Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Hero: John Springer MacDowell
Heroine: Jessica Hansen
Date of Publication: March 01, 1985
Started On: January 04, 2018
Finished On: January 13, 2018
Banish Misfortune by Anne Stuart (republished as When the Stars Fall Down) is nothing short of a masterpiece, written when I must have been running around with a bottle in one hand and a toy in the other. Yet, it is the kind of tale that makes me wade through the thousands and thousands of books in the romance genre to meet that one special book. That special book that has the uncanny ability to wash away the effect of a thousand lackluster reads, and Banish Misfortune was a book that ticked all the boxes in the category.
Banish Misfortune is a complex story. There are layers to it that you would have to peel back and assess if you were to write a comprehensive review that would do the book justice, which I don’t think I would be able to do. The are two parts to the story, the latter of which carries a secondary romance, just as equally enticing even as short as it was.
Jessica Hansen is a woman determined to climb the corporate ladder of Kinsey Enterprises. Engaged to the prodigal son of the owner of the company, it seems as if there is no line that Jessica wouldn’t cross in her attempt to achieve that prize she has been working for all along. Jessica’s past is a complex and a complicated one at that, one that had shaped her into becoming the Ice Queen, an image which she had started to put on for show because that was easier than bleeding from the scars that had never quite completely healed over from childhood.
Jessica’s path crosses that of John Springer MacDowell owing to her relationship with his parents. Springer is a man that carries on his shoulder a ton of baggage of his own. His strained relationship with his father for one had defined a lot of aspects of his adult life, from quitting his what could have been a professional career at basketball and joining the military, to his inability to commit, even during his brief marriage that had fallen apart owing to his amatory nature.
When Springer comes across Jessica at his father’s home, he wrongfully assumes her to be one of his paramours. The sparks that fly between the two could zing anyone caught in the crossfire, but there is more to their story than just having a chance meeting, falling in love, and carrying on with their happily ever after.
Jessica’s background is revealed slowly, as Anne Stuart painfully exposes the gaping wounds that had scabbed over her unhealed scars, the ugliness of it all somehow beautiful because Jessica had fought every inch of her way through a childhood that could have taken down anyone else. Neglect, abuse, and a whole lot more played its role in molding Jessica, and being away at university for the lack of anything better to focus her attentions on had been the one place where she found and perfected her coping mechanism.
However, Springer has a way of getting through to her defenses, crumbling down the icy walls around her heart, and the numbness that encases her from the outside, which usually makes it impossible for people to reach to her. Springer with his protective and yet at times formidable nature, teaches Jessica that the pleasure of lovemaking could be just that. In the end, the consequences of that act, together with the curveball that life throws Springer’s way is how they go their separate ways, only to return to each other, because there is no way that two people who are so meant to be together could stay apart for that long.
Like I mentioned earlier, there is a secondary romance that complemented the heartache, pain, and immense joy the main protagonists brought to the story. The story of Marianna, a single mother who had been singed badly by the actions of her ex-husband, who finds love with the reclusive Andrew Cameron, a Scottish man, younger than Marianna, and yet able to meet her on equal footing in every single way.
Just stating that I loved Banish Misfortune would be an understatement. But I am pressed for words to describe how I felt as I was reading the story. There was so much emotion wound around it that it was impossible not to give into the tears that were begging for release at each and every emotionally intense and at poignant moment of the story.
Jessica fighting her way back to a semblance of normalcy was one she did on her own which made me love her all the more. She could have chosen to take the “easy” way out, but then I don’t think she would have survived had she taken such a decision. Springer also didn’t have it easy, given that all the “forces” were working against him when he wanted to pursue what had blossomed to life between himself and Jessica, as imperfect as all of it had been.
The secondary romance? Totally amazing! I loved Andrew, the way he saw Marianne and finally managed to penetrate her defenses. Pun intended.
Recommended for anyone and everyone who loves multi-layered stories, romances with a ton of emotion packed into it. Anne Stuart certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Final Verdict: It is a testament to Anne Stuart’s mastery that Banish Misfortune stands the test of time even 33 years since initial publication of this novel. There is simply none like her.
She could lie back in the grass, feel it tickling her skin, and the noisy gruntings and moanings were a distant irritation. The hands on her skin melted away, and she was gone, floating with the puffs of clouds. Doesn’t the sky look green today, she thought dreamily, staring down. And then it was gone, ripped away from her with a sudden, shocking violence, as his bleary, raddled, lecherous face hovered over her, breathing heavily. Wave after wave of Scotch-laden fumes covered her face, choking her. She opened her eyes, staring up at him, and began to scream. “Dammit to hell!” Lincoln swore, scrambling off her in panicked haste and retying his robe with nerveless fingers. “Stop it, for God’s sake! Shut up!”
Turning slowly in his arms, she slid her hands up around his neck. He was looking down at her, an ar-rested expression on his dark face. And there on the windswept, deserted beach, she reached up and pressed her mouth against his unsuspecting one. Deliberately she kept her mouth soft, pliant, waiting for him to make the next move. She could feel his hesitation, indecision, and she increased the pressure, reaching out with the tip of her tongue to lightly touch his lower lip. She heard a low, muffled groan, and then his hands were cupping her close-cropped head, holding her gently as he deepened the kiss, his mouth warm and wet and hungry on hers.
She made one last, hopeless effort to summon up the green pasture, the clear blue sky, floating, floating… Until the slow, steady invasion began to rip through the cloudlike veil, and her eyes flew open, staring up into his intent ones, as he slowly filled her, the smooth fluidity of his movement telling her that even if her soul wasn’t ready, her body was. “Stay with me, Jessie,” he whispered thickly. “Don’t leave me alone while you go off to never-never land. Feel me, feel this.” He slowly withdrew, then arched up to fill her again. “It’s real, it’s good. Stay with me, Jessie.” She had no answer for him. She was lost forever, trapped, not by his strong, hard body, but by the long-dormant desires that had risen beneath his skillful handling.
“Don’t,” she gasped in a weak cry. “Don’t do this to me.” The clear blue sky faded forever beyond reach, leaving only the midnight darkness. “I can’t stop, Jessie,” he murmured. “I have to.” And his hands reached down to cup her slender buttocks as he thrust deeper, deeper, his muscles bunching under her clinging hands as he drove her onward, further and further, their skin wet and clinging, their breathing rapid, their hearts pounding. No, she wept inside. No, I won’t. I won’t let him And then suddenly, in the midst of her protests, it shattered, the one inviolate part of her, and the midnight darkness split apart as her body arched up against his.
He kicked the door shut behind them, standing over her as he fumbled with his tie. The streetlights were the only illumination as she lay on the faded patchwork quilt, looking up at him out of shadowed, wary eyes. His usual expertise seemed to have escaped him, for the tie knotted, and he had to yank it over his head, the buttons on his shirt caught, and he sent it spinning. He was yanking at his belt when he caught her eyes.
“God, Jessie, you make me so crazy,” he muttered, sinking on one knee on the narrow bed beside her.
His hands were shaking and not at all deft as he stripped the panty hose off her, and he almost strangled her with the slip as he pulled it over her head.
And then, unexpectedly, before he had more than set up the age-old rhythm that had once disgusted her, the familiar-unfamiliar tightening gripped her, arching her up against him, as wave after wave swept over her. It was mysterious, overwhelming, indefinable, and she wept against him, her tears hot on their damp skin. He cradled her against him until the last spasm passed, and in sudden shyness she tried to pull away.
“Not so fast,” he whispered in her ear, his teeth capturing her sensitive lobe and nipping lightly. Another ripple of pleasure shook her body, and he laughed breathlessly.
“Do that again,” he murmured, biting her again. Her body trembled once more, and he pushed against her.
“I’m afraid I’m not quite finished,” he added politely, his tongue lightly tracing her tremulous lips. “And I don’t think you are, either.”
He stood there, staring at her.
“Woman,” he said again, his rich Scottish accent caressing the word, “you’re not sorry at all.”
She had to turn her face to hide her sudden smile, and she missed his swift movement. One moment he was standing in the middle of the room, eyeing her with his usual irritation, and the next moment he was beside her, one strong, beautiful hand sliding behind her neck, under the heavy mane of chestnut hair, tilting her head up to look at him. She did so easily, too surprised to resist.
“Woman,” he whispered, “you’ll drive me mad.”
And his mouth caught hers, in a brief, deep kiss that tasted of brandy and pipe tobacco and of an intense longing that left her shaken. She raised her hands to touch him, but he had already moved away, not even aware of her incipient response.
“Happy Christmas, Marianne,” he said, and was gone.
Not another word was spoken as he stripped off her clothing, the jeans, the loose cotton tunic, the wispy bra and panties landing in a pile on the floor. She could be glad the wall supported her, otherwise there was a good chance her knees might give way. His mouth and hands were everywhere on her, feverish, demanding, arousing her and arousing him to a level past thoughts and memories. He was rough in his need, rough in his haste, but the thoughtlessly delivered pain only made her love him more. He was lost in mute anguish, and she could soothe him, bring him sweet forgetfulness if only for a night. She reached out her hands, tentative hands that slowly became more sure as she gave herself up to his overwhelming need.
She made one last attempt.
“But I always wanted a man who could carry me up to bed,” she wailed, grasping at straws. A devilish smile lit his dour face.
“Well, I could do it if I had to,” he allowed, “but I might strain something. It would really make more sense if you carried me.”
“You…” She opened her mouth in outrage, and he kissed her, deeply, completely, his tongue silencing her as his hands pulled her hips across the table to him. He was very strong, she noticed distantly. And very aroused. And she began to shiver in his arms.
“Take me to bed, my lioness,” he whispered. She smiled up at him through the haze of passion she could no longer fight.
“Follow me, shorty.”
“Marianne, my sweet viper, I am twenty-nine years old. I assure you, I know very well what I’m doing, and just how to do it. And I know what I want, have known it since I caught you in my raspberry bushes last summer.”
He’d warned her, of course. He’d told her women hadn’t complained about his lack of size, but she’d thought he’d been teasing her. But he’d been nothing more than truthful. Andrew Cameron was a great deal more man than Tom Trainor, so much so that Marianne suddenly panicked. He must have felt the tension race through her body. The moment he slipped out of the corduroys he pulled her back into his arms, his strong, rough-textured hands oddly soothing.
“Hush, my brave lioness,” he whispered, though she hadn’t said a word. “I promise you I won’t hurt you. I’ll never hurt you.”