Perfect Kisses

Susan Johnson, Sylvia Day and Noelle Mack
July 2007, European Historical Romance
Brava, $15.00, 309 pages, Amazon ASIN 075820941X

Grade: B
Sensuality: Varies

The good news is that Sylvia Day hits a home run with her novella here and, as someone who retains my affection for those old footnote-laden romances by Susan Johnson, the author delivers a story that shows her to still be in good – if not outstanding – form. And a third story, by Noelle Mack, isn't bad either.

European Historical Romance (1820s [Victorian] England)
Sensuality: Hot

Okay, let me just say right from the start that I love Susan Johnson’s particular brand of historical hero: Gorgeous, stupendously rich, jaded, and, though he doesn’t know it, ready for love. Schoolmistress Claire Russell meets James Bell, Viscount Ormond, when she storms into his house during a debauched party in order to rescue her virtuous sister from his Rakish clutches. Of course, James is instantly attracted to Claire and soon enough the two reach an agreement: He will provide assistance to establish her sister in society in order to find her a husband if Claire will become his mistress. As I’ve made more than clear, I have a weakness for much of Susan Johnson’s writing and I enjoyed this tale of seduction. However, James goes from a confirmed Rake into a man in love with love a bit too quickly here to be believed, but it was a minor irritation only in an otherwise well done novella. Grade: B

European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Sensuality: Hot

By establishing a history for her couple before this novella begins, Sylvia Day makes her story instantly more believable than Ms. Johnson’s. Lady Sophie, the mischievous one, and Justin, the pompous one, have loved each other since childhood. The problem is that Sophie thought Justin looked down on her while Justin believed Sophie found him a stuffed shirt. What the reader knows and the pair soon discovers is that Justin was enchanted by Sophie, while she viewed him as a golden prince far above her touch. Now Sophie has an illegitimate child and her grandmother and Justin’s mother are determined to bring the two together. Ms. Day does an excellent job of portraying two adult, mature characters who come to learn the truth about each other, while also facing the fact that their feelings will not be denied. This story is a winner on every level. Ms Day made me care about the characters and believe in the romance and for my money that’s just about all you can ask of a novella. Grade: A-

European Historical Romance (1850s England)
Sensuality: Warm

Even though Noelle Mack’s is the weakest in the anthology, it’s still a satisfying enough read. Susannah, the daughter of a gem trader who grew up in a maharajah’s palace in India, now lives in London, a city she doesn’t know in a country she finds cold. Carlyle, a man she knew in India, assists in her adjustment to life in London. What Susannah doesn’t know is that her maid was somehow involved in smuggling rare gems into the country – something of which Carlyle is more than aware. Frankly, for a short story numbering just eighty pages (forty less than the previous two), a great deal of time is devoted to the plot about the gemstones, so much, in fact, that the love story gets more than a little bit lost. Still, Carlyle and Susannah are likable enough, even if their tale is ultimately a bit on the tepid and…well, the uninvolving side. Grade: C+

With two very good stores, Perfect Kisses is ideal for the beach (I have a hard time concentrating, so novellas hit the spot for me), and a good bet for those who enjoy historical romance.

-- Sandy Coleman

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