Traitor's Kiss/Lover's Kiss
by Mary Blayney, historical (2008)
Bantam, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-553-59212-2


Mary Blayney is not a new author - she was writing traditional Regency romances right until most of their readers discovered that historical romances with sex scenes are so much more enjoyable and took to Julia Quinn like nobody's business, forcing those poor authors to take up writing classes on how to describe the act of coitus in their stories. Bantam decides to herald Mary Blayney's first ever foray into historical romances with sex scenes with style, publishing Traitor's Kiss and Lover's Kiss in a single volume. Clearly, they were hoping that what worked briefly for Josie Litton (remember her?) would work for Ms Blayney.

These two stories are very similar, especially when they are read back to back, being that in Traitor's Kiss we have our heroine Charlotte Parnell getting paid to rescue our hero Gabriel Pennistan from a French jail while in Lover's Kiss we have hero Michael Garrett rescuing Olivia Pennistan from what seems like thugs bent on rape, murder, and who knows what else.

Traitor's Kiss is the more enjoyable story, mostly because it is for the most part set in France and Ms Blayney manages to evoke the atmosphere of the wretched post-Revolution country very well. Charlotte is also a refreshingly hardened heroine who can lie, flirt, and pull off workable plans to get her way. The problem I have with this story is the hero. The same way I have no patience with heroines who are always too stupid to cooperate with the hero in a plan to get them out of danger, I am hard-pressed to remain sanguine as I turn the pages and keep seeing Gabriel's ridiculous attempts to take charge or assert his... whatever... to the point that he frequently comes this close to putting both him and Charlotte in danger. A particularly annoying example is how when Charlotte is trying to put on her feminine charms to distract a police captain from paying too much attention to him, he has to play the part of the jealous lover. If I were Charlotte, I'd say toss the two thousand pounds - I'd kick him in the nuts and let him howl in pain for three minutes before knocking him senseless just to shut him up.

The second part of this story is set in England, and here things become less interesting as Charlotte plays the role of the woman who can't commit and Gabriel... well, he can't shut up. This man is like the masculine version of Lorelai Gilmore from the now-cancelled TV series Gilmore Girls.

Still, this one has some memorable setting, even if I feel sorry for Charlotte because she's getting married to this silly fool of a man. Gabriel's sole charming trait, from what I can see, is his amazing ability to remain hot and sexy after months of imprisonment and malnourishment in a French prison. In fact, Ms Blayney has Charlotte remarking that Gabriel's gaunt face only accentuates the "fullness of his lips". Amazing. Maybe we should stop feeding him until he has no energy to speak - he will probably start sparkling like Edward Cullen by then.

Lover's Kiss is even less interesting. If anything, it reveals that it must be some kind of congenital trait that causes the Pennistan siblings to be some of the most irritating people to rescue. Here, our ex-soldier hero saves our heroine from danger, but she then repays his help by shrieking that she hates all men and pulling off stupid stunts that sorely test my patience. I know she has been knocked in the head, and heaven knows such a thing can cause a person to be more dotty than usual, but gosh, she's irritating to follow.

The romance in this one is unbelievable because it takes bad weather to force these two together, Olivia is in an even worse state of mind than Gabriel to fall in love under the circumstances, and the second half of this story comprises too many secondary characters intruding on the main characters' private moments.

This single collection boasts some good writing, but the two stories are far from impressive as they are pretty much stories of two long-suffering and very patient babysitters trying to prevent the Pennistan brats from getting all of them killed. Add in plenty of eye-rolling blatant set-ups for future books and this one feels like one of those free samples they give out on the streets to get people to start buying a new brand of shampoo. Only, this particular sample will cost you $6.99. My advice will be to skip these two half-baked efforts and wait for the third book, where hopefully the author would have time and opportunity to come up with a much more meaty and well-developed romance.

Rating: 58


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