An Inconvenient Kiss
Do you like a little adventure with your romance? An Inconvenient Kiss definitely fits that bill. The leads take a little too long to clear the air between them, but I’d heard this book compared to the movie Romancing the Stone and I can definitely see the action-romance parallel.
Though most of the book takes place in India, the roots of the story start back in England. Proper young Georgiana Phillips is both beautiful and scandal-free, and therefore on track to make a good match. This all changes at a party when a suitor attempts to compromise her. Georgiana flees and takes refuge in a room occupied by Simon Ashford and his scandalous companion. After some repartee (and some mockery of her purity by the companion), Simon and Georgiana find themselves alone. More repartee brings us to the inconvenient kiss of the title – and discovery.
Georgiana urges Simon to flee the room, and she faces the music alone. Her refusal to name the one who compromised her and the ensuing gossip lead to her ruin in Society. Six years later, Simon has made his career in the Army and now serves in India alongside Georgiana’s brother. He learns that Georgiana had left England to stay with a cousin in France, and that she and the cousin now travel with her grandfather, assisting with his scholarly pursuits. They have gone to Russia and Egypt, and are now coming to India to study and write about the people and their customs.
Georgiana is an interesting character. She’s ruined, she has a terrible reputation, and she knows it – but she doesn’t entirely own it. Sometimes when it suits her purpose, she plays the role of the worldly woman, but deep down something of her previous self remains. It’s obvious that Georgiana has not completely come to terms with her new life even though she loves her studies, but as she spends time in India, she’s forced to confront it in a way she hasn’t before. When faced with Simon and some portion of British society, she starts to reassess her life. And the author writes that well. Georgiana matures over the course of the story and her character arc felt real for the most part. When she and Simon finally consummate their relationship, Georgiana shifts into “I’m a fallen woman so I might as well do what I want” mode a little too unbelievably but otherwise, I enjoyed seeing her change and grow in confidence over the course of the story.
And then there’s Simon, who is smart, confident and charming fairly often in the story. And the rest of the time? Well, he’s frankly a bit of an ass on occasion. Then again, Georgiana can be somewhat obtuse when it comes to Simon. She draws her own conclusions about him, little guessing that she may not know everything there is to know about Simon Ashford. Suffice it to say, sometimes she gets his ideas and motives all wrong. However, there finally comes a point where Simon has to spell everything out for Georgiana and it really is a great scene. I do not normally like watching couples fight in my romances, but the big fight scene in this one is cathartic and brilliant. I could just feel the tension there.
And what about the setting? I went into this novel quite curious (and admittedly a bit apprehensive) about the treatment of India. On the one hand, Georgiana and Simon look at Indian culture as something quite exotic. Then again, to British people in the 1820s, India would have been different than anything they had known at home and something of a curiosity to even the most open-minded. I thought the author glossed over the very racist attitudes many British held toward Indian peoples at that time, but then again, I liked that the author tried to show the reader something of India rather than just setting things up as British and “Other.” For instance, reference is made to various languages and religions rather than just assuming everyone in all of India is Hindu and of the same ethnic group. I would still love to see a historical set in India with Indian characters, but as colonial characters go, Georgiana and Simon are better than many. They might be somewhat ignorant of the cultures of the people they meet, but at least they’re curious to learn rather than proclaiming them all savages.
The book has a few bobbles, including at least one awkwardly placed seduction scene. However, An Inconvenient Kiss gives readers a bit of an adventure and more depth of characterization than one often finds in a fast-paced, high action novel. If you want a historical set somewhere beyond the ballrooms of London, definitely give this one a try.