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Just Kiss Me

Rachel Gibson

Rachel Gibson has written some of my favorite romances, and for a while I thought Just Kiss Me would be another. With laugh out loud moments interspersed with genuine grief, and a hero and heroine with off-the-charts sexual chemistry, this seemed as though it would be a true winner. Unfortunately, it crashed about three-quarters of the way through.

Vivian Leigh Rochet grew up in the carriage house of a large Charleston estate with her single mother. As a child Vivian was expected to help her mother clean the wealthy owners’ house. We learn what Vivian thought of the house’s owners, and her plans for the future, from the youthful, hilarious diary entries that are interspersed with the present-day chapters.

The young Vivian hated Mrs. Whitley-Shuler, calling her “The Mantis” behind her back, and deliberately broke things while being forced to dust. She also disliked the two sons – Harrison and Spencer – holding particular hatred for Harrison. She alternately called him Butt Head Harrison and Scary Harrison, and snooped through his belongings. Vivian dreamed of being a famous movie star and showing up all the rich kids who were mean to her in school.

Fast forward to a thirty-year old Vivian, who has become a wildly popular actress starring in a series of dystopian movies. She is now on her way back to Charleston, not to show up all the mean girls, but because her mother died unexpectedly. Vivian’s tabloid-filled life feels even emptier than it did before her mother died.

On her first day at her mother’s home, Harrison appears, and it’s all Vivian can do to avoid thinking of him as Handsome Harrison, because he’s gorgeous. He doesn’t like Vivian any more than he did as a child.

Vivian’s had terrible luck with men, so hesitates to trust Harrison. But when his mother conspires to get him to drive her a few places, their sexual attraction starts to take over. Vivian had poked and provoked Harrison as a kid and she settles into that banter almost despite herself, until finally on the night of her mother’s funeral they have sex.

Initially I didn’t think I’d like the grown up Vivian. She is hung over when she first appeared on the page, and seemed pouty and overindulged. As she spends more time in Charleston cleaning out her mother’s belongings, she uncovers numerous puzzling things about her mother’s life, and about Mrs. Whitley-Shuler. Combined with things we learn about Vivian’s past, her actions then make sense.

Harrison is an interesting character; he was a success on Wall Street until his life crashed when he had a heart attack at thirty-three. At that point he moved back to Charleston and became a journeyman specializing in fine woods. We learn why he loves working with wood, as well as his true feelings about his life on Wall Street. But the heart attack seems almost a throwaway, other than to give him a reason to switch careers. It’s attributed to the stress of his previous life, but he’s under unbelievable stress keeping his family’s secrets, and some of them are whoppers.

I liked a lot about Harrison and Vivian’s relationship. However, once the secrets start coming out, a lot of their actions look puzzling. I also feel there are a few too many secrets; I particularly disliked a major roadblock set up for the two late in the book.

The ending is unbelievably rushed, wrapping everything up in just a few pages. If the author had cut back on the secrets, removed the major roadblock, and added at least 50 more pages to help make the happy ending make sense, I would have given Just Kiss Me a much higher grade.

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Book Details

Reviewer :      LinnieGayl


Grade :     B-


Sensuality :      Warm


Book Type :     


Review Tags :     



12 Comments

  1. Kim August 4, 2016 at 11:17 am - Reply

    I liked this book, but I agree that it needed another 40-50 pages. Vivian’s career involves a lot of travel, but it’s not even resolved at the end of the story. Will Vivian cut back on her acting career or will Henry follow her on location? There also wasn’t an adequate resolution to Spenser’s storyline. I thought his story might be next, but Rachel Gibson announced that she’s doing a sequel to Simply Irresistible.

    The release date was delayed and there were several typos in the book, so I wonder if there was a rush to publish it. For example, the hero’s name is Harrison in the ARCs, but Henry in the book. Even with these problems, however, I still enjoyed the story.

    • LinnieGayl August 4, 2016 at 11:35 am - Reply

      I just assumed Spencer would be next. Simply Irresistible is my absolute favorite though so I’m excited to learn that!

      • Kim August 4, 2016 at 12:25 pm - Reply

        The heroine in her next book is Lexie Kowalsky, the daughter of John and Georgeanne Kowalsky from Simply Irresistible. She said there will be appearances by the hockey players from her other books in the entire series, too.

        • LinnieGayl August 4, 2016 at 1:26 pm - Reply

          Lexie!!!! I adored her

        • Helen August 4, 2016 at 5:59 pm - Reply

          So glad to read this. I’m a big fan of all the Chinook books so I’m looking forward to revisiting that world.

  2. RichMissTallant August 4, 2016 at 11:43 am - Reply

    I’m pleased to see AAR reviewed this book because I just finished it last night and I’d love to know others’ thoughts.

    Rachel Gibson is hit or miss for me. I WANTED to love this book, but I had very mixed feelings about it and the characters. Something about it just fell flat for me, particularly the last 1/4 or so.

    First, I’ll have to be honest and say the setting didn’t really work for me. I don’t want to make assumptions about Gibson’s background, but does anyone know where she grew up or has lived? I ask because the Southern setting read as someone who has maybe read a good bit about the South (or about Charleston in particular) but no real experience or firsthand knowledge of it. Some of the dialogue and details didn’t “ring true” for me and it took me out of the book at times. I’m NOT saying you can only write about places you’ve lived (lord knows that would cut out a huge portion of writers+their works) but I’m probably more sensitive to books written & set in the South because I admit I will nitpick them a lot more! Feel free to correct me and tell me she has was raised or has spent an extended period of time in the South (but I’d be surprised if so!)

    The beginning of the book where Vivien is dealing with grief over losing her mother really touched me & I thought they were very well-written. I lost my mother last year and I could identify so much with how a little thing like seeing a table Henry built that her mother would never get to use would set Vivien off and make her think about her loss. Or how you don’t even know where to start with arrangements for a funeral (or in my case, cremation). That made me empathize a lot with the heroine when I initially didn’t think I’d like her very much.

    My main problem is that I just didn’t care about the relationship between Vivien & Henry. I never felt invested in their relationship. And I thought the final part where they were separated a) lasted too long and b) was really unnecessary. I’d have understood it better if the reason for the breakup was due to Vivien’s career. And then the resolution comes too quickly. Maybe this did just need to be longer and more fleshed out but honestly? I was just… BORED.

    • Dabney Grinnan August 4, 2016 at 12:12 pm - Reply

      I agree with you about the relationship. It just didn’t click for me.

    • Mary Skelton August 4, 2016 at 4:23 pm - Reply

      I turned in a second review for this book which AAR has not yet published and I gave it the same grade as LinnieGayl for similar reasons. But I also had a problem with the Southern angle like you RIchMissTallant. As a born and bred, lived 57 years of my life in the deep south, southerner, the characterization was way too over the top for me. I did like the relationship between Vivien and Henry.

      • RichMissTallant August 4, 2016 at 5:05 pm - Reply

        I look forward to reading your review!

        Regarding the Southern setting, it didn’t offend me (and trust me, there have definitely been books set in the South that were borderline offensive!), it’s more that like you, I found a lot of it over the top. I’m from NC but my dad’s entire family is from SC and I’ve spent a lot of time there, including Charleston.

        I would probably have given this book a C.

      • LinnieGayl August 4, 2016 at 6:19 pm - Reply

        I’ve never lived in the South and just didn’t pick up on that; makes me think I should go back and figure out what I missed. On the other hand, I’m on high alert for books set in Chicago where I lived most of my life, and have caught all kinds of errors..

  3. mel burns August 5, 2016 at 11:14 am - Reply

    Rachel Gibson has written some wonderful contemporary romances, but when “she left the Northwest” I became completely bored with her books. I noticed Just Kiss Me on my library’s digital web page, but the synopsis didn’t sound promising. My first thought was “on no she’s left Texas and gone south”. Normally I would be drawn to a Charleston setting (so much history), but the names alone warned me this book was going to full of stereotypes, And…..the maids daughter with the son of the house is so cliche and I really don’t care for the “enemies to lovers trope”, so Pasadena on this one.
    I wonder where Lexie’s book takes place, hopefully back in the Emerald City.

    Thanks for the review!

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