Olivia Bond is a beautiful young woman who is traveling down the Ohio River to homestead with her family when she is kidnapped by river pirates. The pirates transport her to New Orleans where she is sold to Darcy Lankanal, the owner of a house of ill repute. Darcy locks her up in his private suite and against her will, uses her as his own personal “pet” for nearly a year. Eventually Livvie escapes and gets passage north with a young family in exchange for helping to care for their child. Before the journey is complete though, the man tries to molest her while his wife is sleeping. Scared out of her wits, Livvie runs off into the forest. Before she knows it, she is hopelessly lost in a swamp. Further frightened by the snarl of a wildcat, she trips over a tree root, hits her head on a log and is knocked unconscious.
Noah LeCroix is a shy, reclusive half-breed who makes his home in the swamp. He used to be a legendary riverboat pilot, but a tragic accident cost him his eye and scarred his face. After that, he became even more reclusive, preferring to hide away in solitude than to face the inevitable stares. One evening, Noah is sitting in his unusual tree house home enjoying the peaceful night sounds of the swamp when he thinks he hears a woman scream. He goes out to investigate and comes upon the injured Olivia. Knowing that there are no white settlements nearby and no one else to care for her, Noah takes her back to his house and gently but awkwardly nurses her back to health. When Livvie first awakens she is frightened of Noah, but as the days wear on, she realizes that he is not like the other men she has known and begins to trust him.
Livvie has constant nightmares and one night Noah goes to offer comfort. Her dreams intertwine with reality until she feels that if she could make love to an honorable man like Noah, it would help to purge the pain of the past. Afterward though, reality comes upon them full-force when Noah wants more, but Olivia feels unworthy of his love and insists that he take her home. Noah agrees, but only if she will explain why she won't even consider staying with him. In a soul-cleansing moment, Olivia confesses everything that has happened to her over the past year, and Noah is very understanding. When Livvie still refuses to stay, Noah helps her to locate her family only to find them in dire straits with more bad luck waiting for them around the bend. To make matters worse, Darcy is obsessively searching for Livvie, and it is only a matter of time until he finds her. Noah and Olivia will have to battle her past demons, both physical and emotional, before they can find their happy ending.
Blue Moon is a fairly good story with an interesting premise. My favorite character was Noah. He was an adorably introverted beta hero, reminding me a lot of modern-day geeks, with his shy, reclusive nature and his lack of social skills particularly with women. His status as an older male virgin, a rarity in romance novels, only served to solidify this stereotype. His awkwardness in the early chapters of the book was sweetly endearing, but I was somewhat disappointed that it only carried over minimally in the later chapters. Overall though, Noah was a really well-rendered character who I greatly enjoyed reading. It was nice to watch him change and grow throughout the book. On the other hand, I sympathized with Olivia, but felt like she was a somewhat contradictory character. At times, her fear was nearly palpable, which was understandable considering the ordeal that she had suffered, yet with all that in mind, she seemed a little too quick to give herself over to a man's touch, even one as kind and gentle as Noah. I did like the fact that Olivia was such a strong character though, who had suffered much hardship and yet had still kept her wits about her and never gave up hope. While I am not a fan of embittered characters, I do like to read characters who harbor darker emotions which they have to work through. Olivia unfortunately, in my opinion, was not one of these types of characters as she was a bit too quick to forgive her family and even Darcy, the man who had used and abused her. I'm all for forgiveness, but I think Olivia could have benefited from more complex emotions. As she was written, she seemed rather one-dimensional with her main conflict being that of not feeling worthy of Noah's love, because she couldn't forgive herself for something for which she bore no fault.
A large part of the story itself was rather heavy and intense, at times feeling almost oppressive. I don't mind stories that deal with deep dark subjects, but I've found that the best ones usually have a good balance of dark and light. For at least the first two-thirds of the book, I felt like Olivia was playing Job. Bad things just kept happening to her constantly. I think the most difficult part of the book for me to read was concerning Livvie's stepmother, Susanna, a young, vibrant woman who was so despondent as to be nearly catatonic, and her little boy who could think of no other way to reach her besides harming himself. This was just absolutely heartbreaking. There were a couple of other things that bothered me about the story, one being the timing of the initial love scene which seemed lacking in credibility. As I mentioned earlier, I just can't quite swallow the fact that Olivia would want to make love to a virtual stranger so soon after such a harrowing experience. Also, there was not really enough pay-off to the scene considering that Noah had just lost his virginity. The other bothersome thing was that at various points throughout the story, the author seemed to be trying to portray the villain, Darcy, as somehow sympathetic. Unfortunately, I found him to be too sleazy for any of the sympathy points to actually score with me. I've read other books where the author tries to redeem the villain, but in this instance, it was poorly done in my opinion. It just never made much sense in the context of the story for the author to do this unless she was planning a sequel with Darcy as the hero, which quite frankly, I don't think would interest me.
Unlike Day Dreamer and Just Once, it's predecessors in Jill Marie Landis' Louisiana series, Blue Moon gets off to a brisk start, introducing us very quickly to the main characters' back story, but then peters out at the end. When I hit the climax of the story and realized that there were still three chapters plus an epilogue left, I couldn't figure out what would fill them. Unfortunately the events that did populate them were not all that compelling. The ending was satisfying, but not spectacular, and not really as good as the ending of the previous two books in the series, particularly Day Dreamer. I did have a hard time putting the book down, but ultimately I think that had less to do with a moving plot and more to due with me anxiously waiting for something good to happen to poor beleaguered Livvie. I think the overall story would have been improved and deepened considerably if it had focused more on Olivia's emotional recovery from her ordeal and less on torturing her, as well as perhaps on Noah's feelings of inadequacy due to his scars. I felt like the story skimmed over Livvie's issues in particular, to the point of almost minimizing what should have been an incredibly traumatic event, and in the end, the answers were just too simplistic and pat for my taste.
In spite of being the third book in a series, Blue Moon stands fairly well on it's own, but I think the reader's enjoyment of the book would be enhanced by reading Just Once first. Noah was introduced in that book, and the accident which caused his scars and the loss of his eye is depicted in it as well. Also, Hunter and Jemma from Just Once make an appearance in Blue Moon and readers get to see where they are three years later. While Blue Moon was not quite what I was expecting and could have been better, it was still a generally enjoyable and worthwhile read that didn't leave me feeling like I had wasted my time. I really like scarred, imperfect heroes and the character of Noah was really the driving force that increased my enjoyment of this book. Without him being so lovable, I don't think I would have liked the story half as well. Overall it was a decent wrap-up for this trilogy.
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