The Kissing Gate
The Kissing Gate has two hurdles to jump over right from the start; it contains secondary characters who happen to be children and that it is a second chance romance. Both of these can be difficult to write well, yet Carr takes these thorny plotlines and makes them blend perfectly into the story. The suspense is not edge-of-your-seat and the characters are not perfectly ideal, yet there is something sweet and magnetic about the story.
> In this sequel to The Mad Marquis, Lionel Westfall (the brother of Julia Westfall from the earlier book) finds himself in dire straits. Not only did his wife die, leaving him to care for their six (yes, six) sons, but his father also died, leaving him a new title and estates. Lionel realizes he’s not the best of fathers – pretty much all of England knows he’s a known rake, a debaucher, and rarely at home. Until her death he’d left the care of his sons to his wife, who coddled and ignored the children simultaneously. Lionel is now intent on bringing his family together, on being a the father he should always have been. But it may be too late, for his boys are out of control.
Sophie Bowerbank once gave her heart, and very nearly her virginity, to the one and only man she ever loved. That man was Lionel Westfall, and when his father discovered his son felt similarly, he forced Lionel into the military, shipping him off to war and out of Sophy’s life. Even though Lionel eventually married another woman, Sophy refused to do the same; how could she when she already gave her heart away? Lionel spends his years gambling and bedding women in London while avoiding his wife, and Sophy spends her years in her small country town, taking care of her father and trying to be the ideal good girl.
When Lionel loses his father and his wife, he packs up his younger boys and moves back to the country home where he first met Sophy. He did not expect to have feelings for Sophy years later, but when she brings his unruly twins in to pay for their crimes he realizes that the desire is still there. With no one else to help, he knows that Sophy would make the perfect governess for his three younger boys. But Sophy is not thrilled with his request. She certainly has no desire to work that closely with the man that she is even still, years later, attracted to. Yet how can she refuse when his young boys are in need and when her father owes the man hundreds of pounds?
Not only is Sophy practically forced to teach the sons of her long lost love, but Lionel also makes her move into his house. Soon Sophy must fight not only her growing attraction for her long ago love, but her growing affection for his boys. Lionel, meanwhile, must face his past and let go of his fears in order to move on with his life. It is when Lionel’s boys are blamed for some dastardly deeds that the two must come together to prove the town wrong.
There are flaws with this perfect, happy family. For one, Sophy has a thing for the late Westfall’s erotic books that she found while working for the old man. Basically, these books seem like Regency period porn. Sure, Sophy is in her thirties and it is nice to have a woman who isn’t a simpering virgin, but porn from any era is a far cry from romance. There is also a certain lack of consistency to Sophy and Lionel’s characterizations. Sophy, for instance, at one point doubts Lionel’s sons, which is at odds to her beliefs throughout most of the story. And though the book has some suspense to offer, this subplot is resolved too quickly and neatly at the end.
I don’t usually care for second chance loves. After all, if it didn’t work out in the first place, why go back? But Carr handles the premise quite well. She does not drag the reader back in time, but keeps us interested in the present. Having children in a book is another touchy plotline; they can detract from the love story and annoy the reader. Even though there are six boys here, they don’t diminish the love story in the least. The Kissing Gate offers a speedy plot, sizzling love scenes, and a charming story brings together primary and secondary characters without detracting from either the plot or the romance.