Scoundrel's Kiss
by Carrie Lofty, historical (2010)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0476-9


Trust me, if I can somehow force myself to love Carrie Lofty's Scoundrel's Kiss, I would. Have I not gone on in the past about how I would love to see more romance novels that tackle themes that are rare or unusual for the romance genre? Well, here is one such book, and I find myself feeling indifferent to it at the end of the day. I feel like one of those women who talk non-stop about wanting to marry a good man, only to say that we are better off as friends when the guy in question shows up at my doorstep.

You don't have to read the author's previous book What A Scoundrel Wants in order to get into this book, but you will have a better idea of the heroine Ada of Keyworth's past if you do. But I have to warn you - some readers cannot forgive Ada's actions in that book, and if you end up being one of them, you will have a very hard time warming up to this book as a result!

In this one, Ada has moved on to Spain to become a translator for Doña Valdedrona, a courtier in the court of King Alfonso. A lofty position, you may think, but ah, wait until you learn that events in Ada's past had led her to seek forgetfulness using opium. Her opium addiction leads Ada to being auctioned off to the highest bidder in a brothel when the story opens.

Our hero Gavriel de Marqueda has put his past life as a warrior behind him, seeking to become a monk with the Order of Santiago. As it happens, he is in the brothel that Ada is being auctioned off in - it's a long story, so let me just say that these padrés have a strange way of procuring sinners to be redeemed by members of their Order. When Ada's friend crashes the brothel trying to rescue her, Gavriel is moved to help. The resulting chaos sees Ada being placed in Gavriel's care as he is charged by Ada's friend to remove her to a safe place and help her break her addiction.

Gavriel isn't a monk yet, which is a good thing or else this book would be shelved in general fiction, high up in the top rack where the angry old ladies can't grab it for the book burning ceremonies in their church front yards. There are plenty of antagonistic conversations, psychoanalyzing, and intrigue in this story, and oh yes, there is love too. There is no shortage of action and drama from start to finish.

But despite that, I find myself curiously unmoved by the story. I have the same problem here as I had with the author's previous book: the author spent a lot of time placing obstacles between her characters and not enough time building up the tender moments between them, so much so that when the characters decide that they are in love, I can't see the love at all. The fact that these two spend so much time psychoanalyzing and playing games with each other instead of falling in love is the biggest problem I have with this story. It's not a very believable romance at the end of the day.

Still, it may be interesting to see the result should Ms Lofty decide to, say, write historical fiction instead of historical romance. Who knows, without the pesky romance thing in the way, the story that results may actually hit all the right spots.

Rating: 79


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