Wednesday, February 17, 2010

TBR Challenge 2010: Try A Little Tenderness

The Book: Wild Oats by Pamela Morsi

The Particulars: Berkley Jove, Historical Americana Romance (early 20th century), 1993, Book One In Series (pretty sure), Out Of Print, Easy To Find Used (lots o' cheap copies for sale on Amazon, and looks like PBS has copies).

Why Was It In The Bat Cave TBR?: I have two other books (Simple Jess and Courting Miss Hattie) by Ms. Morsi in the Bat Cave Keeper Stash. Needless to say, I seriously glommed her backlist. Also, this one has a virgin hero - and I'm a total sucker for a virgin hero. Deviant woman that I am.

The Review: I totally "get" and understand the fantasy appeal in romance. Who doesn't want a dashing Duke or Greek tycoon to show up at their front door and "take them away from it all?" But for my money, nothing flips my switch more than romance novels that feature "normal" people. Some may say that's boring, and some may say they need the "escapist" factor, but for me there is nothing more romantic than the idea that anybody, anywhere, is capable of falling in love and finding their happily ever after. Sentimental old goat that I am. Nobody, and I mean nobody, does this better than Pamela Morsi and it's why so many of us adore her historical romances.

Jedwin Sparrow is the mortician of Dead Dog, Oklahoma and a grown man of 24. It is only through his strong character that he hasn't turned into a hopeless mama's boy thanks to his controlling, sour mother, Amelia. Like most young men of 24, he's getting an itch he desperately wants to scratch, but he doesn't want to get married....yet. So he gets the idea to make an indecent proposal to Mrs. Cora Briggs, the most scandalous woman in town.

Cora is ::gasp:: divorced, which means in the minds of the townspeople she's a whore. When young Jedwin shows up on her doorstep and clumsily makes his proposition, she's appalled. The town may think she's a trollop, but she's nothing of the sort! However, she doesn't turn Jedwin out. Frankly, it was his mother Amelia that led the campaign to smear her reputation and wouldn't it take the woman down several notches if her precious baby boy was having an affair with that no-account, trashy, slutty Cora Briggs? So she tells Jedwin she'll consider his proposition, but as a lady she wants to be romanced. Imagine her surprise when he takes to the idea and a full-fledged courtship begins.

Morsi's historical romances were about salt-of-the-Earth people. Unless your blood runs purely blue, shake your family tree and ancestors that could populate a Morsi historical romance could come tumbling out. Jedwin is so blessedly clumsy and clueless that you would actually feel sorry for the guy if his proposition to Cora wasn't so insulting. But bless his heart, he quickly catches on - and his romancing of her is sweet, tender, and easily brought a smile to my lips. He's not fancy, he's not debonair, he's not a macho Alpha dog marking his territory. Jedwin Sparrow is a nice guy who wants his own life. Not the life his mother wants him to have, but the one he wants. And when he realizes he wants Cora Briggs for more than a clandestine affair, he puts on the full court press of convincing her that he really loves her. Not just the sex (hey, which is nice) but her.

Leaving Dead Dog after her divorce wasn't much of an option for Cora, who has no family whatsoever to rely on. She's a good, hardworking woman, who understands how society works and her place in it. She initially humors Jedwin to tweak his mother's nose, but as she develops feelings for the sweet, hardworking man, she knows she must send him away. He just doesn't understand the "rules." Rules that state that nice guys like Jedwin Sparrow cannot be with women like Mrs. Cora Briggs without there being damaging consequences.

What I really liked about this story is that the author gives all her characters a nice dimension. Even her villains have some depth. It would have been so easy to paint Jedwin's mother as a vile, evil shrew of the woman - but instead Morsi gives her a multi-faceted personality, allowing the reader to understand her, even if we don't agree with her. At that end, there is some redemption towards the final chapters that I'm not sure I completely buy - although the author sells it really well, and it's easy to overlook quibbles when my sappy romantic heart was practically bursting out of my chest. This is really a tender, lovely story, and another example of what made Morsi's historicals so fantastic. I'm certainly very happy that I have the follow-up book, Runabout, sitting in my TBR.

Final Grade = A-

24 comments:

Phyl said...

This sounds like one I'd like. And my library has it! Reserved.

Victoria Janssen said...

Sometimes NOTHING hits the spot like a Morsi.

Janet Webb said...

I would have loved to review Simple Jess but I love it so much that it's the antithesis of a TBR. And the trope, virgin hero, I've read 'em all and am always looking for more (and isn't Jess one of the best?) ... so I'm going to have to do Hero in Pursuit and I was thinking "The Dreadful Duke" by Barbara Hazard because the heroine has a sad sad secret past and the way it's resolved is interesting.

... Phyl, if you haven't read Simple Jess, I'm sure you'd like it too: I liked it more than the book about his sister, the prequel.

Phyl said...

I haven't read any Morsi before, so if I like this one I'm sure I'll go looking for more! Thanks for the recs, Janet. I'll look for Simple Jess.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

I went all fan girl at nationals when I met Pamela. I don't think I read this one yet. Hmmm perhaps a trip to the USB is in store?

Hilcia said...

Wendy, this sounds wonderful.

I read my first and only Pamela Morsi back in December. It was Simple Jess. Needless to say I fell in love, both with Jess and with her style. I want more! I'm looking for Courting Miss Hattie and I'm writing down the name of this book.

Thanks for the review and the recommendation.

Wendy said...

Victoria: You're right, nothing really does. I plowed through this story in record time.

Janet: Simple Jess was my first Morsi read and while I adore it to pieces - Courting Miss Hattie wins by a nose. I have scads more of her books in my TBR - which on one hand makes me very happy, but also very sad that I haven't read them yet :-( Sometimes I really suck.

Phyl: Yeah, for the library! And yes, Simple Jess is also very good - and so wonderfully different. Happy, happy sigh.

Katie: I got my copy of Courting Miss Hattie signed at Nationals a couple of years ago :)

Hilcia: She's since moved on to contemporary women's-fictiony type books - but all of Morsi's historicals fit nicely into that Americana mold. Have fun hunting up her backlist! I'm pretty sure I'm missing a few myself, and need to get back on the treasure hunt.

lisabea said...

I love this book. And Simple Jesse. Both on the keeper shelf at chez lisabea.

:)

An you are absolutely right--what could be more wonderful than two normal people finding everlasting love? here here.

Wendy said...

Lisabea: A couple of posts down - KristieJ heartily approves of you giving me your copy of Fair Is The Rose. Will read. Soon. I promise. Come hell or high water!

Tara Marie said...

Beautiful review of a wonderful book :) I still reread several of her books each year... Simple Jess, Heaven Sent, Courting Miss Hattie...

azteclady said...

You are so bad for my "no book buying until you read SOMETHING from the TBR mountain range" resolution, woman!!!!!

*sigh*

Wendy said...

Tara: I have so many of her books still in my TBR. I honestly could probably do Keishon's year-long challenge reading nothing but Pamela Morsi books. I suck.

AL: Didn't you know? Out of print books don't count towards self-imposed book-buying bans. Tee Hee.

marelou said...

"Deviant woman that I am." LOL, Wendy! Great review; now I have to go find and read this one.

Senetra said...

I think I was too young to appreciate these books when they were first published. I have a couple that I picked up a while ago that I'm going to read again.

Shon said...

Love Pamela Morsi and Courting Miss Hattie. Great review Wendy. I can't tell you why I've never bothered to read anymore from her. Will need to rectify that. Thanks! -Keishon

Mayberry Mom said...

I just read a contemporary with a virgin hero: UNDER FIRE by Jo Davis. Sexy, shy virgin firefighter.

Rosario said...

I love, love, love this book, even better than Simple Jess. Morsi rules!

Amy said...

I know I have this one...somewhere. Ugh! And now I want to read it...NOW! *sigh*

Shiloh Walker said...

I shouldn't have read the review. Last thing I needed to do at 8:16 am was cruise the used book selections available at Bn.com

Haven't read Morsi and historicals aren't usually my thing, but this sounded too good not to try.

Kristie (J) said...

Some of Pamela Morisi's books I was only so so with but on the other hand some I really loved. Wild Oats was one of the ones I really loved. And I could kick myself now because I think in one of my rare book purges years back, this one got mixed in with some of the ones I was only so so on and got turned into a UBS - one of the reason my book purges ARE so rare.

Lynn Spencer said...

I think this is one of the few Morsi historicals I haven't read. Will need to rectify that sometime. I used to love her Americana romances. I remember liking Courting Miss Hattie and Marrying Stone.

Wendy said...

Marelou: But it's OK because I embrace my deviance(s)!

Senetra: Thinking back on my teenage pre-Super Librarian self (scary!) - I think you may be on to something. I'm not sure how well Morsi's historicals would have worked for me had I read them at, say, 16. I discovered her in my mid-20s though and it was twu wuv.

Keishon: I have SO many of her books in my TBR and I've read a grand total of 3. Those 3 have all been keepers - so what the heck am I waiting for?

Mayberry Mom: Scribbling down that title....

Rosario: I can't believe I waited this long to read it. Especially with my virgin hero love :)

Amy: I need to come visit you just so I can organize your TBR. You need a "system" even more than KristieJ does! LOL

Shiloh: Morsi wrote such "different" historicals. They have that strong Americana voice that is so sadly lacking in today's historical romance sub genre.

Kristie: Well I can't speak for Canada - but it seems fairly easy to come by here in the States. Next time I make a UBS run I shall be on the lookout for an extra copy for you!

Lynn: I think Marrying Stone might be one of hers that I'm missing. I really need to compare her web site to my LibraryThing account to see which ones I still need to hunt down.

novelnelle said...

Awww booo. I passed this one up in the used bookstore just yesterday because it had too many creases in the spine. Now that I've read your fabulous review I have this ridiculous need to get it immediately - even though it will probably sit in my TBR pile for the next year or so. :)

Jill D. said...

Great review Wendy! Umm... adding it to the list :)