It's In His Kiss
To celebrate the arrival of Netflix’s Bridgerton, AAR is running, in reading order, our reviews of the original nine books in the series.
(originally published on July 3, 2005)
If you are looking for some lighthearted, laugh-out-loud summer reading that will also fill your need for a tender romance, look no further. Julia Quinn’s latest installment of the Bridgerton series is full of subtle humor, witty dialogue, and an undeniable chemistry between the leads. Although many of the story’s scenarios are usual fare for a European Historical, Gareth and Hyacinth’s story has a sparkling edge that drew me in. Yeah, Gareth is the immensely attractive, lovable rogue who has never considered marriage – but with a freshness that made me appreciate this type of hero all over again.
Hyacinth Bridgerton has seen three full seasons on the Marriage Mart and now in her fourth year in Society discovers that all the balls, parties, and suitors just aren’t very exciting anymore. She still finds enjoyment in the many activities of the ton – after all, she is a sensible woman and certainly not one to complain about the wealth and privilege she is forced to endure. Although she is well-liked and considered a good catch for matrimony, men tend to think of Hyacinth as best in small doses. Always competitive and more intelligent than most, she is not one to give up a contest easily or feign stupidity, leading many to consider her a bit…challenging.
Gareth St. Clair is known as such a delectable combination of impropriety and sinful handsomeness that few, if any, match his level of infamous wickedness. His father, Baron St. Clair, cut him off financially at the age of eighteen when Gareth refused an arranged marriage designed to salvage the family’s finances. On that same day, his father revealed his reason for hating Gareth all those years – he was not his son, but rather the by-blow of one of his mother’s affairs. For years Gareth has enjoyed throwing scandal in the baron’s face as he attempts to hide the fear that one day his illegitimacy will be revealed. Now, as Gareth stands to gain the barony after his older brother’s death, it seems his father is systematically running the estates into the ground. After all, what better revenge could a wronged man have against a bastard son than leaving him riddled with debt?
A delightful secondary character, Lady Danbury (Gareth’s maternal grandmother), seemed more like a third lead character to me. She is a lioness among the ton, fearless in her words and willing to poke fun at anyone, including herself. Regarded as a crotchety old lady, she relishes her outspoken manipulative nature. Each Tuesday, Hyacinth Bridgerton reads to her a daring adventure story and the two then spend time cracking jokes and sharing their lives. Both hold a deep respect for the other – Hyacinth wants to emulate Lady Danbury’s distinctive attitude towards life and Lady Danbury considers Hyacinth her ideal protégée. She shares a close relationship with her favorite person, grandson Gareth, and seems to be maneuvering Hyacinth and Gareth into each other’s company more and more these days.
Finding themselves sitting side by side at the annual Smythe-Smith musical, Gareth finds himself appreciating Hyacinth’s droll nature and, even though he also finds her vaguely annoying, he just can’t quite forget her. Hyacinth thinks he’s funny and smart, with the amazing ability to leave her speechless at times, but why does he have such uncomfortably blue eyes? When Gareth is given his paternal grandmother’s diary written in Italian, Hyacinth volunteers to translate the text for him. Realizing that his father knows nothing of the diary, Gareth discreetly entrusts the family heirloom into her care, hoping it will provide answers to some of the more disturbing questions about his heritage. Hyacinth views her assistance as the beginning of a grand adventure – finally something exciting is happening in her life!
As the two compare notes on the diary, they discover an increasing need and desire to see one another. What Hyacinth uncovers in her translations soon has them hunting for answers – sometimes in the middle of the night on the streets of London. Their search, as a plot device, lacked the sophistication that otherwise permeated the story and seemed a trifle too typical for my tastes. During these scenes, Hyacinth’s persistence at being included in everything all the time made her appear a bit spoiled and Gareth’s tendency to give in to her demands came close to undermining his strong character. Otherwise I found fault with little else as the book flowed effortlessly to the end.
It’s in His Kiss is book seven of Quinn’s series. Though I’ve read just one of the previous titles, this book read well as a stand-alone. One Bridgerton, Gregory, remains without a book and Quinn’s website indicates she will wrap up the series in the summer of 2006.
Both Gareth and Hyacinth’s characters are well developed – funny, highly likable, and vulnerable – certainly a winning combination for romantic leads. Their verbal interaction is the most outstanding aspect of this charming story. European historical romances have traditionally been my favorite category for reading, but lately contemporary romance has almost eclipsed their position. It’s in His Kiss reminded me once again why I first fell in love with these historicals.