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REVIEW: Kissing Comfort by Jo Goodman

Dear Ms. Goodman:

Most of your writing works well for me so it probably comes as no surprise that this is one of my favorite historicals published this month.  In the foothills of Sierra Nevada, the year 1850, two miners come upon the remains of a wagon train and in amongst a pile of rocks, they find a young girl clutching a tin of Dr. Eli Kennedy’s Comfort Lozenges.  They take her with them and end up keeping her for twenty years. Comfort, as they call her, ends up being the best thing that happened to Newton Prescott and Tucker Jones.  Deciding that mining wasn’t a way to make a living, they begin to offer banking services and miners feel that a father figure must be trustworthy.  Twenty years later, Comfort Kennedy is the heir to a banking fortune and her good friend Bram DeLong decides to take advantage of this by announcing their engagement at his brother’s birthday party.  Bram and Comfort have been long time friends but Bram’s precipitous announcement places that friendship in jeopardy.

Kissing Comfort Jo GoodmanComfort has never received a proposal to Bram.  Comfort has always had strong feelings for Bram but he is flighty and unreliable and no matter how much her romantic heart might yearn for an attachment with Bram this announcement shows how little care Bram has for her and her pragmatic side acknowledges that Bram will never be the partner in life she seeks.

Bode, or Beareguard De Long (Beau DeLong became Bode), is the eldest of the two DeLong brothers. Ostensibly they own a profitable shipping company, but the truth is that the now dead patriarch of the DeLong ran the shipping company aground and the DeLong fortunes rely upon the public appearance of wealth while Bode attempts to save the company.   He loves the shipping company, has strong feelings about his dead father, tolerates his mother, and while he loves his brother, Bram, he recognizes Bram’s faults. Oh, and he’s held a secret torch for Comfort for years.

Comfort is surprised to learn both that Bode has had feelings for her. In fact, both Bram and Comfort are taken aback by Bram. As Bram points out, Comfort always leaves the room when Bode comes in:

“I’m certain I will talk to her, but not about you.  I’m going to throw my hat in the ring, Bram.  I thought it was fair to let you know.”

“Throw your hat in the ring?  Fight me for her, you mean?”  He looked down at himself and then at Bode.  “How is that fair?”

“I hope it won’t come to a fight.  I recognize you’re at a disadvantage, but I know you’re not helpless.  You never are.”

Bram pushed himself as upright as he was able.  “She won’t have you, Bode.  You scare her.  You always have.  It can’t have escaped your notice that when you walk into a room, she walks out.”

“Oh, I’ve noticed.”  Bode dropped his feet to the floor and rose from his chair.  Favoring his brother with a faint but consciously shrewd smile, he buttoned his jacket.  “You’re so used to women showing interest in a particular and obvious way that you don’t know that some of them reveal it in another.”

“Wait!” Bram called after Bode as he started to leave.  “What are you saying?”

Rather than the two characters having distinct character arcs moving the story forward, the romance is the main attraction bolstered by the threat to Comfort’s life as well as the removal of that threat. The story also has a strong family subtext. Comfort’s family was created but solid and loving where as Bode’s family life was outwardly normal but inside the family home doors it was beset with a father throwing their future away on the war for the South, Bode going off to fight for the North, a feckless brother, and a mother more interested in appearances that support. The contrasts were interesting.

Part of the story takes place on one of the ships of Bode’s family and I much preferred the story when it was land locked. I enjoyed the time spent in Comfort’s home and her bank; the shipping offices; and the DeLong home. I felt some of the period feel slipped away on the ship.

There are two main problems with this story.  The first is connected to Comfort’s past.  I thought that the connection of the past to the present stretched believability to the snapping point. I wished that part of the story had actually just been left out.  It was simply too convenient and lacked the polish the rest of the story presented.  Second, I adored Comfort’s dads but I actually wished the two were a gay couple instead of two men who had outside interests.  I struggled to believe that neither man would marry out of respect for Comfort even though one of them had a long time attachment to another woman.  However, these two things did not mar my enjoyment of the romance. I thought both Comfort and Bode were lovely and closed the book with a feeling of satisfaction. B.

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

16 Comments

  1. Becca
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 17:01:14

    thank you for warning me in advance that this was Agency priced by Penguin – as usual for Penguin, it’s over-priced. This one I’ll look up in the library.

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  2. cleo
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 17:03:59

    I don’t know – I really liked Comfort and Bode and their romance for the first half of the book and then the plot got too crazy for me. It got in the way of the romance.

    Spoiler – I’m now going to vent about the last half of the book, which annoyed me.

    First she’s kidnapped, drugged, and threatened with rape. Then Bode and his men rescue her and spirit her away on his ship, where she wakes up horny and in his bed, and she jumps him. Then she learns that they got married on the ship while she was still drugged (before they had sex) but she doesn’t remember it. She’s mad but not that mad, because you know, she loves him and he says she insisted on getting married. That’s when I started rolling my eyes – why even put that in? It seemed unbelievable and unnecessary. And the unbelievable / unnecessary plot twists kept coming, ending with the past/present connection that Jane mentioned.

    For me the great characters and hot sex weren’t enough to overcome the insane plot. I don’t need absolute believability in my historicals, but this was too much for me.

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  3. Jayne
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 17:47:06

    I’ve wanted to try a Goodman book for ages but the warnings about a convoluted plot – and especially what Cleo says about it – make me think this wouldn’t be a good starting place.

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  4. Jane
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 17:51:35

    @cleo I didn’t mind the plot against Comfort. That made sense to me because of the situation with Bram. And my understanding is that he had to marry her or she would have been ruined. Maybe I wrongly assumed that. But I think what makes the latter portion of the plot convoluted is the really incredulous connections that I felt Goodman was trying to draw. If that part was left out, I think it would have been much leess convoluted.

    But the prose and characterizations were so vivid, I still enjoyed this tremendously (and I have read it quite a few times).

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  5. Jane
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 17:53:33

    @Jayne I should send you the ARC for her contemporary which I did not like. I don’t know if it would appeal to you at all but it might. It has a lot less of a convoluted plot but, and not to discourage you, but I didn’t think the story picked up until like page 250!

    We have pretty different tastes in historicals so I am afraid to recommend anything to you from Goodman. I know she’s not a writer for everyone. She has a very slow way of unwrapping a story and in her historicals I really like that but it did not work as well in her contemporary.

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  6. cleo
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 18:11:53

    @Jayne – I agree that he was protecting her reputation by marrying her right away, even though she was still high as a kite, but something about the way it played out really bugged me – maybe it was how he seemed to put off telling her they were married.

    I agree that it’d be a better book without that last plot twist / attempt to wrap up all loose ends – maybe I’d be more forgiving of the earlier plot twists without that final one, which really was the last straw for me.

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  7. DM
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 19:05:33

    I really enjoy Goodman but I’m hesitant to purchase this one as it sounds like it has a lot in common with My Reckless Heart–slow shipboard interlude, marriage to protect the heroine, threat to the heroine’s life…although I bought all four books in Anne Stuart’s “less” trilogy (I’m waiting for Gormless) so I will probably end up buying this and like it even if it is just ringing changes on a familiar tune.

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  8. Jane
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 19:09:50

    @DM: I’m trying to remember how long the shipboard interlude took in terms of chapters – 2 or 3? I honestly can’t remember.

    @cleo: completely understand. Goodman is kind of like kryptonite for me, though.

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  9. Jennifer Estep
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 07:24:39

    I enjoyed Never Love a Lawman, and I have Marry Me in my TBR pile. Looking forward to this one too.

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  10. Carolyn
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 08:21:52

    When I clicked the link, I noticed that many of her books were offered for Kindle for under $5.00, including Marry Me. Okay, this is very dangerous.

    Is it because she has a different publisher for these books? I’ve never noticed any of the Agency types lowering their ebook prices like this.

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  11. dick
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 10:45:14

    I didn’t think the plot convoluted. We know from the prologue that the lozenge tin will play a part; we know from the heroine’s fainting in the opera house that the encounter will have some importance; we and most of the characters know that Bram is trouble. What was convoluted about it? The shipboard interlude? Well, it allowed the author to develop the romance more completely if nothing else. Up to that time, it was still hanging.

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  12. joanne
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 11:52:06

    @dick: Agreed, but then I tend to give lots of latitude concerning plot when it comes to the kind of marvelous writing that Ms Goodman offers readers. “We’re going to China?” LOL!(B+ review so I’m not stepping all over copyright laws)

    @Jane: I’m not at all surprised or disappointed in the relationship between the two ‘uncles’. I wonder if you would have found it more believable if two women put marriage aside to raise a child? I’m sure you believe that two men are as capable of a lifetime of non-sexual friendship as are two women.

    At the end in the paper book their was the first chapter of the next book. It was enticing to say the least.

    Too fan-girl? Yes. To save myself I’ll say that the cover was misleading. I never once, throughout the entire book, pictured Bode in cowboy gear. Tuck & Newt, yes, but that would have been two cowboys.

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  13. joanne
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 11:55:20

    sigh. their should be there.

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  14. Jane
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 15:16:46

    @Carolyn: This is her first Berkley book. All of her previous titles were through Kensington, a non agency pricing publisher.

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  15. Jane
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 15:17:37

    @joanne: It wasn’t that the two men put their lives on hold to raise a child but one of them in particular had a long time relationship with a woman and it just surprised me that neither brought a woman into the home, particularly in that time period.

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  16. Robin/Janet
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 14:18:20

    @DM: My Reckless Heart is my favorite Goodman novel, and Kissing Comfort did not remind me of it at all, actually. Bode and Comfort are very different from Decker and Jonna, and for me, at least, the whole tone of KC was lighter. It probably has more in common with the last book in the Thorne Brothers trilogy (With All My Heart), because of the SF setting and the wealth derived from the Gold Rush. Although any similarities there are pretty superficial, IMO. In terms of character, Bode reminded me most of Colin from My Steadfast Heart (first Thorne book), actually.

    I also did not find the plot convoluted, but did have issues with the way in which the romance was sexually consummated. I also really wanted the uncles/dads to be a gay couple, especially because they seemed like an old married couple to me. Still, it was a B read for me.

    ReplyReply

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