The Captain's Lady

My Reckless Heart

My Steadfast Heart

Only In My Arms

With All My Heart

More Than You Wished
by Jo Goodman
(Zebra, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-8217-6799-2
Thereís a shelf in my room for what I call my ďmaybe Iíll keep itĒ books. Jo Goodmanís new release is going on that shelf. Iím going to keep this one around for a while, if only to reread one of the tenderest, most moving, and most sensuous love scenes that Iíve come across in a long time. And also to renew my acquaintance with one great hero.

Northerner Lucas Kincaid has come to Concord Plantation in South Carolina on a quest. He wants to determine whether its owner, Orrin Foster is the man he has been seeking for ten years, ever since the end of the Civil War. But to get close to Orrin, he needs to convince Bria Hamilton, Fosterís stepdaughter to hire him to do the repairs needed around the place. Bria, like most southerners in 1875, has no time for Yankees and it looks like Lukeís plan will fail - until fate and Orrin himself intervene. Foster is quite happy to foist a fellow Yankee on his stepdaughter. He may need Bria to run the plantation, but he knows that she resents the fact that he married her mother and took over control of the familyís property in the chaotic aftermath of the war.

In fact, Bria maneuvered her stepfather into his decision; she has her own reasons for wanting the house repaired. Orrin leaves to join his wife in Charleston, but only after making some nasty comments about Briaís reputation and character. Bria has no time for men in general or Luke in particular. But she finds his hard work, his good manners, and his quizzical humor strangely appealing. She comes to trust him to the extent that she offers him a bargain. Discovering that he is a skilled gambler, she suggests that they marry and then Luke win back Concord from the usurper. But she proposes a temporary marriage in name only.

Luke accepts her proposal, but not for the money she offers. Rather he has become fascinated by this beautiful, hard working, reticent woman. He wants more than the arrangement she has suggested but realizes that she must be wooed with great care, especially after he learns the secret of what happened to her during the war. Which brings me to the love scene mentioned above. It is a marvelous depiction of how a caring and careful lover can heal the scars on a womanís soul.

Luke is a hero to die for. He is handsome and witty and charming and kind and brave and funny and talented and hardworking and...well letís just say that I fell madly in love with him and certainly understand how he overcame Briaís doubts and fears. Of course, there is always the danger that when an author creates a simply wonderful hero, her heroine may not seem worthy of him. Goodman does not fall into this trap. Bria, in her own way, is every bit as admirable as Luke. She has overcome tragedies that would have broken a weaker woman and if she has retreated from emotions and feelings, she has remained devoted to those who depend on her.

Goodman sets her story against the background of the South at the end of Reconstruction. She does not prettify the nastiness of the era when the white southerners used violence, intimidation and murder to reassert their control over the now freed blacks.

The story is connected to Goodmanís last book, More Than You Know, but stands well on its own. Indeed, it piqued my interest to dig the prequel out of my to-be-read pile as soon as I get the chance.

More Than You Wished missed being a five-heart read primarily because I did not feel absolutely compelled to read it in one gulp. But every time I picked it up again, I became immediately engrossed in the story and the characters. The ending, when secrets are revealed and justice is served, is especially exciting. This is an excellent historical romance with a wonderful hero. I think youíll fall in love with Luke just like Bria and I did.

--Jean Mason

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