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REVIEW: The Billionaire Next Door by Jessica Bird

Dear Ms. Bird,

037324844x01lzzzzzzzAfter eyeing it all year last year, I finally decided to sign up for Keishon’s TBR Challenge. I figured it would motivate me to dig up some of the older books that have piled up around my house which I have been ignoring in favor of the new and shiny.

Keishon’s assignment for January was category romances. I must admit that though I did have a few in my to-be-read pile, I don’t read many categories. I tend to prefer longer books. But your 2007 book, The Billionaire Next Door, has been in my TBR pile and I’ve wanted to read it for a while. This challenge was my golden opportunity.

Sean O’Banyon specializes in corporate mergers and acquisitions. Although he is now a Manhattan billionaire, pursued by women and sought after by deal-makers, Sean was once an abused child from Southie, Boston. When Sean’s once-abusive father dies, Sean, who hasn’t spoken to his father in years, travels to Boston to collect his father’s remains and get the duplex in which his father lives ready to sell.

It is in Boston that Sean encounters Lizzie Bond. Lizzie is the nurse who lives in the other apartment in the duplex, and was a friend of Sean’s father. Since Sean’s father kicked his drinking habit some time after Sean left the house and before Lizzie moved in next door, Sean and Lizzie each view the deceased Eddie O’Banyon very differently.

Though at first Sean suspects Lizzie of having tried to get her hands on his father’s money, he can’t help but be attracted to her warmth and kindness. And while Lizzie tells herself that Sean is just passing through and she is the long-term relationship type, she finds it hard to resist his good looks, his charm and his obvious vulnerability.

Then Lizzie loses her job. Before too long Sean and Lizzie are spending more and more time in each other’s company. But Sean, who cherishes being appreciated for who he is rather than for the fortune he has banked, doesn’t tell Lizzie about his true career, nor does he tell her much about his childhood. He is afraid to trust Lizzie fully, and Lizzie knows he’s holding back. Will they be able to overcome the obstacles of Sean’s present and his past?

Sean reminded me a bit of some of your heroes from the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, in that for all his external power, he could be very vulnerable at times. His memories of his father’s abuse reduced him to a child whenever he entered the apartment he had lived in as a boy.

He had also exhausted himself with work, and it was good to see him relax a little with Lizzie’s help. One of my favorite scenes in the book was one in which Sean and Lizzie “play hooky” and bask in the joys of a beautiful day. It was very satisfying to see Sean learn to relax and savor the simple things that can make life joyous.

I was a bit less enamored of Lizzie than I was of Sean. She was so sweet, caring and self-sacrificing that it was hard not to feel that she was more saint than human. I appreciated that she stood up for herself in the relationship, and I didn’t dislike her, but the way she was so patient with Sean, and never pushed him to reveal what happened in his childhood, even though she could see signs that something was wrong with the O’Banyon family, did not seem realistic to me.

On one level, The Billionaire Next Door is a classic Cinderella story, in which the sweet, hardworking and impoverished heroine gets her prince. But on another level it is also a story about two people who had completely different experiences of the same man. To Sean, his father was a monster, while to Lizzie, Eddie O’Banyon was someone who looked out for her and worried for her as she worried for him.

While I liked that Lizzie and Sean viewed Sean’s father through different lenses, there were times when I felt that the contrast between the way Sean saw his father and the way Lizzie saw him was too great. Sean seemed to have no good memories of his dad whatsoever, not even from the time before his mother died and his father began drinking. Lizzie did not see even a glimmer of her neighbor’s abusive streak.

Still, I loved that Eddie O’Banyon remained partly cloaked in mystery, even at the end of the book. He was an enigma even to those who had known him best, a loner whose innermost thoughts and feelings were never expressed. The dead take their regrets to their grave, and the living can’t always know what drove them. That was very much the case here, and it made the book more lifelike and real as well as more poignant.

One of the scenes late in the book, in which Lizzie learns about what Sean suffers and they talk about it, made me cry. You made me care very much about Sean and his brothers, and I hope very much that Billy and Mac’s books are forthcoming, since I would definitely read them. As for The Billionaire Next Door, I enjoyed it and do recommend it to our readers. B.

Sincerely,

Janine

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character-driven books. Examples include novels by Shana Abe, Loretta Chase, Patricia Gaffney, Cecilia Grant, Judith Ivory, Carolyn Jewel, Laura Kinsale, Julie Anne Long, Alison Richardson, Nalini Singh and Pam Rosenthal. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, "Kiss of Life", appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com. or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

43 Comments

  1. Helen Burgess
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 15:47:34

    I agree Lizzie seems a little to patient and good etc, but she does call Sean on his behaviour and insist he goes to councelling rather than just thinking her “luurve ” will heal all wounds, which was more realistic to me, otherwise I would doubt their HEA.

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  2. Janine
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 15:56:52

    SPOILER
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    Helen — I agree. I didn’t mention it because I thought some readers might consider it a spoiler, but I *loved* that Sean went into therapy toward the end of the book. It made the HEA much more believable and gave the story another realistic touch.

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  3. Samantha
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 15:59:07

    I really like this book, passed it on to a few friends who liked it too. I really hope that we get books for the other brothers.

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  4. Janine
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 16:15:43

    I really hope that we get books for the other brothers.

    Samantha, I really hope so too. I liked Billy and Mac seemed so intriguing. I am really craving their stories now. Does anyone know anything about whether these are in the pipeline?

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  5. joanne
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 16:33:13

    When I asked about the O'Banyon books (and I can’t believe how MUCH I wanted a story about a male with the name of Billy… it’s scary) anyway, she didn’t give a time frame.

    If the author Bird/Ward is working on the BDB series and a new paranormal series then when will these last two books come out?
    A long time from now, if ever, is what I think.
    Flippin’ bummer for Mac & Billy.

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  6. Janine
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 16:35:50

    I had no idea that Bird/Ward was working on another paranormal series besides the BDB. What is the new one about?

    Also, Joanne, did she say if she was still planning to write the other two O’Banyon books at some point?

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  7. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 17:07:32

    What is the billionaire’s motivation for doing any of this? He’s got $ to spare, why torture himself by going back to that house? Why not just hire someone to do it? I guess I’m a bit stumped by what sets the whole thing in motion . . .

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  8. GrowlyCub
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 17:12:44

    More paranormals that aren’t really romance? Rats! :(

    I really like Bird’s categories (apart from the dumb ‘the man’ she uses all over instead of personal pronouns), and enjoyed the couple of single titles that I read and which tie in with the SSE categories, in case you weren’t aware.

    Too bad for me I guess. I would have bought Billy and Mac’s story, I won’t touch the paranormal stuff.

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  9. Robin
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 17:16:41

    Huh. I didn’t see Lizzie as a “saint” at all. In fact, I think she’s one of the few Romance heroines I’ve ever seen who did not give the hero endless chances to reform, staying with him all the while, making excuses for his a-hole behavior. She may not have pushed him to confess his past, but IMO that pushing is actually *more* saintly, because it continues the emotional investment, as opposed to basically saying, ‘hey, I don’t care why you’re screwed up; I’m not putting up with it.” IMO in this case that was healthier than trying to get the actively resistant Sean to open up. If only the BDB women were like that, lol.

    As for the father, didn’t she say that he never treated her disrespectfully? It’s been a while since I read the book, but I thought she was shocked by the revelations because her relationship with the father was quite different.

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  10. Janine
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 17:39:21

    Kalen — I thought of that too. He doesn’t really need to go back to the house, and I would have liked it better if there had been some subconscious motivation given for it.

    Robin –

    Huh. I didn't see Lizzie as a “saint” at all. In fact, I think she's one of the few Romance heroines I've ever seen who did not give the hero endless chances to reform, staying with him all the while, making excuses for his a-hole behavior. She may not have pushed him to confess his past, but IMO that pushing is actually *more* saintly, because it continues the emotional investment, as opposed to basically saying, ‘hey, I don't care why you're screwed up; I'm not putting up with it.” IMO in this case that was healthier than trying to get the actively resistant Sean to open up. If only the BDB women were like that, lol.

    I’m not talking about pushing in the context of bad behavior. I’m talking about normal curiosity and interest in the other person. There was a point, before she found out that Sean lied to her, that she could tell he didn’t want to talk about his dad, and she felt hurt and shut out of his life, but stayed involved with him and didn’t push.

    And then for the rest of the book, she didn’t push. The way the past came to light was totally independent of any actions that she took with regard to Sean.

    Now, maye it’s just me, but I think when someone else is closing you out and you stay involved with them and let them shut you out, it requires a level of patience that most people don’t have. Which is why I said that it seemed more saintly than real.

    As for the father, didn't she say that he never treated her disrespectfully? It's been a while since I read the book, but I thought she was shocked by the revelations because her relationship with the father was quite different.

    Yes. Maybe I didn’t make that clear in my review? I thought I had. I really liked the fact that her view of the father was different from Sean’s, but at the same time, I felt that that difference was a little too extreme.

    In particular, the fact that Sean didn’t seem to have any good memories whatsoever of his father — even from the times before the father became an alcoholic, or even from the times when he was an alcoholic but wasn’t drunk or violent, did not seem completely believable to me.

    I could believe that the man who treated Lizzie with such respect would have had a good side that his son might have on rare occasion glimpsed. Or that the man Sean remembered as a monster would have still had a mean streak that Lizzie might have glimpsed. But not that the same man had shown only one side of his personality to each of them, and neither one saw the other side.

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  11. Susan/DC
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 17:53:49

    I had exactly the same reaction to this book as Janine, although I graded it slightly lower (B-). I lived in Boston for a long time and still miss it, so I loved the setting, but I didn’t quite love the characters enough to give it a higher grade. Liked it while I read it but it didn’t stay with me the way the best romances do. That said, I’d definitely read Mac and Billy’s stories.

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  12. orannia
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 18:01:48

    Thank you Janine! I really liked this book, although my favourite in the series is still the first – Beauty and the Black Sheep (which I must try and locate). The character I really want to see again is the hero’s (whose name I can’t remember) sister from A Man in a Million.

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  13. Robin
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 18:02:50

    I could believe that the man who treated Lizzie with such respect would have had a good side that his son might have on rare occasion glimpsed. Or that the man Sean remembered as a monster would have still had a mean streak that Lizzie might have glimpsed. But not that the same man had shown only one side of his personality to each of them, and neither one saw the other side.

    Ah, I see what you’re saying; I read your comment in the context of your earlier comments about Lizzie being too patient. But I do know people who have extremely different views of a parent, siblings who were very much raised by the same person (in the sense that they were not raised many years apart, etc.) but who have drastically different recollections of the type of parent they had. I even know of at least one case where a very neglectful father went on to mentor kids in later life and be remembered as a great surrogate dad. So that wasn’t so unrealistic to me, especially since I expect an abused kid to pretty much block out the stuff that might have been good.

    But then I don’t think I liked Sean as much as you did, Janine. I thought he was a jerk most of the time. So to me, his single-minded perception of his dad was part of his perpetuation of the jerky, commitment phobic, victim/victimizing personality of which I found him possessed a good deal of the time (that is, a guy who was not motivated to change because the commitment phobia served him in some way). Had I held more sympathy for him, at least before he straightened up, I’d obviously be more generous with him, lol.

    I'm not talking about pushing in the context of bad behavior. I'm talking about normal curiosity and interest in the other person. There was a point, before she found out that Sean lied to her, that she could tell he didn't want to talk about his dad, and she felt hurt and shut out of his life, but stayed involved with him and didn't push.

    And then for the rest of the book, she didn't push. The way the past came to light was totally independent of any actions that she took with regard to Sean.

    I actually liked that it wasn’t Lizzie who catalyzed Sean’s epiphany and revelations, because it felt less like she “saved” him, which is one of my pet peeves among Romance heroines. So perhaps I am more prone to see her refusal to push him as a rejection of that ‘I’m a nurse; I’m going to save you’ trope. Which may also be why I read her reluctance to push him not as a lack of curiosity but as a ‘let’s wait and see what happens’ attitude. Do you remember how long they were together before she got fed up? Perhaps my memory has shortened the time, because I don’t remember it being an extended length of time.

    I also have to say that I’d be a little scared myself if I were in Lizzie’s position to find out what happened to Sean, so I probably gave Lizzie some slack since the chances of having it be something really bad were definitely high (i.e. maybe some of her patience was a bit of cowardice, which I gotta say is how I would feel, as sad as that is to admit).

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  14. Kim
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 18:23:35

    I enjoyed all the Silhouette books and hope she writes more. There was something special in her writing that you don’t always get in these short romances.

    Janine, I know grades are subjective, but you seemed to like this book more than your grade indicates. You mention that you would like to read the rest of the series – so, out of curiosity, what prevented it from being a B+?

    Also, as to your question on what’s next for JRW, this is what she said about her new paranormal series. I read it on another board:

    I couldn't keep the secret any longer! The new series is in paperback out October 2009! COVET: A Novel of the Fallen Angels is the first of the books and let's just say it's all about angels and Harleys and evil and redemption. The tag line's Destiny's a witch and then you die… but love always brings you back. I'm reallly excited! At this point we're going to be designing a whole new website and there'll be another message board (which will link to the BDB). I start on the book in 2 weeks!

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  15. Janine
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 18:27:29

    Susan/DC — I really enjoyed the Boston setting too.

    Orannia — I haven’t read the other Bird categories. What is the hero’s sister from A Man in a Million like?

    Robin —

    **** SPOILERS BELOW ****

    But I do know people who have extremely different views of a parent, siblings who were very much raised by the same person (in the sense that they were not raised many years apart, etc.) but who have drastically different recollections of the type of parent they had.

    Yeah, I know people like that too, which is why overall I really enjoyed the fact that Lizzie and Sean’s views of Sean’s father were disparate. I just wish they had been slightly, just a hair, less so.

    I even know of at least one case where a very neglectful father went on to mentor kids in later life and be remembered as a great surrogate dad. So that wasn't so unrealistic to me, especially since I expect an abused kid to pretty much block out the stuff that might have been good.

    I guess where I disagree is that my impression (which may be wrong) is that most abused kids do love their parents despite the abuse. Not necessarily because the parents have earned that love, but because children need to love and trust someone, and if the only person they have who takes care of them is abusive, they will still pin their hopes and their love on that person.

    I didn’t see any hint of that with Sean and his brothers. I think that if they had been abused by someone other than their only parent, I might have believed that they would see their abuser as a total monster, but since it was their dad, whom they were dependent on, it didn’t ring entirely true to me.

    But then I don't think I liked Sean as much as you did, Janine. I thought he was a jerk most of the time. So to me, his single-minded perception of his dad was part of his perpetuation of the jerky, commitment phobic, victim/victimizing personality of which I found him possessed a good deal of the time (that is, a guy who was not motivated to change because the commitment phobia served him in some way). Had I held more sympathy for him, at least before he straightened up, I'd obviously be more generous with him, lol.

    Yeah, I liked him better than you did. I saw the commitment-phobia as a defense mechanism. If you don’t trust someone, that person won’t hurt you.

    I actually liked that it wasn't Lizzie who catalyzed Sean's epiphany and revelations, because it felt less like she “saved” him, which is one of my pet peeves among Romance heroines. So perhaps I am more prone to see her refusal to push him as a rejection of that ‘I'm a nurse; I'm going to save you' trope.

    I didn’t necessarily want Lizzie to catalyze Sean’s epiphany — I don’t think I had a strong stake one way or another in what catalyzed it. My feeling that she was too patient stemmed from my really feeling her hurt when he wouldn’t tell her what was going on with him, and yet she sublimated that hurt, which I don’t think I could do.

    I get what you are saying about the “I’m a nurse; I’m going to save you” trope. Maybe my seeing her as I did had something to do with the way she was a nurse, as well as caretaker to Sean’s father.

    Which may also be why I read her reluctance to push him not as a lack of curiosity but as a ‘let's wait and see what happens' attitude.

    I didn’t see it as a lack of curiosity either, but (if this makes sense) it did bother me that her curiosity wasn’t too intense for her to be able to refrain from pushing. I agree that there was something of a “Let’s wait and see” there, but given that she was upset from the beginning that Eddie’s children weren’t there for him when he died, it seemed to me that she was pushing back that emotion, stuffing her own feelings, to be able to date Sean for as long as she did without asking him about it.

    Do you remember how long they were together before she got fed up? Perhaps my memory has shortened the time, because I don't remember it being an extended length of time.

    I don’t remember exactly. It wasn’t that long before she got mad at Sean for not staying in touch with her when he went back to Manhattan, and then for lying about who he was, but she got back with him after that and still did not ask the questions about his relationship with his father.

    I also have to say that I'd be a little scared myself if I were in Lizzie's position to find out what happened to Sean, so I probably gave Lizzie some slack since the chances of having it be something really bad were definitely high (i.e. maybe some of her patience was a bit of cowardice, which I gotta say is how I would feel, as sad as that is to admit).

    I see what you are saying, but I didn’t pick up on fear there myself. But I think being shut out would bother me more than I would be afraid (not that I wouldn’t be afraid some, too), so maybe that accounts for the difference in our interpretations and reactions.

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  16. Janine
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 18:50:16

    Janine, I know grades are subjective, but you seemed to like this book more than your grade indicates. You mention that you would like to read the rest of the series – so, out of curiosity, what prevented it from being a B+?

    Kim –

    First let me say that for me, grading is the toughest part of reviewing. A lot of times I go with my gut. In this case, I wondered if my grade was too low or if it was too high, and often times that’s the way it is — that I know I have arrived at the correct grade not because I don’t question it, but because I question it in both directions, am I being too stingy or am I being too generous?

    Second, let me say that a B is a good grade at Dear Author. Our review grade explanation is no longer around, but I was able to resurrect it from my old opinion piece, “The DNF Dilemma.” Here it is as it was at the inception of Dear Author:

    A: I loved it and would cry if someone took it from my library. I would need lots of chocolate to get over its loss.
    B: It's good and I would buy it again, given the chance.
    C: Eh. Not bad but I probably would never read it again.
    D: I want my money back.
    F: I want my money back and repayment for the time wasted reading it.

    The Billioniare Next Door feels exactly midway between the C and the A for me. That is, I can’t say I would never read it again, but I also can’t say that I would need chocolate to get over its loss.

    The reasons why it’s not a B+ are things I covered in my comments to Robin — namely, as I said

    SPOILERS
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    …my impression (which may be wrong) is that most abused kids do love their parents despite the abuse. Not necessarily because the parents have earned that love, but because children need to love and trust someone, and if the only person they have who takes care of them is abusive, they will still pin their hopes and their love on that person.

    I didn't see any hint of that with Sean and his brothers.

    And:

    My feeling that she [Lizzie] was too patient stemmed from my really feeling her hurt when he wouldn't tell her what was going on with him, and yet she sublimated that hurt, which I don't think I could do… given that she was upset from the beginning that Eddie's children weren't there for him when he died, it seemed to me that she was pushing back that emotion, stuffing her own feelings, to be able to date Sean for as long as she did without asking him about it.

    I really felt that Lizzie, for all that she did stand up for herself at crucial points in the relationship, was a bit too patient and long-suffering (not just with Sean, but also with her mother and at her job), and to some degree I felt that she was being rewarded for that patience with a billionaire husband. I have mixed feelings about this. As a kid, I loved Cinderella, and Cinderella stories are still enjoyable to me. But at the same time, I do prefer my heroines less saintly.

    Also (and this is a much more minor point), the mention of Butch from the BDB jarred me. Not because I don’t like Butch (he is my favorite of the BDB heroes so far), but because I didn’t see The Billionaire Next Door as set in the same paranormal world where the BDB books take place. Therefore, Sean’s connection to the BDB was a surprise, and one that was a bit hard for me to get used to.

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  17. Janine
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 18:53:09

    Oh, and how could I forget — thanks Kim for letting me know about COVET and the fallen angels!

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  18. Keishon
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 19:05:39

    Hmmmmmmm- need to read this one. Thanks Janine!!!

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  19. Janine
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 19:06:52

    You’re welcome, Keishon! And thanks for starting the TBR challenge!

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  20. Jorrie Spencer
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 19:10:42

    I’d like to try Ward/Bird’s straight romance some time. And I like this premise and review (though I skimmed comments to avoid too many spoilers). SSEs were never my favorite categories, when I used to read them more often, but this one sounds very good.

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  21. Alisha Rai
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 20:14:21

    Man in a Million is my favorite Bird. But then again, Spike is pretty much EveryBrother, and I love my brothers :).

    I think there were a couple of interviews where she vaguely said something about finishing the series, but with all of her other projects, i doubt it. I’d look forward to that more than Rhev, and I’m normally not a huge fan of categories.

    Has anyone read the single titles? I just tracked down the one with Nate Walker’s brother. It was cute. Can’t remember the title.

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  22. MaryK
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 20:17:25

    @Janine:

    because children need to love and trust someone, and if the only person they have who takes care of them is abusive, they will still pin their hopes and their love on that person.

    It’s been a while since I read this but from what I remember the younger boys relied pretty much exclusively on the older brother so that might account for it.

    I really felt that Lizzie, for all that she did stand up for herself at crucial points in the relationship, was a bit too patient and long-suffering

    I remember thinking she was unnaturally forbearing – like a little too much PC had crept into the story. It’s interesting how easy it is to nit-pick a book you liked. I guess that’s the nature of B reviews. Assigning grades to reviews would be very hard for me.

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  23. Janine
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 20:27:02

    Alisha — Thanks for the scoop on those interviews.

    MaryK – good point about Sean and Billy relying on Mac. But even so, it still doesn’t ring true to me that they would see their father as they did. They spent so much time in his company, and it was stated that he wasn’t always drunk.

    I remember thinking she was unnaturally forbearing – like a little too much PC had crept into the story.

    That’s a good way of putting it — Lizzie was a little too much exactly what Sean needed her to be.

    It's interesting how easy it is to nit-pick a book you liked. I guess that's the nature of B reviews. Assigning grades to reviews would be very hard for me.

    It’s very hard for me, too. It would be a lot easier to review without grading. But I think that sometimes grades can be very helpful to readers.

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  24. joanne
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 20:30:45

    I had no idea that Bird/Ward was working on another paranormal series besides the BDB. What is the new one about?

    Also, Joanne, did she say if she was still planning to write the other two O'Banyon books at some point?

    The last thing I saw on her site about the new series was that the first book in the is called COVET and is coming out October 2009 in paperback. It’s about angels on Harleys….. I am not her BFF, LOL! or in her inner circle it was just something she announced to those asking about books that came after the BDB and WARD made the announcement about this new series.

    I don’t know anything more about the O’Banyons books ….but I surely wish I did *g*

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  25. Janine
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 20:34:11

    LOL Joanne! And thanks. I didn’t think you were her BFF, just that you might have read something more on her message board or in an interview. I thought that maybe, even if it’s not known when the O’Banyon sequels will be out, she might have said whether she still plans to write them or if they are pretty much off the table.

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  26. GrowlyCub
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 20:37:06

    Has anyone read the single titles? I just tracked down the one with Nate Walker's brother. It was cute. Can't remember the title.

    That one is ‘An Irresistible Bachelor’. The connecting (first one) is ‘An Unforgettable Lady’. They are both nice. Nothing fabulous and seem clearly early works, but I enjoyed them. There’s a 3rd one something or other ‘Gold’, but I haven’t read that one.

    The categories are better in my opinion. More emotional oomph.

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  27. joanne
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 20:43:22

    I just went to look again to be sure I know what I’m saying and she said about the Silhouettes that she writes them to “refresh her palate” which sort of makes sense if you start out a straight romance writer who later goes to paranormals.
    It must make a nice change for an author.

    Actually I read all the Silhouettes she wrote and I liked almost all of them for their characters — and all the characters are connected either by blood (relative not sucked) or by business:

    SSE-1698 Beauty and the Black Sheep
    SSE-1732 His Comfort and Joy
    SSE-1750 From the First CR
    SSE-1803 A Man In A Million
    SSE-1844 The Billionaire Next Door
    Did I mention I’m also not her editor or agent? LMAO… really, I just like her writing.

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  28. GrowlyCub
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 20:46:37

    Ehm, ick, sorry for the faulty formatting. I got distracted by the article in Scientific American about the plague taking out the black footed ferrets.

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  29. Janine
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 20:50:00

    Fixed your formatting, GrowlyCub. If I did it wrong, let me know.

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  30. GrowlyCub
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 20:52:29

    Thanks, Janine! Exactly what I meant to do.

    ReplyReply

  31. Sunita
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 22:45:43

    Thanks for the review, Janine! I read when it came out in ebook form and liked it. I don’t assign grades, but if I did, I’d put it in the B range as well. I find Bird’s writing serviceable but not inspired, and I really liked Sean but was less taken with the heroine (as far as I can recall). I haven’t been able to get past the first chapter of a BDB, so I appreciated being able to see, finally, what others like about Bird!

    I think all the SSE titles are available at Mills & Boon in ebook form, unfortunately in the Dreaded Adobe DRM format.

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  32. Janine
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 22:49:00

    You’re welcome, Sunita! FWIW, I think this book was on par with the BDB books. So far, they have all been in the B range for me, with Lover Revealed a B+ and the last couple, B-’s.

    ReplyReply

  33. Robin
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 11:27:37

    SPOILERSSPOILERSPOILERSSPOILERS
    .
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    guess where I disagree is that my impression (which may be wrong) is that most abused kids do love their parents despite the abuse. Not necessarily because the parents have earned that love, but because children need to love and trust someone, and if the only person they have who takes care of them is abusive, they will still pin their hopes and their love on that person.

    I don’t know a lot of a abused kids, and the work I did with them briefly when in school a long time ago certainly made me no expert, but my own scope of experience tells me that it’s not unrealistic for a kid who was drunkenly beaten and who felt he had to protect his brothers from a father exhibiting alcohol-induced rage and who had no therapy over the years to cope with the feelings of fear, and who was still having flashbacks/nightmares to, as an adult, have a pretty uni-dimensional view of his father. Not that what I’ve witnessed in a few others is clinically universal or even believable within the context of a fictional book, but even in the most “normal” circumstances I have seen kids demonize parents in adulthood (basically intentionally forgetting and nuances in the parent’s behavior, shaving down an image into something relatively unsubtle). And I’ve known formerly abused kids basically shut down completely as adults to their abusive parent. Plus, as I said earlier, I think that view Sean had of his father served him — it drove him to be “different,” it kept him from getting close, all of which served his own fears of being hurt again without him having to investigate them further. So IMO that view was a defense mechanism, and in that I think it was consistent with his character.

    My feeling that she was too patient stemmed from my really feeling her hurt when he wouldn't tell her what was going on with him, and yet she sublimated that hurt, which I don't think I could do.

    I went back last night and skimmed through the book to try to refresh my memory, and I came away with the same impression of Lizzie as the first time I read the book: that she’s a worker bee girl, a young woman who has too much responsibility but who has basically decided to make the best of what she’s got. She reflects on how much her mother’s voice on the answering machine is “draining” and there are several points in the book where either she or the narrative shows her frustration (“To Alma Bond, the world was a place of beauty and magic; practical matters rarely permeated her fog of inspiration.”). But she doesn’t show it to her mother, because she knows it won’t do any good to, given her mother’s “mentally challenged” state and fey, childlike personality. But IMO we see it.

    The one area where I did feel she was *too* understanding was about her father, whose abandonment of both her and her mom she seemed to accept with a lot of grace, IMO. Although I’m not sure, honestly, if we’re supposed to see Lizzie as a character who accepts too easily or who simply doesn’t show her emotions very readily. For example, when she’s telling Sean about her dad, she’s seemingly stoic:

    There was a quiet moment. Then she murmured, “I think it's hard for him to see me. I look a lot like her and our voices sound the same. To him, I am the younger version of her.”

    “So what? He should man up and get over that.”

    Her eyes flipped to his, and as he saw the sadness in them, he wanted to hunt down her father and yell at the guy for dumping his daughter.

    The urge got even stronger when she said with dignity, “It is what it is. I used to hope he'd be different, but he is who he is and it's better for me…healthier…to accept him and move on. Waiting for change is hard and not all that realistic.”

    I think we’re supposed to read that scene as an opportunity to see Lizzie through Sean’s eyes, where the “saddness” in Lizzie’s eyes gave away more than was going on under the surface of her words. That unlike Sean, who let his past drive him (to financial independence and emotional coldness), Lizzie was determined to keep moving forward, because if she stopped, she’s probably topple like a house of cards under all the sacrifices she knew she had to make and the difficult choices she had to shoulder.

    So in that context, I understood Lizzie’s willingness to hold onto Sean for a little while, to feel a certain level of pleasure, even if it was mostly physical, to give her a break. Especially since I don’t think she ever thought of a permanent relationship with him, given that he did not live in the house or want anything to do with it. So she didn’t dig, but she wanted to:

    The thing was, the shutdown happened fast. Literally in a moment, they were gone and you were talking to a two-dimensional likeness of who they really were.

    It made her want to dig to find out what had happened in this apartment, what had caused a father and son to split so irrevocably.

    I didn’t see that as long-suffering or too patient; I saw it as about the way Lizzie and Sean both push their feelings down in order to take what the world has given them. In Sean’s case, it makes him a powerhouse financial success as an emotional prick, whereas in Lizzie’s case it keeps her financially struggling but emotionally giving. But I think one of the things that won me over to Lizzie is that she wasn’t passive-aggressive. OMG I am so sick of that trait in Romance heroines, and I liked that Lizzie didn’t play those games. Plus I have to admit to knowing a number of women who resemble Lizzie, lol, which certainly shapes my view of her.

    I don't remember exactly. It wasn't that long before she got mad at Sean for not staying in touch with her when he went back to Manhattan, and then for lying about who he was, but she got back with him after that and still did not ask the questions about his relationship with his father.

    She didn’t fall back into his arms, though. He calls her and she’s done with him. Then he shows up in the middle of the night and begs her to let him in, which she does, reluctantly, and he begs her to give him another chance. They have sex, and — in a move I adored — she refuses to let him sleep with her in her apartment. Then she reluctantly accepts a ride to work the next morning when her car dies. Also, she does bring up his dad when she talks with him on the phone:

    He heard her exhale. Heard a mouse clicking. “God, you must have really hated your father.”

    “Excuse me?”

    “Do you know how hard he struggled to pay for his medications and his doctor visits? I mean, I doubt it would even make a dent in-’oh, look, here's your net worth. Yeah, whoa…wouldn't even be couch change to you.”

    “This has nothing to do with him.”

    “Yeah…and you know what? I don't think it has anything to do with me, either.”
    God, he wished he'd left a couple of messages on her phone. Maybe this would have been easier. “It does, though. Damn it, Lizzie-’”

    “Do you think I was after your father for money? You did, didn't you? And you figured if I knew you were loaded I'd glom on to you, too.”

    “Look, like I said, I didn't know you. And why wouldn't I be suspicious? You mean you've never heard of that kind of thing?”

    “Hey, check this out. You gave away a million dollars last month to the Hall Foundation. How generous.” Her voice grew heated. “Good Lord, Sean, do you have any idea how tough these last few years have been on your father? You could have helped him. You should have helped him.”

    Okay, that was not a good topic to get on, Sean thought. Because he couldn't be civil about the fact that his father had obviously poor-little-old-me'd her.

    “I'm not going to discuss him.”

    “Oh, that's right. Closed-door policy on that.”

    “Lizzie, no offense, but you don't know a thing about my father.”

    “Funny, the same could be said of you. I don't think you knew him very well, either.”
    Sean's hand curled around his BlackBerry. As he fought to rein in his temper, he reminded himself that she had no way of knowing about the past and that people, even his father, could present many different faces to the world.

    “Let's keep this just to us, Lizzie. We'll get further.”
    She exhaled sharply, which he didn't take as a good sign. “You know what? Let's forget about us going anywhere, okay? Let me know about the house sale when you can. Goodbye.”

    She hung up on him.

    And when he admits to her that he lied to her because he was afraid she wanted his money, like other women before her, she gives him no quarter:”Your poor choices, not my fault.”

    I loved that she stood up to him and didn’t treat him with kid gloves, that she didn’t act like she could make it all better for him. I think that’s why I don’t see her being “rewarded” with a billionaire any more than I think all Romance protags are “rewarded” with love. And Sean was, IMO, a mixed bag of a “reward” — a guy who needed some serious therapy to get over being able to flip into total coldness with the person he supposedly loved the most (IMO it takes someone really strong emotionally, really able to withstand emotional disappointment, to stay in a relationship with someone like that). I also think you could argue that Sean was the one being more rewarded with a woman who he could trust really loved him for himself.

    So, yeah, I see her as kind, compassionate, and practical, but not saintly or unrealistic. Especially relative to the women of the BDB, with whom I could not help but informally compare her as I read. I find Lizzie a bazillion times more believable than those BDB women, all of whom give up their freedom and their lives to live in a glorified cave with a bunch of guys who have some of the stupidest slang conversations I’ve ever read and who are constantly in danger from the Forces of Evil.

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  34. Janine
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 14:42:52

    SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

    Robin —

    Like you, I’m not an expert on abused kids. I’ve known a few adults who were abused as children, but the nature of the abuse was different from what Sean suffered. I am willing to be persuaded on this point, since I do think it’s common for different people to have disparare views of the same person. I will say that Sean’s view of his father might have been more convincing to me if one of his brother’s had shown a somewhat different perspective.

    As to Lizzie, I still feel differently about her than you did, and I’ll try to give some examples to show why as well.

    She reflects on how much her mother's voice on the answering machine is “draining” and there are several points in the book where either she or the narrative shows her frustration (”To Alma Bond, the world was a place of beauty and magic; practical matters rarely permeated her fog of inspiration.”). But she doesn't show it to her mother, because she knows it won't do any good to, given her mother's “mentally challenged” state and fey, childlike personality.

    I can’t remember whether Lizzie had legal guardianship of her mother or not, but IMO it would have done some good to stop her mother from ordering those expensive art supplies that Lizzie couldn’t afford by only authorizing her use of Lizzie’s credit card up to a certain limit, if at all. And certainly Lizzie’s mother’s “mentally challenged” state did not require her to be at an expensive arts camp that Lizzie could barely afford even though she held two jobs. This is where I felt Lizzie was very softhearted and self-sacrificing where her mother was concerned. Yes, she was frustrated by the situation, but she did not do enough to change it, or to curtail her mother’s spending and dabbling in expensive hobbies, which IMO she could have done.

    The one area where I did feel she was *too* understanding was about her father, whose abandonment of both her and her mom she seemed to accept with a lot of grace, IMO. Although I'm not sure, honestly, if we're supposed to see Lizzie as a character who accepts too easily or who simply doesn't show her emotions very readily.

    I think some of both. At least in Sean’s POV, I think Lizzie is shown as noble and self-sacrificing.

    Re. the scene where Lizzie talks about her father’s abandonment,

    I think we're supposed to read that scene as an opportunity to see Lizzie through Sean's eyes, where the “saddness” in Lizzie's eyes gave away more than was going on under the surface of her words.

    I agree with that, but in my case, that sadness was part of what made me see her as long-suffering (and often suffering in silence).

    That unlike Sean, who let his past drive him (to financial independence and emotional coldness), Lizzie was determined to keep moving forward, because if she stopped, she's probably topple like a house of cards under all the sacrifices she knew she had to make and the difficult choices she had to shoulder.

    Yes, exactly. But for me, this is exactly the kind of Cinderella quality that made me feel she had to be rewarded with financial freedom at the end of the book. And notice the way they fall into gender types — in your own words, Sean toward independence and emotional coldness, Lizzie toward sacrfices and difficulties she has to shoulder. That’s *exactly* what didn’t work so well for me about the book — it was a little too old-fashioned for me in this regard.

    So in that context, I understood Lizzie's willingness to hold onto Sean for a little while, to feel a certain level of pleasure, even if it was mostly physical, to give her a break.

    I understood it too. I was sort of torn between a lot of empathy and sympathy for Lizzie at times, and at other times, a bit of exasperation and impatience with her innate goodness.

    Especially since I don't think she ever thought of a permanent relationship with him, given that he did not live in the house or want anything to do with it.

    Yes. But the willingness to get involved with him with no expectation of any kind of commitment from him, even though that wasn’t usually her policy with men, frustrated me a bit. If she had been the type to occasionally indulge in casual sex, it wouldn’t have, but since she wasn’t, it seemed like she was making an exception for him at her own expense.

    I didn't see that as long-suffering or too patient; I saw it as about the way Lizzie and Sean both push their feelings down in order to take what the world has given them. In Sean's case, it makes him a powerhouse financial success as an emotional prick, whereas in Lizzie's case it keeps her financially struggling but emotionally giving.

    Yeah, it was that “financially struggling but emotionally giving” that bothered me. It seemed to me that she was also financially giving, with her mother, and with her willingness to volunteer at the clinic right after they let her go from her paid position there. It’s not that I have anything against volunteering, but she already had another job, as well as had to search for a second job to replace the one she’d lost. It was like taking on too much was her M.O.

    But I think one of the things that won me over to Lizzie is that she wasn't passive-aggressive

    I agree and disagree. There were times when Lizzie did a bang up job of standing up for herself, and you’ve quoted some of those, but there were times when she didn’t, and I’ll quote some of the ones that bothered me.

    Here’s one, from Sean’s POV:

    “You like to push yourself, then.”

    “Yeah, I do. So do my brothers. We're like that.”

    “Why?”

    The question made warning bells go off in his head. He and Billy and Mac were all driven to the point of obsession and the root cause, he suspected, was in the ugly past: every day, they ran without running.

    Time to switch the subject.

    Sean shrugged. “We're just like that. So tell me more about your mom. What kind of art is she into?”

    God, he was a liar, wasn't he?

    And she knew it. Her smart, level eyes told him that.

    Lizzie smiled at him, and it was the smile of a Madonna, all-knowing, very kind. “It's okay, Sean. I'm not going to push.”

    Crap. Now he was the one flushing. Imagine that. “I'm not into talking about myself much.”

    “That's all right. You're really good company anyway.”

    That Madonna-like expression troubles me, in context of Lizzie’s hurt feelings over being shut out of Sean’s life later on in the book.

    Here’s another moment, that comes when Sean loses his necklace:

    She looked around. She had her purse and he had the blanket and the bag of food and they'd left no trash. But something was off.

    When she ran her eyes up and down his chest, she realized what it was. “Your cross. It's missing.”

    Sean's hand snapped to his heart, and though he tried to fight it, she could see panic in his eyes.

    “Don't worry, we'll find it,” she told him.

    They walked the area he'd played in, but it seemed hopeless as he'd covered a lot of distance during the game. Then she remembered. Where had he fallen with the other guy? She headed over to where she thought he'd hit the ground and began crisscrossing the vicinity.

    She was about to give up when she saw a flash of gold in the cropped blades of grass. “I've got it!”

    Sean came running over and as she held out her hand he sagged in relief. He took the necklace and inspected the clasp, then put it back on.

    “Don't know how it fell off,” he said. “Everything seems okay.”

    “You should get it checked.”

    “I will.” His hazel eyes lifted and met hers, then he bent down and kissed her. “Thank you,” he whispered against her mouth. “Just…yeah, thank you.”

    “You're welcome.” As he pulled back, he was gripping the cross so hard his knuckles were white. “It obviously means a great deal to you.”

    He glanced down. “Mac gave one to me and to Billy and kept a third for himself. I wear it because…hell, I don't know.”

    Abruptly, his lids dropped over eyes that had gone deliberately blank.

    She squeezed his hand. “Let's go.”

    And here’s another moment, from Sean’s POV again:

    “What was your mother like?”

    “She died when I was very young.”

    Lizzie lifted her head. “I'm so sorry. Do you remember anything about her?”

    Sean broke the contact of their hands. The idea that secrets were escaping him, that revelations were being made that he couldn't retract, that she was getting into his head, made him twitchy. In the home he'd grown up in, and in the profession he excelled at, vulnerabilities were used against you.

    Silence was safety.

    He brushed his finger down her straight, slightly freckled nose. “So how about that nap for you?”

    She smiled and closed her eyes. “I'll stop prying.”

    In the silence that followed, Sean frowned, thinking there had been no censure in her tone. Just acceptance. The fact that she didn't get on him made him feel grateful…and even closer to her.

    “You don't mind?” he said softly. “That I'm not a big talker?”

    “Not at all, Sean. Just being out in the sun with you is enough for me.”

    Again, that “no censure in her tone, just acceptance,” doesn’t work so well for me, given that later on she gets upset about not being included in his life.

    Here’s why I feel that way — a moment that comes at the end of the scene you mentioned, in which Lizzie doesn’t allow Sean to sleep next to her after they had sex:

    Keeping herself in check, she watched him shut her door then listened to him go up the stairs and settle directly above her.

    He was sleeping on the couch again.

    As she went back to her bed, she wondered why he did that. And was reminded of why a relationship would be so difficult with him.

    It was hard to fall in love with someone who couldn't share himself with you.

    So, while I liked all those sections that you quoted, and was glad that Lizzie stood up for herself at times, there were still other times when I felt she’d sublimated her feelings. To be hurt that Sean didn’t share himself with her, after she displayed Madonna-like kindness and understanding and patience with him many of the times when he wouldn’t tell her what was going on with him, does strike me as a little bit passive aggressive.

    And when he admits to her that he lied to her because he was afraid she wanted his money, like other women before her, she gives him no quarter:”Your poor choices, not my fault.”

    I loved that line.

    I loved that she stood up to him and didn't treat him with kid gloves, that she didn't act like she could make it all better for him. I think that's why I don't see her being “rewarded” with a billionaire any more than I think all Romance protags are “rewarded” with love.

    When I said that, I meant it in reference to the Cinderella fairy tale. Cinderella grows up toiling in hard labor and never complains, and in the end, she becomes a queen. I saw a reflection of that in this book — Lizzie works two jobs, supports her mother, and even wants to volunteer for the clinic when they take away her job. She never complains to her mother or does enough to curtail her mother’s spending; she does feel frustration but she keeps it to herself, and in the end, she gets a big diamond and becomes a billionaire’s wife.

    I do see the Cinderella fairy tale as being about goodness rewarded (and in the case of the stepmother and stepsisters, evil punished), and I felt that this book was riffing on/playing with the Cinderella trope, in a way that made it fresh enough for me to enjoy the story, but was not quite subversive enough for me to love it.

    I won’t disagree about the women in the BDB series, since with the exception of Marissa (whom I like almost depsite myself, perhaps because her embarrassment makes it hard not to sympathize with her) and Xhex (who is easily the most interesting one and whose story I am really looking forward to), they don’t do that much for me. I get a lot of enjoyment from the BDB books, but there’s no question that they are more hero-focused.

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  35. ldb
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 15:17:13

    How ironic, I read this book for the first time this weekend and loved it.

    ReplyReply

  36. Janine
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 15:19:16

    ldb — I think it may be getting lost in all the nitpicking that a B is a good grade and that I enjoyed the book as well. I do recommend it.

    ReplyReply

  37. Robin
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 16:12:10

    IMO it would have done some good to stop her mother from ordering those expensive art supplies that Lizzie couldn't afford by only authorizing her use of Lizzie's credit card up to a certain limit, if at all.

    She did, actually, at $500 bucks. But the mother wrote a check when she couldn’t get the credit card to work, and because Lizzie had spent the night with Sean, she forgot to cancel the delivery of the kiln and the check first thing in the morning. It’s a good question, though, as to whether she had legal guardianship. My sense was that maybe there was no legal divorce from the father? But I could be misremembering or projecting that. IMO it would be really difficult to press for legal guardianship over one’s only present parent, especially when she wasn’t elderly, and it’s tough to know whether that would have made things better or worse for her mother emotionally, IMO, even if it would have eased Lizzie’s financial burden. We know later on that her mother can feel very ashamed in those more lucid moments, and I can imagine it would be tough to risk that being a more permanent state.

    At least in Sean's POV, I think Lizzie is shown as noble and self-sacrificing.

    Well, compared to him, she was, lol.

    And notice the way they fall into gender types -’ in your own words, Sean toward independence and emotional coldness, Lizzie toward sacrfices and difficulties she has to shoulder. That's *exactly* what didn't work so well for me about the book -’ it was a little too old-fashioned for me in this regard.

    Oh, I agree that both she and Sean can be read within certain gender stereotypes (but I also think each veers away in interesting ways). I guess my sense is that you’re holding Lizzie to a higher standard than Sean in this regard. I’m not going to argue that she’s a good example of first, or even second wave feminism, but I think we readers are often much easier on heroes who conform to gender stereotypes than we are on heroines who do the same.

    Yes. But the willingness to get involved with him with no expectation of any kind of commitment from him, even though that wasn't usually her policy with men, frustrated me a bit. If she had been the type to occasionally indulge in casual sex, it wouldn't have, but since she wasn't, it seemed like she was making an exception for him at her own expense.

    But doesn’t this cut against her “good girl” status? That was one of the things I thought was interesting about Lizzie — that she admitted to herself that this was a deviation from her usual pattern, but she was willing to change course because IMO she obviously needed something in that coupling, too (she decides, “this raw, incendiary moment, was too enticing to walk away from”). I also liked that she knew Sean was attracted to her (remember when she is surprised that he didn’t try to kiss her because she senses his interest in doing so?), because it IMO showed a lot of self-awareness rather than that innocent, ‘oh, you like me!’ surprise of some heroines.

    That Madonna-like expression troubles me, in context of Lizzie's hurt feelings over being shut out of Sean's life later on in the book.

    Okay, but that’s from Sean’s perspective, right? IMO he had a strong investment in seeing Lizzie like that; in fact, IMO he vacillated between seeing her as a Madonna and as a gold digger when it came to how she reacted to *him* and to *his* revelations and feelings, and it was his journey to see that she was neither. Just as, IMO, it was Lizzie’s journey to find a good balance between asserting herself in authority and allowing others to live on their own terms. That’s what I get out of those quotes you referenced relative to Lizzie not pushing Sean. Two of the three occurred in the context of her trying to press him for more info. So IMO it wasn’t that she didn’t try to push deeper, but that she was only able to make small steps with Sean. Does that make her unreasonably patient? I don’t know. I think that she’s just as confused, just as unsure of what’s happening between them to have a really good handle on the relationship, and I kind of liked that.

    I’m not quite sure what disturbed you about the second quote, as I read that section in terms of Sean’s inadvertently revealing something about himself, a vulnerability, that would give Lizzie a bit more information about him (strengthening the bond between them).

    I think part of my problem is that I don’t really understand your point about her sublimating her feelings; I mean, Sean did the same thing, all the time, with the emotional trauma of his father when it resurfaced. He sublimated all those feelings of helplessness into asserting a lot of control over his environment, whereas Lizzie pulled farther into herself, trying to create an internal order she didn’t experience externally, IMO. Now you may say that it bothered you because it’s gender stereotype, but again, IMO Sean is the same in that, and I think he’s getting kind of a pass here relative to Lizzie.

    She never complains to her mother or does enough to curtail her mother's spending;

    Well, I think she does curtail her mother’s spending, and she tells Sean that it usually isn’t a problem, so I got the sense that this was not a regular thing. But I have to say, just as a practical matter, how would you go about complaining to a woman like her mom? Especially in the context of the conversation they have near the end of the book:

    “Hi, Mom.” When there was just silence on the other end, she frowned. “Mom? Are you okay?”

    “Yes, Lizzie-fish. It's just…the oddest thing has happened.”

    “What?” Oh God. “Mom? You there?”

    “Someone likes my pottery.”

    Lizzie deflated from relief. And exhaustion. “That's great, Mom.”
    “They really like it.”

    “I can see why.” Unlike a lot of her mother's “work,” the pottery was gorgeous, both decorative and functional. The vases were all flowing, organic lines; the mugs wistful and quirky; the plates uneven and charming. When Lizzie had seen some of it during her overnight trip to Essex, the first thing she'd thought was that the objects were just like her mother: beautiful and fey and somehow not of this world.

    “Well, the someone wants to sell them, Lizzie.”

    “Boy, wouldn't that be great.” A little extra money was always good. “Is it the little craft store next to the grocery?”

    “It's the Mason Gallery in Boston. On Newbury Street.”

    Lizzie's eyes popped. “What?”

    “Mr. Mason was up here buying antiques with his wife and I happened to be taking a stroll with my morning coffee. He saw my mug and when I told him I made it and had others they came back to the house. He liked what I did and wants to send a truck to pick up fifty pieces.”

    Good…Lord. The Mason Gallery specialized in selling one-of-a-kind objets d'art to the high-rent crowd in Boston. Lizzie had only ever walked by the window because she knew the prices inside were way out of her league.

    “What should I do, Lizzie?”

    “Well, do you want to sell your work?”

    “I think so.” There was a slight pause and then her mother's voice grew soft, almost ashamed. “But, Lizzie, you know I'm not good with money. Will you take care of all that stuff? I mean, I am not…good with money.”

    Lizzie closed her eyes, knowing there was so much more in that comment. Her mother was rarely self-aware, but in this moment, she was totally present and obviously clear about her mental deficiency.

    The shame was painful to hear. And so very unnecessary.

    I just think it would be extremely tough to have a parent like that, and IMO it provided a good reason for Lizzie’s hyper-responsible disposition. Of course I realize it doesn’t get Lizzie out of the woods in terms of her responsibility being connected to the fact that she has to mother her own parent, and therefore rests on a certain level of gender stereotyping, but at least there is IMO consistency and foundation to Lizzie’s personality, not simply an assertion of her being a good person without some context (that’s the kind of goodness in Romance that makes me crazy — the virtuous by means of being a (near) virgin). Like Sean’s a-hole behavior (that scene where he almost made Lizzie pay for dinner had me wanting to crack my open hand across his jaw, lol), Lizzie’s has been conditioned by her upbringing, IMO.

    and even wants to volunteer for the clinic when they take away her job.

    I hate to say this, but I had a strong personal understanding of her reaction there. And on an intellectual level, I would have thought she was loony had she not been a nurse. But knowing someone who took an entry level nursing position in Kaiser for more than $125K plus a signing bonus, I knew her faith in finding alternative work was well-placed. Although I think the fact that she worked for the community center was not itself a particularly subversive element to her character.

    I won't disagree about the women in the BDB series, since with the exception of Marissa (whom I like almost depsite myself, perhaps because her embarrassment makes it hard not to sympathize with her) and Xhex

    Oh, I am so afraid of what’s going to be done to Xhex in her story (can a woman in that series ever have the power of a hero?), because I actually think Marissa was more interesting as a character until she became mated with Butch, and Xhex being soo ballsy, well, suffice it to say I am very, very afraid . . .

    I do see the Cinderella fairy tale as being about goodness rewarded (and in the case of the stepmother and stepsisters, evil punished), and I felt that this book was riffing on/playing with the Cinderella trope, in a way that made it fresh enough for me to enjoy the story, but was not quite subversive enough for me to love it.

    My own grade for the book was definitely in the B range, too, and I agree with you about the riffing. Where we differ, I think, is that I see Lizzie as the more interesting of the two and you see Sean as the more interesting of the two.

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  38. Janine
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 21:49:15

    BIG SPOILERS
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    Yeah, you are right about the credit card thing — I had forgotten that. But why give the mother checks? It seems like a recipe for trouble.

    Oh, I agree that both she and Sean can be read within certain gender stereotypes (but I also think each veers away in interesting ways). I guess my sense is that you're holding Lizzie to a higher standard than Sean in this regard.

    Probably true. I think I cut Sean a lot of slack because of what he suffered as a child.

    Re. Lizzie’s decision to sleep with Sean even though it wasn’t her usual policy,

    But doesn't this cut against her “good girl” status? That was one of the things I thought was interesting about Lizzie -’ that she admitted to herself that this was a deviation from her usual pattern, but she was willing to change course because IMO she obviously needed something in that coupling, too (she decides, “this raw, incendiary moment, was too enticing to walk away from”).

    No, I don’t feel this cuts against her “good girl” status. It reminds me very much of the many, many good girl heroines I encountered in my category romance reading days back in the 1990s, who were almost always virgins or near-virgins, but who made an exception from their usual policy of no casual sex for the hero. Ninety times out of a hundred, this was the case. Something about the hero was different so sex without commitment was okay, as long as it was with him. I’m afraid I’ve probably read this scenario too many times and am probably therefore a little too jaded about it.

    I want to make it clear that I can and do enjoy books with this setup (including this book), but I don’t consider the scenario itself subversive.

    I also liked that she knew Sean was attracted to her (remember when she is surprised that he didn't try to kiss her because she senses his interest in doing so?), because it IMO showed a lot of self-awareness rather than that innocent, ‘oh, you like me!' surprise of some heroines.

    That’s an interesting perspective. I took her awareness more as a sign that the attraction between them was palpable and powerful.

    Okay, but that's from Sean's perspective, right? IMO he had a strong investment in seeing Lizzie like that; in fact, IMO he vacillated between seeing her as a Madonna and as a gold digger when it came to how she reacted to *him* and to *his* revelations and feelings, and it was his journey to see that she was neither.

    That’s a very thoughtful reading of the book. I didn’t get that out of it — to me, his vacillation between madonna and gold digger was part of his journey and his skewed perspective, but it was also part of his path to recognition that ultimately, Lizzie was a good girl (who would give all the money she inherited to charity, even when she needed it herself), rather than a gold digger.

    I'm not quite sure what disturbed you about the second quote, as I read that section in terms of Sean's inadvertently revealing something about himself, a vulnerability, that would give Lizzie a bit more information about him (strengthening the bond between them).

    It was this exchange:

    “You don't mind?” he said softly. “That I'm not a big talker?”

    “Not at all, Sean. Just being out in the sun with you is enough for me.”

    I mean, it clearly wasn’t true. She did mind, (“It was hard to fall in love with someone who couldn't share himself with you”), so clearly just being out in the sun with Sean wasn’t enough for her. But she said that it was. This is the kind of behavior that in my female friends, and sometimes in myself, too, can drive me crazy — when we say we are okay with something when we aren’t.

    I think part of my problem is that I don't really understand your point about her sublimating her feelings; I mean, Sean did the same thing, all the time, with the emotional trauma of his father when it resurfaced. He sublimated all those feelings of helplessness into asserting a lot of control over his environment, whereas Lizzie pulled farther into herself, trying to create an internal order she didn't experience externally, IMO. Now you may say that it bothered you because it's gender stereotype, but again, IMO Sean is the same in that, and I think he's getting kind of a pass here relative to Lizzie.

    It’s very true that I am giving Sean more of a pass than I am giving Lizzie. But as a victim of severe abuse, it’s a wonder to me that Sean functioned even as well as he did. I will agree he’s getting more of a pass from me, but I don’t know if it’s because he’s male or because he was abused so badly as a child. I see him as having no choice but to sublimate his feelings as a survival mechanism. Had he felt them while he was in his father’s custody, it would have devastated him and left him unable to cope. With Lizzie, I don’t see the same degree of necessity for it.

    Well, I think she does curtail her mother's spending, and she tells Sean that it usually isn't a problem, so I got the sense that this was not a regular thing.

    Doesn’t she say or think at one point that her mom has a knack for developing expensive hobbies? I got the impression that it was an ongoing thing, and her denial of it to Sean was partly sublimation, and partly not wanting to seem weak or needy in front of him.

    But I have to say, just as a practical matter, how would you go about complaining to a woman like her mom?

    I dont know. I’d have to think about it. I think that dealing with mentally ill or mentally challenged family members is very draining and difficult for those people who are in that situation.

    But ultimately, it seems to me that it’s not about complaining to or trying to explain to the mentally challenged person something they can’t understand. It’s about trying to normalize life for the healthier people as much as possible. The ones who aren’t so healthy have to adjust themselves to the rest of the world, rather than vice-versa. Otherwise that illness or dysfunction just encompasses the healthy people too.

    So yeah, in that scenario Lizzie’s mom might have to suffer a little more so Lizzie could have a normal life. Lizzie might have turned her mother’s guardianship over to someone else, or put her in a state facility that would be covered by her mom’s social security benefits, if her mom had any of those.

    Taking on a second job so that mom can continue to live in her delusional state, even with all the best of intentions, doesn’t seem like the right solution to me. Ultimately, her mom won’t learn that there have to be financial limits, and Lizzie, in real life, would be more likely to collapse from stress or develop some health issues of her own rather than be married by a billionaire.

    at least there is IMO consistency and foundation to Lizzie's personality, not simply an assertion of her being a good person without some context (that's the kind of goodness in Romance that makes me crazy -’ the virtuous by means of being a (near) virgin). Like Sean's a-hole behavior (that scene where he almost made Lizzie pay for dinner had me wanting to crack my open hand across his jaw, lol), Lizzie's has been conditioned by her upbringing, IMO.

    I see what you are saying. I think we got less of Lizzie’s childhood in the book than we did of Sean’s. Perhaps if there had been as many flashbacks to her past, I would have cut her the same degree of slack.

    I hate to say this, but I had a strong personal understanding of her reaction there. And on an intellectual level, I would have thought she was loony had she not been a nurse. But knowing someone who took an entry level nursing position in Kaiser for more than $125K plus a signing bonus, I knew her faith in finding alternative work was well-placed.

    While I know that nurses can make an excellent living, I didn’t feel that this was acknowledged in the book. Lizzie was so poor that she even took Sean’s father’s old table because she couldn’t afford one of her own, and this with *two* nursing jobs. So while I would agree with you in real life, I felt that in the world of this book, Lizzie’s financial situation was precarious.

    Re. Xhex, we’ll see. I like that she is being paired with John Matthew so far, and I am really enjoying their interactions. I’m going to go along for the ride and not make any assumptions that could interfere with my enjoyment. If Xhex turns into another Cormia, I’ll vent my frustrations here.

    My own grade for the book was definitely in the B range, too,

    Yeah, I did enjoy it and am glad I read the book.

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  39. Serena
    Jan 23, 2009 @ 08:31:09

    I’ve just started reading this but I keep thinking: if the mother is crazy (and she says she’s clinically crazy, not just eccentric) isn’t there something she can do to stop her from spending all that money? I don’t know US law, but I was thinking something like they did with Britney Spears?

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  40. Kim
    Jan 23, 2009 @ 12:59:31

    Jessica Bird’s SSE are short, yet look at how much discussion this book engendered. That’s what separates JB from some of the usual Silhouette/Harlequin authors. Her characters are well-drawn and the plotlines engrossing. Even her full-length JB contemporaries are good. I wish she would alternate between the paranormals and the contemporary romances, but it looks like she’s settling into another paranormal series.

    In fact, here’s more information on her new COVET paranormals:

    JR: Angels on Harleys! Angels on Harleys! And each one gets a book. I'm really pumped to start them, I think they're great although I'll still be doing the brothers as well of course- like Wrath would have it otherwise?! LOL

    I have most of it mapped out at this time, there is a finite amount of books but then again there was with the Brothers two so yeah, we'll just see about that! So far as I'm aware, the hero of the whole series is a guy named Jim Crane who's a carpenter and it's all about him going up against the devil (who's a very hot brunette, btw) with the help of his two partners, a scruffy dog and his bad attitude. There are other heros who come in along the way and there is a love story in every book. Things may change as I get into the writing, but the bare bones are set and I can't wait to get started!

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  41. Janine
    Jan 23, 2009 @ 20:34:39

    Serena — I was wondering that too.

    Kim — I agree that the depth of the discussion here indicates good things about the book. Thanks so much for the info about the COVET paranormals.

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  42. Nome
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 18:11:29

    I’ve just read is book and really enjoyed it. I could go into detail about the abuse issues ( l work in child psychiary). I would not recommend this book to anyone for the simple reason that throughout the book you get the impression that the story continues on with the 2 other brothers. The first thing i did once l finished the book was go online with the aim of purchasing the remaining books. For an author to start a trilogy and abandon it is kinda shocking. Shame good storyline- i’d give it a D solely on the fact that it comes across as a trilogy but isn’t.

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  43. Janine
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 18:17:58

    Nome, I would love to hear your thoughts on the abuse issues.

    In hindsight, I think my biggest negative about the book was that Lizzy was self-sacrificing to such an extreme degree, but I did like the book.

    I hope that Bird still writes the later two books at some point as I am interested in the hero’s brothers.

    ReplyReply

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