Kiss Me, Annabel
I am going to have to go back and read Much Ado About You, the first book in this series about the Essex sisters. I’ll admit to being a bit lost, but only a bit. This was a sparkling book with delightful characters – both primary and secondary. There are two more Essex sisters and I will definitely have to read their stories.
Annabel Essex is the most beautiful of the Scottish Essex sisters. She is out to snatch a rich husband and makes no bones about it. When they were growing up, her father found out that Annabel had a head for figures, so while he raced horses (and mostly lost), she spent all her time trying to squeeze a few pennies from the household accounts. And when she did, her father would spend it on his horses. So now Annabel wants to marry a man who is not Scottish, who is rich, and who doesn’t mind that she has very little in the way of a dowry. But Annabel is so stunningly beautiful that she figures she’ll have no trouble, and even has a candidate in her sights.
But Annabel’s sister Imogene throws a spanner in the works. Imogene, recently widowed, wants a lover and sets her sights on Ewan Poley, Earl of Ardmore. Ewan is a fine, big handsome Scotsman who is in London to find a rich wife – or so says all the ton gossip. Annabel thinks him very handsome, but he’s not rich, and he’s a Scotsman. That doesn’t bother Imogene, who sets out to seduce Ewan. Her plan goes awry and Annabel and Ewan end up terribly compromised. Ewan tells Annabel’s guardian Raphael, Duke of Holbrook, that he is perfectly willing to marry her, but only in Scotland. So they set out on, not a wedding, but a courtship journey.
Annabel and Ewan are perfectly pleasant characters and their courtship journey is so filled with sexual tension that it’s a wonder the pages didn’t smoke. There’s not a lot of conflict between them especially since Annabel’s biggest fear, is resolved about halfway through the book. Ewan has a large and eccentric extended family including three homeless monks who live on the estate, and that makes for some very humorous scenes. Ewan is a very nice beta hero who is kind, decent and even religious – something you don’t find too often in an historical romance.
Annabel’s sister Imogene is so flamboyant that she quite overpowers the main characters at times. I can’t say I liked her very much, but she has potential as a main character, especially in her interaction with the jaded rake the Earl of Mayne. The youngest Essex sister, Josie, is a witty young woman with a tart manner of speaking and I know she will get her own story eventually.
Kiss Me, Annabel is a charming, witty and engrossing book. Eloisa James’ rich writing style is unique and welcome. After getting off to a rough start with romance readers, she’s more than redeemed herself and I look forward to more from her.