The Comeback Kiss
Grade : B

The Comeback Kiss is a snappy story with colorful storylines and characters (mysterious fires, childhood sweetheart/bird thief, telepathic dogs) and sharp, occasionally profanity-filled dialogue. At times it’s over the top, but it can be surprisingly touching, and in the end it made for a memorable read.

Tessa Scuderi has a lot on her plate. Since the death of her mother years ago in a fire-related accident, she’s raised her younger sister by herself while holding down a job as a waitress and fighting off the social worker from hell. Maybe because of all the sacrifices she’s had to make, she’s more than a little bitter about Finn, her childhood friend and sweetheart, who ran out on her years ago, taking her beloved car with him.

Well, Finn, a former bird thief – yes, a thief of birds – is now somewhat reformed and is out to right a few wrongs, starting with the car he stole from Tess. And that’s where everything starts to go wrong for the two of them. He plans to just drop it off and leave, but before you know it, Finn is rescuing animals from a burning pet store, making out with Tess, running into his estranged older brother, and investigating not only the pet store fire but a whole series of fires at the request of Tess’s younger sister Izzy. Oh, and he also has an estranged uncle and an unearned reputation as the town’s not-so-anonymous benefactor.

The mystery of the fires and whoever is behind them never really threats the characters and doesn’t cast a damper on things. Instead the focus is on the characters and their relationships, and they have a great dynamic with each other: Tess, the one who has had to give up too much; Izzy, the teenager who has good intentions but is trying to break free of her sister’s control; and Finn, the guy who’s never had a lot and feels he doesn’t have enough to offer Tess. Side characters, such as Finn’s “boss” Babs, were all very amusing as well.

This is a strangely funny book that had plenty of laugh-out-loud lines. I say “strangely” because of all the unexpected ways the author adds humor that may not work for everyone. (The novel after all opens with Izzy weeping to Tess about how she’s been “knocked up in a round of passion.” It’s actually all an act because Izzy is trying to wheedle a car out of Tess…who sees right through Izzy’s strange stunts.) It seems that most of the characters are smart alecks and always have snarky and/or profanity-laced remarks ready. At times it seems more like an alternate world where everyone always has snappy retorts or unintentionally funny lines. It doesn’t often slow down for serious talk. I’ve never before come across a book where the author works in words like “shooshed” and “wench”, but I went with it. The style definitely wasn’t traditional – I think this book had more onomatopoeia than any other romance novel I’ve ever read, and if you can’t stand characters cursing, this book is not for you – but, again, I liked it.

Unfortunately, the mystery aspect of the story didn’t really work well for me. The author tries to force every single one of the little threads of the story into a giant, complicated bow by the end of the book, and these were all tied together far too neatly for my taste. However, ultimately I still liked the characters and their interactions, the dialogue and the author’s sense of humor, and overall I enjoyed the book.

Buy it at Amazon

Reviewed by Joan Lee

Grade: B

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : May 26, 2006

Publication Date: 2006/05

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  1. This author (Judith Ivory) used to appear frequently in “best of” lists for historical romance; and it seems that this…

Joan Lee

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