Friday, January 30, 2009

The Education of Madeline by Beth Williamson (ARC)

Plum Creek, Colorado 1872
Madeline Brewster practically owns Plum City, Colorado. But at thirty-two, she knows she has missed any chance for happiness. Until she finds a tall, strong, handsome Irishman on the wrong end of the hangman's noose. Suddenly this unconventional woman comes up with an outrageous idea...

Teague O'Neal has rugged cheekbones, tousled black curls, and eyes as blue as the sky, even if he is caked in Colorado mud. The men insist they caught him horse-thieving, and there's something desperate about him that says he'd do anything for a buck.

Maybe it was pure chance, or maybe it was something more that brought Madeline and Teague together. But one thing's clear, between a woman who has just about everything she could ever want, and a man who's lost that and more, they might find something in between worth living for.

Beth Williamson's new book, The Education of Madeline, is being released from Brava on February 24. This is a rerelease of a 2005 ebook from Loose-Id, that is now the start of a series. Beth has kindly consented to give away an autographed copy over on Let's Gab (contest ends Feb 6).

I have long been a fan of Williamson. She combines tough talking, but sensitive men with strong women; women who are able to survive the tough times in which they live. Madeline and Teague are no exceptions.

Madeline is a rich woman, having inherited the town's bank (and pretty much the entire town) from her father. She is determined to treat folks with respect, yet believes the townsfolk can't see past her father's poor treatment of them. She spots Teague as he is about to be hanged for stealing a horse. She rescues him, takes him home, and propositions him because he is a big man, and she believes he can handle a big woman such as herself. Seems she doesn't want to get too old and die without knowing the physical side of love.

Teague is a worn out Union soldier, running from his memories. He accepts Maddie's proposition, and together they embark on a series of erotic "lessons." Although they progressed rather quickly, I liked that they began with kissing in lesson 1, etc before they actually got to intercourse in a much later lesson. Each lesson was not viewed as a means to an end, but a start to finish piece of lovemaking all on its own. Awesome.

Each has personal baggage to overcome, and there is a subplot of several higher-ups in the town attempting to strip Madeline of her power. As wonderful as the sex scenes are (and they are!), I really enjoyed the scenes where Maddie and Teague open up to one another about their pasts. They recognize fairly early on how important they are to one another, and about the last third of the book is spent trying to clear Maddie's name.

Also terrific are the two main secondary characters, Eppie, Madeline's mulatto best friend and housekeeper, and Micah, a Rebel soldier. Eppie has a fantastic mouth on her, and a wonderful sense of humor, and her outrage in certain situations is almost comical. Micah has his own demons to slay, and lives alone as a hermit up in the mountains. The scene where Teague (the Yank) and Micah (the Reb) meet was really well done. The shared experience between them was palpable, and required no words. And the physical reaction that Teague had to the meeting was very well written.

So, yes, a great deal of this book revolves around sex, but there is so much more to it. Gender roles, abuse of power, even a little PTSD - all addressed here. It releases on Feb 24 from Brava. Order it here. But you can have an early copy of it right now!

The second book in the series, The Redemption of Micah, releases June 30, '09. Interestingly, while I love the cover for Micah, and can totally picture Nathan over here «« as Micah, the cover image of Teague (above) isn't how I picture him at all. He seems too young; not tough enough for his character. Maybe it's just that the hat looks a little... girly? Not Teague at all. Go figure.


Have you read it? What do you think?

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