His Every Kiss
A wonderful, lush, intelligently written novel that came this close to DIK status for me, His Every Kiss is an absolutely not-to-be-missed treat for those less than pleased with the vast majority of today’s European Historical Romances. There is life out there, people, and Laura Lee Guhrke’s latest is proof of it.
Readers of Guilty Pleasures will know hero Dylan Moore, famous composer and infamous rake, as the best friend of the Duke of Tremore. As his story opens, Dylan has suffered the worst of fates for a musical genius: A head injury resulting from a fall has brought on tinnitus, an incessant ringing in his ears that effectively blocks the original music he once “heard.” Unable to write the brilliant compositions that are his life’s breath and made him wealthy and famous beyond imagining, Dylan finds himself alone one night in an empty theatre ready to take the only step he believes will end his suffering. But at the very moment Dylan prepares to fire the pistol he holds under his chin, he is stopped by the haunting notes of one of his own compositions played on a single violin by a beautiful blonde who, astonishingly, appears to be a charwoman. In a short conversation that changes his life, Dylan realizes that not only does the mysterious woman daring to interrupt his attempted suicide speak with a cultured voice and talk of seeing him conduct in Salzburg, but that during the time they are together Dylan once again begins to hear the smallest snatches of an original composition. Sadly, both the music and the woman vanish before he can even learn her name.
Over the next five years, Dylan keeps his secret from his adoring public by publishing the few remaining pieces of music written before his accident and by living an increasingly hedonistic lifestyle that scandalizes society – all the while searching for the mysterious woman he believes must be his muse. One evening at a ball, however, his patience is rewarded when he is stunned to recognize her as one of the musicians. Desperate to bring the woman – one Grace Cheval – and the music that surrounds her into his life, Dylan makes a passionate plea for her assistance, accompanied by an equally passionate kiss. But his efforts to persuade her are interrupted and, once again, she escapes.
But the dramatic developments in Dylan’s life are just beginning. Upon his arrival home in the early hours of the day, he is astonished to learn that an eight-year-old girl was deposited there during his absence by a nun who has since departed. Dylan is, he is told, the child’s father and now that her mother has died, she has come to live with her only living parent. The initially skeptical Dylan – he can’t even remember the child’s mother – is convinced that young Isabel is indeed his daughter when she plays for him an admittedly brilliant musical composition.
Clearly, so young a child requires a governess and the solution Dylan devises is a predictable one: He will offer the destitute Grace the position, bringing both the woman and the music back into his life. Understandably reticent of getting further involved with the well known rakehell, Dylan promises Grace that she will be rewarded at the end of one year with the cottage in the country she so passionately desires. But, despite her hesitancy, Grace believes she is a woman who can handle the temptation Dylan decidedly represents, even if he will not promise to refrain from attempts to seduce her. After all, shouldn’t a muse be far more than a friend to the artist she inspires?
The set-up here is, admittedly, a bit complicated. However, once Grace is established in Dylan’s household and the author trains her sights on the developing relationship between Dylan and Grace, as well as that of Dylan and Isabel, the book truly begins to shine. The widow of a famous artist whose elopement years earlier with that older man not only estranged her from her family, but also reduced her to living in the most straitened of circumstances, Grace is a woman who knows all too well the burden of serving as an artist’s muse. Her reticence is both realistic and fully realized in the pages of this novel.
But, with that said, it is Grace’s steadfast (and seemingly eternal) rejection of Dylan that kept this book from achieving DIK status for me. Frankly, Grace holds out too long and, regretfully, her rejection of his advances even includes the dreaded foreplay-us interruptus scene. Believe me, it would take a woman of unusual fortitude – maybe even surreal fortitude – to “come to her senses” in this particular instance and I found myself both grinding my teeth and temporarily losing patience with a heroine I very much liked.
Dylan is both a fascinating character and an exquisitely sexy hero. Brilliant, flawed, hedonistic, and self-indulgent, he is a complex man whose growing love for an equally complex woman makes for a fascinating adult romance. At his heart and soul, Dylan is an artist and, as many of us know, artists are not easy. He is also in many ways, a child who has a bit of growing up to do – thankfully, both Grace and Isabel are more than up to the task of helping him to do so. Frankly, I’ve got a huge weakness for long-haired- nineteenth century, brilliant, bad boys, and Dylan is an especially memorable one.
A book I unhesitatingly recommend, His Every Kiss easily ranks as one of the top three European Historical romances I’ve read this year. To put it simply, Laura Lee Guhrke is one of the very best out there and one of the true beacons of light for those despairing of the current state of the European Historical romance. Treat yourself to this one. I’m more than confident that you won’t be disappointed.