A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for an honest review at Seductive Musings.
Although this isn’t my first Jessica Clare book, it is the first one I’ve read in her Bluebonnet series, where different couples find love in a tiny but interesting fictional Texas town. I didn’t have any problem diving into the story of a hero and heroine from vastly different worlds who found themselves more compatible than anyone could have predicted. Elise and Rome’s romance is both sweet and hot, and it kept me interested even as another character in the book did her best to try to make me stop reading altogether.
Elise is quiet and shy because she spent her formative years suffering from a self-image severely damaged by a large facial birthmark and scoliosis. The birthmark was mostly removed by lasers, the scoliosis mostly fixed by years in a body brace and major surgery, but some external and internal scars remain. So when Elise finds herself irresistibly drawn to a handsome stranger covered in piercings and tattoos, she’s as surprised as anyone at her decision to pursue what would be the first real romantic relationship of her life. But will he give her a chance?
Rome has learned to trust no one after the multiple betrayals of his family resulted years spent in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. His checkered past and intimidating appearance have kept everyone at arm’s length, until pretty little Elise sneaks past his defenses and convinces him to embark on a passionate affair. But when Elise’s over-protective brother discovers the truth, what will it take to keep the lovers together when it seems like everyone else is working to keep them apart?
For me, reading THE VIRGIN’S GUIDE TO MISBEHAVING was a constant battle between the parts of the story I loved and the parts that made me want to throw my ereader against the wall in frustration. Rome and Elise really are a beautifully matched couple. Each has been taught not to trust other people, albeit for entirely different reasons, and even as they realize they want to be together, they each still take turns bracing for what they believe will be an inevitable betrayal by the other. It was wonderful to see how Rome proved he wouldn’t take advantage of Elise’s naivete, and how Elise in turn showed him how he was worthy of her love and the respect of others. Their intimate scenes exquisitely raised the sexual tension and deepened their emotional attachment each time they came together, and by the end of the book, we could see that they’ll continue to grow in their affection and trust as a united team against anyone who would dare threaten their happiness. But Rome and Elise weren’t the problem for me.
The reason I found this book to be as annoying as it was entertaining can be summed up in one word: Brenna. Brenna is the fiancee of Elise’s brother, Grant, and she is as wild and crazy as he is buttoned down and straitlaced. She may be a good person, but she is not a good friend to Elise. Brenna is the reason why Rome thought Elise didn’t like him. Brenna is the reason why Grant finds out about Rome and Elise before they are ready to go public, even after Elise specifically asked her not to tell anyone. And then to top it all off, when Rome leaves town in a misguided attempt to protect Elise from her brother’s wrath, Brenna is the reason why Elise uses a truly reprehensible trick to force Rome into coming back.
I’ll admit it’s possible that if I’d read Brenna’s book before this one, I might have a more rounded picture of who she is and why she behaves as she does here. But as a new reader to the series, I found Brenna to be such an incredible distraction that every time she appeared to mess things up, I wished I could tell her off and make her go away for good. If Brenna is in all the other Bluebonnet books, then frankly, I’m not interested in reading them. Thanks to her, I was only just able to finish THE VIRGIN’S GUIDE TO MISBEHAVING so I could enjoy Rome and Elise’s lovely HEA, including a satisfying epilogue that emphasized just how good they would always be for one another. But if you can stomach a relentlessly wacky secondary character like Brenna, you might like this book even better.
Sensuality level: 3