by: Julia Quinn
I love Julia Quinn. She’s one of my favorite writers. I love her sly humor and witty dialogue; I love that her characters are people I could be friends with. I adore that if someone told me I seemed like one of her heroines, I would feel complimented.
The Sum of All Kisses is Quinn’s latest book and the third book in the Smythe-Smith quartet. The hero, Hugh Prentice, is a bit of an ass. It’s not his defining characteristic, by any means, but it is there. He’s truly nice, but sometimes says things that are a little mean. And then he realizes he has done wrong and apologizes. He doesn’t need to fall in love to respect others’ feelings; he just doesn’t always adequately consider his words before he speaks.
The heroine, Lady Sarah Pleinsworth, is caring, intelligent, and just a bit selfish. Not a spoiled brat, completely oblivious to other’s pain; just a wee bit too focuses on how things affect her. (Also, she decides to work on this not because the hero teaches her a lesson but through an interaction completely separate from Hugh! Sigh…)
It’s so nice to have characters who are truly realistically flawed – good people who screw up sometimes. So very nice.
The Sum of All Kisses is light and fun. There’s witty banter, amusing situations, and great fun throughout. I love that her characters seem to understand just how lucky they are. Here, Sarah’s understanding that not everyone has a loving family dynamic – that her family is loving and normal but others’ may not be – is what sets her up to help (save) Hugh during a particularly sticky situation. Without those moments of understanding, I don’t think I would have bought her kick-ass save the day moment – but as it is, I absolutely love it.
This book has a villian-esque character, different for Quinn. I’m not sure if I like the way she handled it – on one hand, it was brilliantly over-the-top and on the other hand – well, it was over-the-top. I can’t decide if it worked amazingly well or if it fell short of being brilliant.
However, Quinn does handle painful situations delicately enough to respectfully convey pain without darkening the light tone of the book. Shit may happen but that doesn’t mean your life is either dark and scary or transformative and healing. Sometimes you work through your issues and have a rather normal story.
Like many romance novels, TSoAK has a short timeline, yet at the end it’s hard to believe the characters have only known each other for a few weeks. I attribute this to the conversations of the characters. They don’t hold discourses on Plato, but they banter and converse and think. The conversations hold unexpected depth, in that the characters truly connect through talking: through a shared sense of humor, point-of-view, or uncommon trait.
As for the sex scenes, TSoAK had a fair amount of petting leading up to the main event, which I thought added some nice tension. Quinn’s not super-explicit – you know what’s going on but you’re not fed detail after detail. And they do help the plot get along, rather than the plot revolving around them.
In short, if you like light and fluffy romance novels with unexpected depth here and there, or if you have a thing for witty, intelligent characters, genre aside, you should read The Sum of All Kisses, or any Julia Quinn. If you like your books hot and heavy, or if you’re a big fan of action-y rescue plots, than maybe this isn’t the book for you. (But! I encourage you to try Julia Quinn even if you don’t think you like romance novels. Don’t let hate of a genre keep you from an excellent author.)