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Tuesday, July 01, 2008:
"By Appointment Only" by Janice Maynard (2008)

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade (July 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0451224078
ISBN-13: 978-0451224071

A good marriage is based on love, commitment, and enough hot sex to last a lifetime…Hannah loves Morgan enough to become his fiancée, but that doesn’t mean she wants to get married. In her experience, everything goes downhill after you say “I do”—and it all starts in the bedroom. For Morgan, marriage isn’t the end, it’s the beginning, and he’s aching to get started.

They find the perfect compromise with a new form of counseling—premarital sex therapy. Each private session brings them closer together, revealing the quirky, kinky sides of their deepest desires. As the role-playing sessions heat up, Hannah discovers that marriage might be the sexiest game of all.
Once again I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book from the darling Janice Maynard, and I devoured it over the weekend. I haven't finished a book this quickly in quite awhile. There's just something about her stories that make them easy to read. Maybe because I don't have to keep track of the rules and instead I'm able to just go along for the ride. Whatever the reason, I can't get enough.
When Morgan Webber first sees Hannah Quarles, it's seconds before she literally runs into him, and he's instantly smitten, and definitely attracted. It takes him a while to track her down, but once he does, it's only a matter of months before they fall in love...
Yes, their story begins after they've fallen in love. Now Morgan is ready to take the next step in their relationship and get married, but Hannah has other ideas. She likes the status quo, which is fine, but to her, marriage is the kiss of death, and she has no plans to change that. Ever. Having grown up in a household where she doesn't know her father and her mother never learned to care about anyone other than herself, Hannah doesn't believe happy marriages truly exist.
Morgan on the other hand is the product of a very happy upbringing, and his parents have been married for almost 40 years. He wants nothing more than to build a life with Hannah, so he buys her a gorgeous diamond and finesses her into saying "yes". But when he tries to set a wedding date, her reluctance has him questioning her feelings: could she have agreed to marry him out of pity?
Trying to find some common ground, Hannah comes across an innovative form of counseling involving couples and sex therapy. Maybe if Morgan is so distracted by all the excitement to be had in the bedroom, he won't care if they ever get married. And hey, she gets to reap the benefits herself in a most pleasurable way. What more can a girl ask for?
Plenty, as this form of counseling is set up to not only bring couples closer together, but designed specifically to a couple's personalities, involving both their fantasies and their hang-ups. After much soul-searching and some naughty bedroom games, Hannah might have gotten way more than she bargained for...
My thoughts:
When I read the back cover blurb, I thought it sounded like good, sexy fun. And it is that, but it's also more, too. Hannah has some serious issues about her childhood, and trust is not easily given. She spends her time taking care of the elderly, which she loves to do, but she didn't appear to have any girlfriends close to her own age. I figured maybe if she did have friends to confide in, she would have had a less difficult time accepting that not everyone has a rosy childhood, nor is everyone traumatized by it. Also, she dearly misses her deceased grandparents, who essentially raised her, and tends to gravitate towards older people, maybe to recapture the bond she shared with her Grammy and Papaw.
It's obvious she cares deeply for Morgan, and they do have a lot of fun together, both in and out of bed. She wonders if it wouldn't just be better to break things off, but she's not ready to give him up, and as a compromise, agrees to set a date if Morgan agrees to to to counseling with her.
The purpose of the counseling is not just to keep the spark alive in the bedroom, but also to break down emotional barriers in relationships, some of which are not immediately obvious yet can harm a marriage. After a group session with two other couples, the counselors set up a series of appointments that have been tailor-made for each pair to act out in a completely private, two-hour "appointment". These sessions ranged from wild and sexy to uncomfortable and emotionally revealing. What I liked about them (other than the glaringly obvious) is that issues weren't miraculously resolved after having sex. In fact, some of the encounters had the exact opposite effect, and become rather critical: will the relationship survive or will it end in a painful death?
Despite the heaviness of some the subject matter, Ms. Maynard manages to maintain a level of humor and sensuality that prevent the story from becoming grim and depressing, but instead is revealing and refreshingly honest. She refrains from making light of legitimate issues that can crop up in these relationships, and addresses them with sensitivity and caring. The love scenes are sizzling hot, plentiful but don't overshadow the plot. Morgan is a to die-for hero, but invested with enough flaws to keep him from being sickeningly perfect (I even wanted to smack him upside the head at times), and Hannah is a darling woman stuck in the past and needs to be shown how to let go and embrace her future. Some amusing moments come when she visits Morgan's parents by herself, and I couldn't help but think "you go girl!" And luckily Hannah comes to her senses, realizing that while the past may affect the future, we are all in control of our own destiny, so she makes the jump into her own HEA. Yep, you go, girl
Rating: **** out of *****
Stay tuned for a quickie interview with Janice :)



  1. Really, really want this one!!!

  2. I ditto Kelley. Sounds wonderful!

  3. Oh, this one sounds good. I had not read anything about it yet. THanks :)

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