His Wicked Kiss
It’s a bad thing when a good book derails. It’s especially bad when a pleasantly retro romance with a unique setting doesn’t merely go off track, but instead careens wildly between bratty behavior by the previously forthright heroine, an otherwise likable hero turning into a Neanderthal, and some truly excruciatingly sugary scenes featuring the adorable couples (and their adorable children, of course) from the author’s previous books. But, on the other hand, for the first two-thirds of the book, you’ve got something here.
For those who’ve stuck with all of the author’s books in the Knight family series – and I have to admit that I haven’t – she wraps it all up here with the story of bad boy brother Lord Jack Knight. Now a powerful and successful owner of a fleet of ships who lives the good life in Jamaica, the former pirate finds himself in Venezuela agreeing to aid the supporters of Bolivar by returning to London for the first time in many years and bringing back soldiers to aid the revolutionaries. It is on a trip on a remote river that he meets Eden Farraday, the daughter of a well known medical researcher who’s lived for years in the Venezuelan jungles.
With the funding for her father’s research now cut off and with revolution brewing, Eden firmly believes that it’s time for her and her father to return to the London she barely remembers but can’t stop dreaming about. When her father informs her that not only does he plan to stay, but that he plans to go deeper into the jungle, Eden determines to take matters into her own hands. Lord Jack Knight – and his ship – provides the means. Eden first directly asks Jack to take her to London and he refuses. Eventually, she does what young heroines always do in romances: she stows away.
The initial pages of this book in which Eden and Jack meet in Venezuela get the book off to a great start, but the author really shines in the section of the book encompassing the sea voyage. There is both a vigor to the writing and a pleasantly old-school flavor to this section with the feisty (though not at all toxically) and fiercely intelligent Eden and stern Jack fighting – or not fighting – their attraction to each other. But eventually, I’m sorry to say, Eden and Jack return to England and the bosom of Jack’s family. And what a picture perfect bosom it is! Add in some nearly inexplicable – in the sense that I wondered who these people were who were acting so stubbornly since they certainly weren’t the characters I’d gotten to know in the previous chapters – conflicts between Jack and Eden, and it’s all downhill from that point on.
Ultimately, the Eden and Jack I met in the first two-thirds of this book are likable characters, even if I did find myself rolling my eyes more than once over their behavior in the book’s final third. Equally, it’s a given that in the final book of a series readers do expect to see previous happy couples living…well, happily ever after. Still, it all seems especially heavy-handed and sappy here and, yes, I did come close to an involuntary gag reflex on more than one occasion. Considering how good the first two-thirds of the book is, it adds up to a big let down.
If you’ve kept up with the series, you’ll undoubtedly plan to read this book. But, for others, while this book is slightly above average – and the first two-thirds is well above average – you may want to take a pass, particularly if good reads gone bad annoy you. And if you haven’t yet read The Duke, the first book in this series, it’s one I highly recommend.