How to Kiss a Hero
How To Kiss A Hero opens when two old friends, Mrs. Treadwell and the Countess d’Oliveri, meet for lunch. The Countess left England under a scandal and has lived more than 20 years on the Continent. She has been the mistress of a man whom she loved but was unable to marry. On her lover’s death, the Countess married a wealthy, older, titled man who was good and kind and left her a rich widow. Mrs Treadwell also married well, but her husband has ignored her for years. Her daughter has just made the marriage of the year to a wealthy, handsome and titled gentleman. But the man is a disappated rake as well. Mrs. Treadwell’s silly daughter does not seem to mind as long as she has a stream of new gowns and jewels.
As Mrs. Treadwell speaks of the silliness of young girls who are willing to settle for so little, the Countess proposes that Mrs. Treadwell open a school for young ladies – a school that will teach them some sense as well as manners and will teach them to live up to their potential. Perhaps if young women were more mature and not so silly and ignorant, men would treat their wives with more respect. Mrs. Treadwell agrees.
Nichola Beaumont is a pupil in Mrs. Treadwell’s school. Her exasperated mother has placed her there because she could do nothing with her, and truth be told, she is ashamed of her daughter. Nichola is a tomboy. She is tall and big – the only daughter in a family of five boys. She despises feminine things and wants to run off and become a soldier with her twin brother. The Countess (known in the school as Madame) takes Nichola under her wings and teaches her fencing – a sport which Nicola loves.
Enter Lord Brian Boru. He is a war hero, crippled by a cannon shot to the knee. He is older than Nichola and is known to be quite a rake. He and Madame are friends, and he agrees to continue to tutor Nichola in the art of fencing. Brian and Nichola are well-matched. He is a big man who has felt awkward around dainty little things and he finds the tall and blunt-spoken Nichola a refreshing change. There is a very funny scene where Brian compares the art of Society chatter to the art of fencing. After all, they are both nothing but thrust and parry.
To her astonishment, at her first party Nichola is swept off her feet by Lord Wallingford. He is handsome, he is rich, he is the heir to a duke. So what if he is shorter than she is and she can out-fence him? Nichola has arrived in Society, she is no longer just a tall, ungainly girl, she is a certified Original and finally, her mother approves of her. But Wallingford, while quite nice, is a thorough man of his times as regards the relationship between men and women. Brian Boru may be wounded and crippled and have a terrible reputation as a rake, but he treats Nichola like an equal and does not condesend to her as Lord Wallingford does.
How to Kiss A Hero had two thoroughly engaging lead characters, but it was marred by a strange combination of historical errors and historical accuracy. At one point, Brian is explaining that he is teaching Nichola fencing to help her with “her self-esteem.” That is a thoroughly modern phrase. On the other hand, the fencing lessons are so full of technical terms that I had to run to a dictionary for help. I like historical accuracy, but this was too much jargon. And, when Brian and Nichola make love, they have to do it in cheap inns. The author several times describes the bedbugs that come out of the covers. Now I know that cheap inns were buggy back then, and while historical accuracy is a plus, too much can be a hindrance. This was a bit too much, thank you. Back to the first hand – another historical error came when Brian said that Lord Wallingford’s father paid a volunteer so Wallingford would not have to fight. There was no draft back then, heirs to titles did not have to serve in the military – that was for younger sons. And if Wallingford had wanted to serve in the army as an officer – he would have had to pay for the rank. And by the way, the name Brian Boru is the name of one of the Irish hero-kings. Brian is Scottish. I found that a bit jarring all through the book.
And speaking of accuracy. At one point, Nichola’s horse is spooked and runs off. When she gets him under control, she finds herself by a river where Brian Boru is swimming. It is very cold (what is it about historical romance heroes fondness for skinny-dipping in freezing weather)? Anyway she sees Brian – he sees her and he walks out enough so she can’t help but notice that he is very happy to see her – if you know what I mean. Mr. Happy being so happy in freezing water? I don’t think so.
The main strength of How To Kiss A Hero is in the characterization – especially Nichola. She could have been a typical tomboy, but the author succeeds in making the reader understand the real frustration that Nichola feels because of the limitations placed on her by her birth and her sex. Brian is not quite as original as Nichola, but is still a fine specimen of the wounded hero who thinks he is not good enough for the woman he secretly loves.
How To Kiss A Hero was a difficult book to grade. I liked the story, but the historical errors/accuracy issues made it difficult to read. Still, if you are looking for a heroine with a bit more substance than often found in historicals set in this period, or if you are a fan of fencing, give this book a try.