Friday, October 09, 2009

The Price Of Desire by Jo Goodman

Title: The Price Of Desire
Author: Jo Goodman

Type: Historical Romance
Published: 2008

Blurb: Absolutely not going to muddy this review with the official blurb. It was very misleading.

Why: Blogger rec put it on my TBR list and a book sharing friend put it in my hands.

Thoughts: Holy Moly. This may be my best read this year. Fucking. Flawless.

Not sure where to start this review. There are my overall impressions, sensations. And there are my ooh-this and ohhh-that observations.

Goodman gets right to it--the H/H 'it'--with minimal set up. (Thank you Ms. Goodman.)

He owns a gaming hell and she is offered up by her brother as a marker. He sends men round to collect her and she arrives without fuss or fainting. Think you know how this played out? If you haven't read it, then, no, you don't. Goodman writes her own story, trust me.

Griffin has power, Olivia does not. But, as Lori said to me, it is what it is. His power makes him neither ruthless nor possessive--typical hero-like dispositions I expected. And, powerless, she neither cowers nor rebels--behavior I expected might define her personality. At this point, neither of these characters gives anything away--not in dialogue or internal thought.

On that, Goodman does not allow either character to think too much. To put it more plainly, there is not so much as a paragraph of internalizing in this book*. (Thank you Ms. Goodman. Thank you, thank you, thank you.)

There are snippets of thought or, more precisely, impression, that precipitate their spoken words, but never more than a sentence. Goodman places Griffin, Olivia and reader in the same room and forbids any one of us to pursue our own thoughts. Griffin and Olivia communicate, or not, but never lose focus or presence of the moment. Afraid of missing anything, the reader simply sits glued, hanging on every word exchanged. Here--and this is an overall impression--Goodman writes with a deliberateness that is both calming and disconcerting.

Calming in that there is little else to divert reader attention. You get used to that quiet and soon grow to trust that Goodman will not rush you or her characters through a scene. Disconcerting however, because Goodman is not the least bit compelled to share inside information with the reader. Rather, she lets the reader in on each detail--as it is woven--exactly when the character gets it. And by character I do mean either Griffin or Olivia, or both. While there are secondary characters, they are few and they rarely interupt.

Back to the hero and his defiance of romance reader expectations. (Thank you Ms. Goodman.)

He is powerful, yes. But again, in that it-is-what-it-is manner. His position, gender and experience dictate that power. But in possession of it, Griffin remains matter-of-fact and without presumption. Honestly, it is damned difficult to determine what motivates, what moves this man. Money, revenge, justice, the heroine? Something, anything to hint at his purpose. Strangely, you stop looking for it after awhile. Goodman's deliberateness at work I suspect. Though all the while she is weaving and unraveling, weaving and unraveling, showing the same slight of hand Olivia does in revealing him to be just a man. Intelligent and arrestingly mature. Balanced. But just a man.

He says at one point that he and Olivia are "of a kind." True I suppose, in that both wear the mantle assigned them, neither of them railing against their circumstance nor judging the other for it. For Olivia however, the mantle is devastating; each event folding her in on herself more than the last. The quintessential vulnerable heroine.

Not. (Thank you Ms. Goodman.)

I thought Olivia would shatter before it was over with. She didn't. I thought Griffin would be her strength. He wasn't, at least not in any stereotypical romantic sense. Turns out that she was her strength, or rather she had it in her. Which didn't surprise her or Griffin. Throughout, he showed remarkable respect for her privacy--not pushing, not presuming. And he did so without arrogance. In other words, while it consciously occurs to him that he should not push her, though he could, Goodman leaves readers with the sense that he makes the choice out of something other than a self-important notion that he does so for her sake. Hard to explain. Put another way, Griffin consistently demonstrates both respect and awareness of boundaries. So much so that, at times, I wondered if he was going to just leave her hanging there.

That she has no expectations only heightens the sensation. She stands up only for her need to cover her own expenses, nothing more. She defies him once, but it is not out of anything more than that single principle. She doesn't share, demand or hope. But she isn't withdrawn or uncommunicative either. She simply lives her life, such as it is, there in his gaming hell. They converse. They work. They get along.

There is a scene, wherein he wishes to pull her to him but waits instead for her to "step into the shelter of his arms." When she does--in that moment and metaphorically--she appreciates the shelter but does not hide in it. That is it exactly. The whole crux of the book. It is not about him fixing her. It is more about him giving her a place to do that for herself. From the beginning, they go about everything, under the same roof (her shelter, if you will), growing to know one another but laying no claims.

Until it becomes a permanent arrangement. A stutteringly beautiful yet painful moment, there before the window, after she has learned that she has finally and forever been forsaken by her family. A clear line between before and after, you can almost see Griffin relax (not in this terrible moment, but in the days that followed it). Once they "have done with it," a completely inside joke I'll leave to them, Griffin reveals a bit of determination to the reader. Assured of his own desire to spend the rest of his life with her (coupled with the fact that she has no where else to go, ever), Griffin seems to open. To Olivia and to readers. There is less weariness and more warmth in him.
Here, Goodman softens the lighting, but holds on to the dry wit and frank conversation. (Thank you Ms. Goodman.)

Finally (you must be exhausted by now), I have to laud Goodman's attention to detail. This is not a mystery, yet she presents each detail as a clue and assembles them in such a way as to lead Griffin and Olivia to their HEA. Every single detail contributes to the whole. Tightly written, tightly woven, however you wish me to say it. Goodman proves a master storyteller.

By its end, Olivia's trauma is revealed, the villians outed and the obligatory obstacle to marriage removed. It all sounds so predictable. Strong, silent type finds himself in possession of near-to-shattering victim heroine. Determined to make her own stubborn way, he must exercise unending patience and an uncanny understanding of her mind to win her trust, then her heart.

Had Goodman put us in their heads instead of in their presence, it would have been predictable. Had she written nearer to the surface, it would have been acceptable.** Well written mind you (which means I would have liked it anyway), but still predictable.

She didn't however and the result was extraordinary. The best I've read this year.

Thank you Ms. Goodman.

* I didn't actually go back and check mind you, but that I come away with this statement is testament in itself.

** Oh geez, I didn't even address the depth of Goodman's characters.


  1. Oooh - told you it got better and better! I loved it and I'm so glad you loved it, too :)

  2. What you said. All of it. This book is one I'll read again and again.

  3. Hi Jennifer, I also read and really liked this story :)

  4. Oh wow, Jen! I know how hard it is to write an A review and boy did you hit it out of the park! This is an incredible review. I have read this book and loved it, but I came no where near articulating my love for it as you did. Bravo!

    there is not so much as a paragraph of internalizing in this book And this is why Goodman is a Goddess.

    Oh geez, I didn't even address the depth of Goodman's characters. This goes without saying. IMO, Goodman is know for her great characters.

    The last thing I want to say, is that I love how Goodman doesn't give the reader the facts all up front. Little by little the story unfolds and that is really what sucks the reader into the story.

    Again, fantastic job Jennifer! I am so glad you enjoyed it :)

  5. Love her books. This is still not a fave of mine but I think that is because it isn't one of my '1st' reads of hers.

    After Gwen's glowing review of this novel I reread it recently and do still love it. I reread A Season to be Sinful and If His Kiss Is Wicked last week and they are still tops *g*.

    And there are similar threads in AStbS and Beyond a Wicked Kiss that I expected this novel to tie into. It doesn't. I expect that had to do with my lower grade, which would still be a high B.

    Great review. I did soooooo enjoy Never Love a Lawman as well... I am just in love with Goodman's voice.

  6. What a great review. I really must read this book!

  7. Great review, Jennifer!! :D

    See, I liked it, but didn't love it... all because of the back blurb. It was extremely misleading!!! and I hate when that happens, especially when the book turns out to be quite dark :(

    Glad you loved it though :D

  8. Lori, Phyl and Barbara - Well then you should have called me up and told me to put aside everything else to read Goodman, LOL. JK!

    Jill - Kind words--thank you! Agree totally--she weaves the story in such a way that the reader can't jump around. I was glued, page by page.

    Sybil - Turns out I've read A Season To Be Sinful, too funny. See my own review for it recommended here, LOL. You have selected my next Goodman title for me though--I'll find If His Kiss Is Wicked next. The western was a win too? I'm less certain on that one, but will try it.

    Maija - Yes! You must read this one. :-) And we hope you enjoy it!

    Nath - Yeah, back blurb was terribly misleading. And you aren't looking for dark, then it's downright deception. You don't like dark do you?

  9. Well I prefer funny and light-heart. I don't mind dark from time to time, but I like to be prepared!! and this is the second time she does it to me!! I mean, A Season To Be Sinful?!?! OMG, I did not expect that and it really ruined it for me :(


Have you read it? What do you think?

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