One Forbidden Evening is the first book that I've read by Jo Goodman, and what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be! The quality of writing in the dialogue between hero (The Earl of Ferrin) and heroine (the widowed Mrs. Caldwell) throughout the story is excellent; hero and heroine are absolute matches for each other in intelligence, witticisms, dialogue, and this comes across throughout the book. Sparks fly between these two characters, and believably so - the reader believes they are well-matched because it's proven in the writing, not just because we're told so.
Cybelline Caldwell is a widow with a two-year-old daughter, Anna, but she has a lot of problems. Her husband committed suicide, and since that event she's been receiving threatening letters from a mystery woman. Her second problem is that her sleep is often disturbed by strange, seductive dreams about a man who isn't her husband. When she discovers that her dreams seem to be about the Earl of Ferrin, a well-known rake, she decides to deal with them by seducing him for one night
- to get him out of her system, so to speak.
This sounds a bit tacky, but when the events are taking place in the book, it doesn't seem
so. The seduction takes place at a masquerade ball, so he doesn't know who she is.
But she soon finds that there are consequences beyond that evening, and that perhaps the Earl isn't quite what he seemed. When she escapes London in the hope of escaping the nasty letters, the Earl follows, and they find that their lives start to entwine.
Although the actual plot of this book isn't all that complex, the characterization and dialogue are so meaty that the book is a gripping, fascinating read. There's a fair bit of sex in this book, but there's also a great deal of other interactions between the characters as they learn to trust each other and share secrets. The hero is just the sort of man that a romantic hero should be, and the heroine is an intelligent woman
who is easy to like.
The plot twist, such as it is, is one that I did see coming before the end, but it
is still a satisfying read that has encouraged me to read some other works by Jo Goodman, one of which I
believe features Cybelline's brother. The author's historical accuracy is quite good in this book (although the odd stray American sentence slips in), and the setting works well for her tale. For those who don't mind a bit more earthiness and intimacy in their Regencies, this is a good choice.