Swept Away by a Kiss
While I applaud Katharine Ashe for trying something different in her debut effort, there are just too many things thrown into the mix for this story to mesh well and work for me. Sometimes simple really is better.
Lady Valerie Monroe was born into a world of social restrictions in which she really doesn’t fit – she’s just too feisty. In the past, she threw caution to the winds and pretty much did what she wanted even if it endangered her reputation, leading to banishment to the wilds of the United States to live with cousins as punishment. Since her father’s death, she plans to mend her ways and return to Society – or at least she hopes she can, unless her pesky attraction to a French priest and the dastardly deeds of pirates/slave traders get in the way.
Steven, Viscount Ashford has made stopping the illegal slave trade and eliminating the criminal masterminds behind its’ funding his life’s goal. On what should be a simple mission, he disguises himself as a French priest in order to get aboard a pirate vessel and take out an infamous trader. However, his plans don’t include Lady Valerie and he has to think fast to save her from ravishment at the hands of the pirate captain. However, his plan (and boy is it an eye rolling doozy), puts him in close quarters with Valerie and makes his disguise near impossible to maintain. However, when their high seas adventure is over, he knows it’s possible he will see her again, especially since his Native American grandfather predicted Valerie’s role in his life many years ago.
Months later, Valerie still finds life within the ton less than stimulating and marriage prospects basically the same. When she and her family accept an invitation to a winter house party, she is taken completely by surprise when her French priest shows up in the form of a very English aristocrat who is still very obviously on a mission. As she is embroiled, it becomes obvious she has life altering decisions to make.
This is one of those stories that made me question everything that happened – but not in a good way. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the motives of the characters believable in several instances. For example, after an obvious attack at sea, instead of hiding like her maid, Valerie goes above deck to explore and is captured by the pirates. Her maid, who hid, did not, and this action put Valerie in the TSTL category almost immediately for me.
The characterizations presented another problem. The heroine doesn’t fit the social conventions of the time and she makes choices to reflect that fact. She came off as feisty and at times TSTL and, of course, she has daddy issues – don’t they all. Plus, even though it’s an obvious attempt at humor, she comes off as rude to her maid and it rubbed me the wrong way. The hero is certainly complex – too complex. He’s part Native American in addition to being a Viscount (a title he doesn’t want), and has spent what seems considerable time in England being English, in North America living with his Native American relatives, as well as in France pursuing justice. Did I mention he was also a runaway at one point in his life?
The writing was hard to follow and for me required some rereading in order to be clear on plot points and to follow thoughts or dialogue. At times the dialogue was stilted and some actions were described in over abundant detail. For example, within the first four chapters (only a mere 32 pages) Steven is named or described as Steven, the Frenchman, La Marque, Etienne, the Priest, the Jesuit, Father, Angel, and Monsieur le Pretre. Instances like this, along with the head-hopping, made reading frustrating.
On a positive note, the plot had potential. The fight against the slave trade, whether on the high seas or in the drawing rooms of England, could make for a very exciting and interesting adventure.
I wanted to like Swept Away By a Kiss. I really, really did. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend it and I certainly hope I like her next one more.