” Payton), essentially stalking Cedric, a “bad boy” professional football player. Cedric has had a run of bad luck. His behavior off the field has resulted in his agent dropping him and no other agent will touch him. He also fears that his team won’t sign him to a new contract. He is particularly concerned about changing teams as he doesn’t want to leave New York. This is a weak area of the book. I’ve followed football forever, and the so-called bad behavior mentioned wouldn’t even get a rise out of the most stringent agent. Certainly it wouldn’t result in a franchise dropping a running back with the kind of stats this guy has. That failing aside, I found the rest of the football-related aspects of this story to be believable and in line with what I know of the game and its players.

Payton is a major football fan and more than anything she wants to be a sports agent. To that end she has quit her job at a law firm in Texas and relocated to New York City in an effort to fulfill her dream. Unfortunately, none of the players are willing to take a risk with an unknown quantity, especially a female one. So she has gone all out in an effort to get Cedric as a client. Given her dogged determination and the fact that he literally has no one else, he decides to take her on.

Payton quickly shows that she has what it takes and negotiates endorsement deals for him while also working to clean up his image. Their professional relationship sets up the central conflict of the story; Payton doesn’t want to give in to the strong physical attraction between them because she fears the damage it could do to her reputation as a sports agent. This conflict read as very realistic to me and I enjoyed watching these two characters navigate the treacherous waters of professional sports.

Another strong area of the book is the relationship between Cedric and his friends, who are his fellow teammates. They are, of course, the heroes of books of their own but their presence in this book isn’t overpowering.

I really like Rochon’s narrative style and occasional touches of humor. The character development was stellar and I loved the way she delved into the source of Payton’s passion for football. I found it very relatable because my own love of the game comes from very similar origins. It would’ve been very easy make these people into caricatures, but she takes us past that. We see that Payton really is starting out in a business in the way you would expect. One of her meetings with Cedric occurs in a laundromat, and yes, she’s folding clothes. Lacking an office of her own, she also meets clients in a coffee shop. Payton is really a great heroine. I love her grit and determination and Cedric was a great match for her. This was a solid four-star read and I intend to go back and read …ugh…Huddle With Me Tonight.

I’ll Catch You can be purchased here.


Hello, My Name is Michelle...

…and I love multicultural books. Apparently I bitched at Karen one time too many about multicultural reviews because as often happens she told me to either write them myself, or shut the hell up about it. So, here I am. I’ve been a romance reader for a very long time, and my taste is eclectic. I really enjoy unusual, offbeat stories. I prefer books with a black heroine, but I read other ethnicities and will be reviewing those too. Historicals are my favorite, but it’s hard to find those in multicultural. I also like all manner of contemporaries including paranormals and romantic suspense. I don’t care for inspys, and while I have liked some menage books, and my next review will be one, I won’t be reviewing any M/M, though I might review F/F if I come across any I like. Why? Because I want to promote books that don’t receive much airtime, so to speak, in Romancelandia. So, if you know of any books you’d like to recommend hit me up at 1blackwomansopinion@gmail.com. Thank you very much.