Only In My Arms
Although I’m going to focus on Only In My Arms, this is really a sort of overview of the entire Dennehy Sisters series. Only In My Arms is the final book in the series, but it’s the story of the first-born of the five wealthy, privileged, bastard Dennehy sisters. Having read it fifth, I would rank it fourth. A little confusing? Wait until I tell you that all five women are named Mary. Though Catholic, they’re not all sisters (nuns), but are sisters (siblings). Except for sister Mary Francis, who is a sister (nun), Sister Mary Francis. Now that you have that straight, we can begin.
I read the first four books before I began writing reviews for AAR (which is why there are none posted for those), plus, I didn’t read the series in order (I read the fourth book first), but if I were to grade them, they would rank pretty much as follows —
- Wild Sweet Ecstasy (Mary Michael’s story – “Michael” is a journalist) B+
- Rogue’s Mistress (Mary René’s story – “Rennie” is Michael’s identical twin and is an engineer) B+
- Forever In My Heart (Mary Margaret’s story – “Maggie” is a doctor) B+
- Always In My Dreams (Mary Skyler’s story – “Skye” is, well, they ran out of 19th Century men’s-careers-that-women-can-do-just-as-good, so Skye’s simply an adventurer) C
As far as sensuality goes, books #1, #2, and #5 are definitely Hot, with #3 and #4 only a little less so. All the heroes in all five books are tall, ruggedly handsome, completely devoted to their respective wives, and have some of the sexiest names around: Ethan Stone, Jarrett Sullivan, Ryder McKay.
Which brings us to Only In My Arms. Ryder McKay is a scout (and more) for the U.S. Cavalry. Of Scottish heritage, he was raised by the Apache and has tremendous respect for the people whose ways he has adopted. He first meets Mary in New York when he finds her swimming naked in a pond not far from Skye’s mansion. While Mary’s uncertain emotions seem valid, she’s pretty feisty for a naked, unarmed nun confronted by an armed, fully-clothed stranger who strips and joins her. When she determines he is a good guy after all, and a friend of Walker Caine, her brother-in-law, she invites him to dinner and they get to know each other a little.
Ryder’s upset that this beautiful woman is unattainable and tries forcefully to suppress his randy thoughts about the nun. Ultimately, Ryder heads back to Arizona where he belongs. As for Mary, meeting Ryder the way she did convinced her that her prayers have been answered. She has been uncertain about whether or not to renounce her vows and toss off her habit for good. Against the wishes of her mother, Mary leaves the sisterhood and, in one of the author’s frequent plotting coincidences, heads for Arizona where her father’s railroad is in the process of expanding.
In the meantime, Ryder has been set up to take the rap for treason and murder and is awaiting hanging when Mary shows up and unwittingly aids in his escape. He kidnaps her and takes her to a secure hideout in the mountains where they spend several weeks in each others’ company. Though he has not touched her, Ryder realizes he has compromised Mary beyond redemption, and, discovering she is no longer a nun, he takes her to his Apache parents, where he marries her. They then go back into hiding, and have lots of great sex. Dr. Ruth would be so proud.
There was nothing tremendously wrong with this book, except that it was simply too long – by about a quarter, or a hundred pages. Not enough happened to warrant the length of this story. Plus, while Mary and Ryder were all over each other, there was some undefined thing missing from their encounters … no real sizzle. I don’t know why, there should have been, because all the elements were there. There just was something missing.
I like Jo Goodman; I like her stories, her heroes, and most especially, her love scenes. She’s a very impressive writer – very visual – and getting better all the time, which is proved out in the series that follows this one. I’ve reviewed My Steadfast Heart and My Reckless Heart, and am anxiously awaiting the release of the third book in that series, With All My Heart.
If you can get hold of the Dennehy series, do so. Read them all; read them in order. I think that, in spite of their flaws (and each of them has a few), you’ll enjoy the books. I know I did.
P.S. I’ve noticed something in Jo Goodman’s books that I simply must comment on – her choice of character names. They always lead me to thinking of something else. As an example, the twins, Michael and Rennie. Well, Michael Rennie is a very famous British actor, and I couldn’t get past this unusual coincidence. The hero of the fourth book is Walker Caine (or would that be walking cane?). Walker married Skye … Skye and Walker, as in “use the force, Luke?” Of course, that makes her Skye Caine (anybody remember Sky King?) There are other instances, too, and I know it’s a silly thing for me to have noticed, but there you have it.