I’m not a stickler for absolute reality in my romances. Heaven knows, I’ve loved more than one historical romance with a backdrop so flimsy you could practically see it wobbling whenever someone breathed heavily. But Laura Marie Altom’s Kissing Frogs doesn’t manage to stay consistent even with itself, which is an entirely different matter. And, unfortunately, the least of its many problems.
Lucy Gordon is a biologist trying to win acclaim (and her father’s respect) by discovering a new species of frog. Now teaching at an elite girl’s school in Wales, she miraculously finds such a frog after she runs her car off the road trying to avoid hitting it. But then, in her excitement, she kisses the frog, and it magically turns into a naked, medieval Welsh prince named Wolfe. His body notwithstanding, Lucy would rather have the frog. Plus, having a naked medieval guy hanging around sort of complicates her romance with a duke named William.
Wolfe was turned into a frog by a sorceress after insulting her daughter (by impregnating her then refusing to marry her), and has spent the past thousand or so years waiting for the woman who would break the spell; all Lucy has to do now is swear her eternal love for him within the next 30 days. Failing that, he will return to life as a frog for eternity.
Every reader expects to take some things on faith, but unless the story is set in a totally alternate reality wherein new rules are explained, it needs to be grounded in a way the reader can recognize and then remain consistent. This story does neither, unfortunately. In the prologue, we’re told that Lucy is renowned enough a biologist to be the star speaker for the World Biological Conference; yet, she didn’t know, as the entire audience did, that the “new” frog species she’s revealing to her fellow biologists had been discovered by her father thirty years before. When her Wales frog turns into a naked man claiming to be a medieval prince, she stands in the rain arguing with him about inane things on a deserted road; and although she figures he’s looney tunes, she drives off in her car with him, more concerned about villagers reporting her naked male passenger to the duke than whether she might be in any danger. When the duke hears Wolfe talking from inside her cottage, Lucy tells him she’s taping a movie on an old VCR that will skip if he goes near it, and he accepts her explanation without question (and does the same throughout the story, despite recurring rumors about her being seen with a man). Finally, Wolfe knows an awful lot for having been a frog for a millennium. We are told he learned what was going on in the world from overhearing the conversations of visitors to his pond, but I haven’t yet figured out where he learned how to change the tire on Lucy’s car.
Kissing Frogs is not at all amusing – it’s silly and the entire story seems scatter-shot and manic. There’s no depth to the story, no sense that the characters have a history behind them that makes them more than mere placeholders in the plot. As for the dialogue, this is fairly typical: “Aye. I would not lie about a matter as grave as this, any more than I would lie about my desire to carry you up to bed and keep you there, pendulous breasts bared, nipples ripening in my mouth, legs spread, beckoning my seed.”
Generally, I can find something redeeming in a book – the characters, or the story line, or witty dialogue. Unfortunately, Kissing Frogs didn’t work for me on any level. Unless you have extra money burning a hole in your pocket and a desire to walk on the weird side, I’d suggest you pass on this one.