Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bonus Review: The Sum of All Kisses

The Sum of All Kisses
By Julia Quinn
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: 
October 29, 2013

Lady Sarah Pleinsworth, whose mother was a Smythe-Smith, is unhappy at the thought of two upcoming weddings, neither of which is her own. First, she will serve as maid of honor for her cousin Honoria when the latter marries the Earl of Chatteris (Just Like Heaven) at Fensmore, the Chatteris estate in Cambridgeshire.  Two weeks later, she will be among those attending the wedding of Honoria’s brother, Daniel Smythe-Smith, Earl of Winstead, and Anne Wynter, former governess to Sarah’s younger sisters (A Night Like This). It’s not that Sarah isn’t happy for her cousins, but after three seasons, she expected to be married. Not only is marriage what a young woman of her class is trained for; but it is also the only way Sarah can escape participating in the dreadful Smythe-Smith musicales. She’s already pled illness as an excuse once and is doubtful that it will work again.

Lord Hugh Prentice may be the only wedding guest as reluctant to be present as Sarah. Hugh was never a bon vivant, and since the drunken duel with Daniel Smythe-Smith that left Hugh lame and Daniel an exile until recently, Hugh has become even more of a loner. Only Daniel’s insistence that Hugh’s presence at both weddings is necessary to persuade society that the duel is old news and Daniel and Hugh are friends has brought Hugh to Fensmore. The situation worsens from Hugh’s point of view when the illness of one Smythe-Smith cousin and the lack of social graces of another prompts Honoria to ask Hugh to sit at the head table as partner to Lady Sarah Pleinsworth.

Hugh and Sarah have a decided preference for avoiding one another’s company. He finds her overly dramatic, and he is aware that she dislikes him. Sarah holds Hugh responsible for the scandal resulting from the duel and for Daniel’s exile, both of which negatively affected all Smythe-Smiths and, in Sarah’s opinion, was responsible for her lack of marriage prospects. Still, neither of them is willing to do anything to detract from Honoria’s happiness, and so they agree to spend time in one another’s company. They may begin horrified at the thought of time together, but conversations, shared laughter, and a growing awareness of the other’s physical attractions soon has animosity turning to love. Unfortunately for the path of true love, Hugh is convinced that his lameness makes him less than the man Sarah deserves and his toxic relationship with his mad father creates further complications. But Sarah proves more resourceful than anyone expected.

Enemies to lovers is not a trope that I am particularly fond of, but Quinn makes it work well here. Sarah and Hugh do spend a lot of time together, and in addition to the banter at which Quinn excels, the emotional intensity between the two of them develops gradually. Their falling in love is based on more than wit and lust. Neither of these protagonists has the charm that often makes Quinn’s characters memorable, but they have their own strengths. Hugh had a truly horrific childhood, and I had no problem accepting his eccentricities given his abilities and his history, both of which set him apart from his peers. I warmed up to Sarah slowly, but by the second half of the book, I found her endearing. And I’m always in favor of a warrior heroine who saves the day.

I would like to have seen Hugh’s brother play a more visible role in the story since he clearly is important to Hugh, and the final few chapters are unquestionably melodramatic, a technique that will likely dismay some readers and delight others. But the epilogue is perfect in a Smythe-Smith book.

Overall, I’d rank The Sum of All Kisses as less satisfying than the first two books in the series. But this is Julia Quinn, and I’m a reader who has read every Julia Quinn book and has never read one that failed to give me enough Quinntessential moments to make me glad I read it. So—not Quinn’s best, but I still recommend it for JQ fans or for other historical romance fans who will enjoy Quinn’s humor with a touch of angst and a generous serving of sensationalism.

Let’s talk autobuy authors. Julia Quinn is on my list and has been since her pre-Bridgerton days. While I certainly like some of her books better than others, I can’t imagine not reading one. Once an author is on my autobuy list, it takes several major missteps for me to remove her/him. Do you have autobuy authors? What makes you delete an author from your list?


Quantum said...

Perhaps being unfaithful is a masculine trait, for I find that I voraciously devour a particular author for a while and then suddenly move on .... a bit like a Regency rake and a mistress, though I hasten to add that this tendency does not extend to marriage!

In the early days of my romance reading, I was fascinated by the mix of romance and adventure in the great wild outdoors, as portrayed for example by Catherine Anderson and Elizabeth Lowell. An interest in English history also lead me to Eloisa James, Julia Quinn (Bridgertons) and Mary Jo Putney in particular.

Most recently I have been devouring Jojo Moyes who combines exciting page turning plots with real world 'people' problems.

Following a recent visit to Sudely Castle in England, (associated with Thomas Seymore and Elizabeth Parr) I have now started reading Tudor historicals, most recent being 'Queen's Gambit' by Elizabeth Freemantle but also books by Jane Feather and Philipa Gregory.

The Tudor court of Henry VIII seems to have been a pretty horrendous place for women .... they even subjected Anne Askew (protestant martyr) to the rack before burning her.

Though completely absorbing, I find that one needs frequent light relief from this sort of reading and Sophie Kinsella amongst others provides it for me in spades ! LOL

Janga said...

Q, I'm not sure that saturating oneself for a time with the works of one author and then moving on is a gender-related trait. I know female readers who do the same thing. I also know male readers whose loyalty to authors, sometimes spanning decades of reading, mirrors my own. I think readers just have different patterns. I'm all for whatever works to keep people reading. I don't know what the stats are in your country, but here a depressing number of people don't even read a book a year.

irisheyes said...

It's funny, Janga, cause I believe I'm getting more and more selective with my auto-buys. When I first started back reading romance I would find an author I liked, glom her backlist and run to the store and purchase every new book she wrote. Now, I'm a little more cautious.

There are still some, though, that I have to have on or as near to release day as possible - Lisa Kleypas, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Mary Balogh, Elizabeth Hoyt, Robyn Carr are my old standards. I've added a few new ones this year - Sarah Mayberry and Janice Kay Johnson.

There are still a lot more authors that I like and I get to them when I can, either through a UBS or the library, but the need just doesn't seem as urgent as those few.

I'm not sure what turns them from an autobuy back into a "get to them when I can" author. Maybe reading a few of their releases that just didn't blow my socks off and then after a while finding others that I know will and choosing them instead.

Deborah Stein said...

I just counted. I have 90 authors I regularly check for new books. Most of those I will buy but maybe 10 I am selective about and another 10 are wistful thinking (authors who haven't put out new books in a long time like Julia Ross and Judith Ivory and Laura Kinsale )
It takes a lot for me to stop autobuying . I have one highly erratic author that I may stop--she has written a couple of books that I reread and many more that I enjoyed but her language and her character motivations are becoming annoyingly repetitive. One or two disappointing books won't stop me--it might take 5 or 6 in a row. Admittedly this is partly because I have had several medically challenging years where I have a lot of time to read and really want to escape (nothing life threatening but a lot of pain ....) if I can get past this I think my list will shrink

Janga said...

Irish, I'm sure you won't be surprised to know that all seven of the authors on your list are on my list as well. :) One reason my list is so long is that I stay faithful to authors I've come to love and keep adding new ones. Since both my time and budget are finite, at some point I have to make some tough choices.

Janga said...

Deb, I like your wishful thinking list. I have one of those too, and it includes all three authors you mention as well as Kathleen Gilles Seidel and Marsha Moyer. Maybe there should be a separate list for authors who have retired that I still miss such as LaVyrle Spencer and Maggie Osbourne.

Deborah Stein said...

Yeah, also the couple whose real names escape me who wrote as Laura London.