The Sum of All Kisses


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.)

So –


Happy Books

What do you read when you’ve had a bad day/week/month? Is there a book you turn to, an author, or a specific genre?

If I’m intellectually stressed  – like during finals back in college – you’ll find me curled up with a romance novel – generally Harlequin, though I don’t read those normally – or a young adult novel. (During one bad finals, I read 13 Reasons Why in one sitting at a Barnes and Noble.  And then didn’t buy, ’cause I was broke.  But I now have a signed copy. Happiness.)

If I am other types of stressed, I reach for Julia Quinn or P.G. Wodehouse. There’s a couple of other comfort novels I have, but those two authors are the ones I most often reach for.

So, dear readers, what about you? Do you turn to sci-fi or comedies? Does Tolstoy get you through the day? Or is it something more general – like any mystery featuring food or any Western featuring a lone cowboy with revenge on his mind? Something easy to escape into or something complex and thought-provoking? Let me what you think in the comments!


I reread books

Do you? Reread books, that is.

I do.  I reread books all the time.  Sometimes for comfort or because I’m tired and just want to read something I know and love  – Julia Quinn I return to time and time again. Others I reread less frequently but with greater pleasure – every three or four years I reread The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which I’ve done since I first read them as an elementary school kid.

I’ll reread a book because there’s a movie version coming out and I want to have a fresh impression of the book before I go in – The Great Gatsby, for instance, or, more recently, Ender’s Game. (There is a review coming for that; I just need to think about what I want to say first.) If a new book in a series is about to come out, it’s not unusual for me to pick up one or more of the preceding books and reread them, especially if the series needs to be read sequentially.  Something may remind of a book I’ve forgotten and I’ll go back and reread it.

I read many, many classics as a child and teenager and as I get older, and theoretically wiser, I slowly go back and reread them.  This is probably the most rewarding of the rereadings that I do, as there is much I missed as a child.  The fact that I’m rereading also allows me to go slower and think more about the book.  (Some classics I will never reread – Lolita, which I read as a college freshman, I loved but can’t see myself ever revisiting.)  

I’ve discovered in the past year that I really enjoy “rereading” a book by listening to the audiobook. I love audiobooks but have a harder time keeping everything straight because I can’t flip back easily if I get distracted or miss a detail.  If I know the story, I have a much easier time keeping up with what’s going on.  (And I pay more attention, though I’m not sure why.)

My dad, on the other hand, doesn’t reread books or rewatch movies, figuring that he already knows what happened and there’s no point.  I know a fair amount of people who don’t reread because there are lots of unread books out there – why waste time on a book you’ve already read?

Do you reread, my fair readers? Do you have books you constantly revisit or is rereading an honor reserved only for a few special books? Is your pile of to-be-reads so large you can’t justify opening a book you’ve already finished?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!


The Lady Most Willing

by: Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway

This is the second book co-written by these three romance authors.  (I enjoyed it more than the first, too.)  Julia Quinn is my absolute favorite romance author – and one of my very favorite authors – because of her witty writing, wonderful characters and the way her writing acknowledges the social pressures of the world she sets her novels in.

This story, set in 1819 in a Scottish winter, follows four girls who were kidnapped by an older laird, known around town for his drunken yet harmless antics, wanting to provide his nephews with potential brides.  And by kidnap, I mean Taran gets drunk and goes off willy-nilly to a ball and scoops up the girls, most of whom know him and are therefore rather more annoyed than scared. They then get snowed in at his castle with an assortment of eligible men and, well, romance happens.

I actually like this plot line as compared to the more often seen kidnapping plot lines: a) hero is angry and wants revenge and thus takes eligible woman or b) hero means to kidnap one woman and accidentally kidnaps another.  Here, the heroes are all rather embarrassed and/or amused by the circumstance.  The women, especially the heroine of the first part of the story, give Taran a good dressing down for his behavior and then wait out the storm with good humor and grace, free of fear or worry.  There’s a distinct lack of Stockholm syndrome – it’s known that as soon as the storm stops everyone is free to go – and it’s nice that nobody starts off with a grudge against anyone else.

Time-span wise, everything takes place in 4 days, which is rather short but well done. And it does lead to one of my favorite phrases from a romance novel, “Love at first meaningful conversation.” (Which is much, much better than love at first sight.)  I really loved Quinn’s story – she has, as I said, amazing wit. Her characters find humor in rather everyday things and nothing ever feels contrived.  I just really, really enjoy her writing, even in short-story format.  At some point, I’ll review one of her books and really explore why I love her novels.

Eloisa James wrote the second portion of the novel and I enjoyed it much more than I did her last novel.  Her heroine has a bad reputation, which is a theme she’s dealt with before. I liked how she dealt with it for the most part, and honestly, some of the things her heroine is dealing with women still deal with today. Her writing, generally, is best when she’s dealing with the relationships between the main characters and side characters, such as close friends and family.  Here, the heroine and her sister are constantly interacting and I think that’s part of the reason why I liked it better than her last novel.

Connie Brockway wrote the last third of the novel.  I don’t read her novels on a regular basis, but I did like her writing her better than the last novel in three parts.  She’s a decent writer overall but compared to Quinn and James her writing comes off as ever so slightly contrived and a tiny bit overly dramatic. Her hero was a little angst-y for my taste but I did like that her heroine, Cecily, was shy and reserved and completely okay with that.  Others find her quiet and reserved and she states that she only truly feels at ease enough to be herself around loved ones.  Regardless, Cecily is well-liked, popular, and self-confident.

All in all, this was a fun read and I was often delighted while reading it.  I smiled, I laughed, I snorted – it was good times, y’all.  Its worst fault is that it is the tiniest bit cheesy because of the short time span.  Definitely read it if you like charming and witty romances, novellas, love at first sight (or meaningful conversation!) stories, or if you’re looking for a fun light read (this one is bubble-bath recommended). If you like drama-filled romances, steamy ones full of people ripping off clothes at the slightest provocation, or ones where a deep love develops slowly over a long period of time, then alas!, this may not be the book for you.

Have you read it? Do you enjoy this format? Drop a line in the comments and let me know!