My Reckless Heart by Jo Goodman
(Zebra, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-8217-5843-8
Do you like Jo Goodman's style? Did you read and enjoy My Steadfast Heart, the prequel to her latest release? Do you like steamy sex scenes and lots and lots of action? Then I recommend that you read My Reckless Heart. But if you are looking for subtle characterizations, clearly developed motivations and careful plotting, this may not be the book for you. Still, it is a rip-roaring good tale of its type and certainly kept my attention.

The story begins with Jonna Remington, owner of Remington Shipping of Boston on the docks awaiting the arrival of her new clipper ship from London. "The Remington Huntress" is attempting to set the record for the Boston to Charleston to London to Boston run. When the ship comes into port, well ahead of the hoped for schedule, Jonna is surprised to see not her trusted old mentor Jack Quincy at the helm, but rather the charming rapscallion, Decker Thorne. Before she can determine how this has come to be, she feels a shove on her back and falls into the icy water of Boston harbor. Only Decker's quick thinking saves her from drowning.

Jonna distrusts Decker because of his checkered background. As we discovered in My Steadfast Heart and as we rediscover here, Decker was one of three brothers who were orphaned when their parents were killed in a brutal highway robbery. Decker had been adopted by two con artists, who trained him in the arts of subterfuge and stealing. His elder brother Colin had been adopted by said Jack Quincy and had been taken into the bosom of the Remington family when he saved baby Jonna from drowning. Colin had returned to England to search for his brothers. There he had chanced upon Decker who had been jailed for robbery. (Don't ask!) Colin had also discovered that he was the heir to an earl and married an earl's daughter. When Decker indicated that he wanted a fresh start in life, Colin sent him to Boston, to Remington Shipping, where his rise had been meteoric. Whew!

Back to the story. Another accident or two convince Decker that Jonna is in danger, so he kidnaps her and takes her to England, where she seduces him (or vice versa) and then he rats on her to Colin who, acting as the big brother, "forces" the two to marry. But she, of course, distrusts Decker's motives, having always feared being married for her money (and having rejected her proper Bostonian suitor Grant for that very reason.) So, there are problems to be worked out in their relationship.

But, beyond the interpersonal crisis, there is the villain to unmask, an underground railroad station to maintain, the identity of the famous Falcon (rescuer of slaves and folk hero) to uncover, another kidnapping, attempted murder, retribution, and lots of other stuff. In short, there is never a dull moment.

Goodman certainly provides a dashing hero and a determined heroine. And they sure are confused about how they feel about each other. Jonna does not believe she is attractive and cannot believe that anyone would love her not her money. Decker refuses to admit that he does love Jonna, suggesting that her assets not her person or personality are the attraction. He thinks she loves Colin. A little bit of plain talking would have solved many of their problems, but then, the story would have been pretty dull.

Goodman tells a stirring tale (and writes luscious love scenes). I was delighted to revisit the Thornes and to read Decker's story. And I will certainly read the next installment. But I do wonder if someone who had had not read the prequel would attain the same level of enjoyment. So, my advice is, if you like exciting, action-filled romances, by all means pick up My Restless Heart. But find My Steadfast Heart and read it first.

--Jean Mason

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