Kissing Comfort
Jo Goodman

Publisher: Kensington
Line: Zebra
Release Date: Sep 6, 2011
Pages: 400
Retail Price: $ 7.99

Heat Level: Hot


With a head for numbers and a fiery spirit, Miss Comfort Elizabeth Kennedy would much rather be elbow-deep in the family banking business than follow the path expected of an unattached young woman. But when Comfort's best friend—the dashing Bram DeLong—announces that they are engaged, Comfort finds herself on an unexpected path to matrimony.

Bode DeLong knows that his playboy brother Bram isn't really in love with Miss Comfort Kennedy, even though it's clear that she's enamored with him. With Bram's motives for the engagement suspect, Bode figures the safest place for Comfort to be is in his arms. Now, Bode just needs to convince Comfort that the childhood fancy she has for his brother is no match for the incredible desire that sparks between them every time they touch.

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1.Too Wicked To Wed
2. Because You're Mine
3. Season For Temptation
4. His Mistress by Christmas
5. The Sinner
6. Unclaimed
7. What a Duke Wants
8. Scandalous Desires
9. Mistress by Marriage
10. The Dark Earl


I must admit I do not often read historical Westerns.  Not that I don’t occasionally, but it’s not a genre I have much experience with.  I automatically assumed this book was a horse-riding, ranch-working cowboy Western, based on the gorgeous six-packer gracing the cover with his thumb through his belt loop and the sparkling sunset in the background—my brain just filled in the cowboy hat automatically. 

Ah, but alas, I so underestimated the scope of this book.  Kissing Comfort, named after its heroine, Comfort Elizabeth Kennedy, is not a cowboy story at all.  It is a historical read about San Francisco’s Barbary Coast in the 1870’s.

Since I spend a good deal of each day immersed in the world of Regency-early Victorian London, this book offered a very refreshing alternative:  a whole new historical world to inhabit.

And indeed, author Jo Goodman does not disappoint.  Her world building is filled with a rich amount of authentic historical detail that only someone in love with this time period can produce.  And she blends it seamlessly into the story.

I was soon swept up in her world of Nob Hill mansions, the fall-out from the San Francisco gold rush, bankers and shippers and Pinkerton agents and that frightening group of lawless individuals known as the Rangers. 

Here’s how Ms. Goodman describes the violent Barbary Coast:

“The odors were vile, the diseases loathsome, and the
chances that any woman could escape unscathed were almost nil.”

The story even in its telling is different.  The point of view is (and I hope I’m getting this right), third person omniscient—i.e., the author gets inside the heads of numerous characters.  And she does this seamlessly as well, which immediately told me I was in the hands of an experienced author.  (See Jo Goodman’s website for her extensive backlist.)

I must admit, her hero had me at “hello.”  I was drawn in as soon as she told us that Beauregard DeLong is Body for short because he couldn’t say his whole entire name as a child.  
He is totally a hero to die for.  Bode is late for his birthday party that his mother is throwing him at her mansion on Nob Hill.  He sneaks into the garden after being beaten by the Rangers, and learns his younger brother Bram has just asked Bram’s good friend Comfort to marry him.  Body knows the irresponsible Bram is not in love with Comfort, but also knows she nurses quite a crush on Bram.  Comfort notices Body, the  DeLong brother she always knew as the older and intimidating one, lurking in the garden, sees how badly he is injured, and helps him to enter the house.  But Comfort also does not hesitate to put him in his place.  Ms. Goodman creates the wickedly combustible combination of a saucy, strong heroine and a tough, calm, honorable, deep-feeling and quick-witted hero that will just take you on a wonderful ride as they can’t help but fall in love.

Just to give you an example, Body says things like this:

“Careful, Bram, you’ll make my head swell to a size that won’t easily fit through your door. Then you’ll be stuck with me.”

Comfort is no shrinking violet herself.  Twenty years previous, she was the only survivor of a Westbound wagon train.  She is found trapped behind rocks by two rough-and-tumble ex-soldiers who fought at the Alamo. The only possession she has is a lozenge tin labeled Dr. Eli Kennedy’s Comfort lozenges.  The two tough-as-nails bachelors who find her name her after the lozenge tin she is clutching and raise her as their own.

Her unconventional upbringing by bachelors Newt and Tuck and her talent with numbers lead her to an unconventional job in her uncles’ bank. She is bright, hard-working, and adores her “uncles.”  She has refused a handful of marriage proposals thus far, which causes Newt and Tuck some concern as she is twenty-five.  But her uncles are puzzled and concerned she has accepted Bram’s.

Bode refuses to accept Bram’s engagement at face value.  He also falls in love with Comfort.  No one is quite what they seem—including a mysterious man who clears his throat and uses the same type of lozenges as those in Comfort’s tin, and Bram, the angel-faced, capricious, and morally lax brother whose weaknesses lead to catastrophe.

The climax of this book leads you into the dangerous world of the Barbary Coast, and you will be cringing and praying for the heroine’s safety. 

If I had one small reservation, it was that the prose was a little unusual for me to navigate.  (Now, remember what I said about spending my days in Regency England—I’ve been known to lapse into old British dialect at unusual times.)  My unfamiliarity with the nineteenth century Western tongue may be to blame, but at times I had to re-read or slow down to fully follow the meanderings of the language.

But this is a minor point.

From mansions to barroom brawls to an open sea journey, this book takes you on an enjoyable, tightly-plotted ride that is really quite epic in its scope.

I was sorry to leave Comfort and Bode and their world at the end.  You will be, too.  

And guess what...I have been won over by Westerns!

Reviewed by Miranda


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