by Tracy Anne Warren, historical (2009)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-167340-5
Tempted By His Kiss has a kernel of a good story here, but the author seems to be plotting on empty here and the end result is not pretty.
Recently orphaned 19-year old Meg Amberley and her maid are traveling to her maiden aunt's place in order to take up residence with that woman. However, a bad snow storm causes her and her maid to seek sanctuary at the home of the reclusive Cade Byron (no blood relationship with that Lord Byron). The man seems grumpy and unhappy with company, but as the snow storm persists and days turn into weeks, he and Meg soon form a friendship of sorts. But toward the end of the stay, those two move into second base despite Cade's best intentions and, when a neighbor discovers Meg in Cade's home, those two agree that a fake engagement is in order. Cade will bring Meg to London where she will try to find a nice guy to marry and therefore allow Cade to move on with his life.
At first, the story holds some promise because the two characters, while familiar, are actually likable and even sensible. I cringe at first when Meg, while claiming that she needs to maintain her reputation, offers her full name as well as her maid's real name to Cade without hesitation. But Ms Warren soon makes it clear that Meg's problem here is that she is sheltered young woman rather than a stupid one. When confronted with situations that are out of her depths, Meg displays a refreshing ability to adapt quickly after the initial hiccup or two. I especially like her attitude when it comes to Cade's proposal of their faux engagement - she considers the plan from all angles and comes to a sensible conclusion. As for Cade, he has a good reason to play the tortured hero - a former spy, his bravado caused the death of the woman he claims to love as well as her family. The woman was raped and killed in front of him, so if any man has a reason to act like a surly-faced tortured dude, it's Cade.
Cade and Meg show some good chemistry when they are stranded in Cade's house, but the story takes a nosedive for the worse when the storm abates and they move to London. Here, it becomes clear that Ms Warren has no idea what to do with her story once she has set up the faux engagement. The story becomes an advertisement for future books in the series as the other Byron siblings dutifully step out to introduce themselves to Meg. And they are all such obvious stereotypes, I don't think Ms Warren is even trying! There are the proper and responsible eldest brother, younger male siblings determined never to marry, and the romantic sister who would no doubt has a crush on one of her brother's super-secretive mysterious friend some time down the future. These secondary characters rarely leave the main characters alone, because they don't want me to forget even for a second that I must buy their books.
Cade and Meg begin rehashing and repeating themselves. The story becomes exactly like every historical romance set in London that features a fake engagement, right down to the events that happen in the grand finale. Meanwhile, the characters themselves become parodies of their former likable selves. Cade, for example, begins acting that he will bring misery to Meg because of the traumatic events that happened to him in the past. It is one thing to wallow in guilt, but he begins acting as if he's cursed to bring eternal misery to the ones he love, which is way too melodramatic for my liking.
By the time I reach the last page, I can only wonder why I bothered in the first place. Despite the initial glimmers of depths and likability in the main characters, this story soon turns out to be another join-the-dots and paint-by-numbers clichéd historical romance. I should have kept this one aside for moments when I have trouble sleeping.
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