Set in the 2008-2009 school year, Scarlett Wakefield, whom readers have met in Kiss Me Kill Me (Scarlett Wakefield Series) and Kisses and Lies (Scarlett Wakefield Series) has had no shortage of trauma in her 17 years. Orphaned at age 4 in 1996, Scarlett has been a ward of her rich paternal grandmother. In 2008, she was expelled from St. Tabitha's (St. Tabby's), a posh boarding school for rich girls. The curriculum at St. Tabby's appeared to be Developing a Sense of Entitlement and Advanced Fashion Savvy. Unlike her spoiled, rich classmates, Scarlett and a few others have their sights set on academics and in Scarlett's case, gynmastics.
Scarlett's life changed one afternoon when she blew off her two close friends from St. Tabby's to attend a posh bash by the very rich, very chic Nadia Farouk. Dan McAndrew, a boy on whom Scarlett had a crush was the deal maker. She had been longing to share a kiss with Dan for a long time and the party provided a chance to make that wish come true.
Be careful what you wish for! In losing her only two friends at St. Tabby's, Scarlett also loses Dan after they do kiss on Nadia's terrace. He literally dies in her arms after their kiss. Scarlett is subsequently called the Kiss of Death Girl and the bad publicity this brings to St. Tabby's results in her expulsion.
Once out of St. Tabby's, her grandmother, the redoubtable Lady Wakefield takes her in at the academically oriented Wakefield Hall. Scarlett thrives there, away from her arch enemy, the very cruel, ruthless Plum Saybourne and with her new friend from the U.S., Taylor. Taylor has Scarlett's back at all times - in the previous installment, she helped Scarlett discover just how Dan died.
Her other friend is her new boyfriend, Jase. Jase's father is the head gardener and Jase is biracial, which does not work for the school bigots, including Plum who transfers to Wakefield Hall.
Plum gets another delicious dose of her come uppance. The gym teacher does not brook any excuses for not exercising and Plum is forced to do push ups with the class. Another teacher calls her on her attire, telling her she looks like a "night-club hostess" and "a French bar girl from the docks." Ironically, it is a very resourceful form of revenge that results in Plum's arrival at Wakefield Hall. Backfired, but still the result of a revenge plot.
More mysteries crop up. Jase gives Scarlett a bracelet with a questionable background. Jase's father is found dead on the school grounds by Scarlett. As with Dan, the question of whether or not his death was an accident or the result of homicide has yet to be determined. If he was killed, then who did it? Jase is the likely suspect as Jase's father was an abusive man who drank too much and literally drove Jase's mother away. Jase's grandmother, a cruel, racist woman has no problem believing Jase is indeed the culprit.
But is he? If not Jase, then who? Scarlett's racist, bitter Aunt Gwen, with whom she lives on the school grounds? Jase? Someone from the town? A connection Plum has? An accident? Regardless of how, Scarlett and Taylor are out to find the answers.
In this installment, readers learn that Scarlett's parents were killed in July of 1996 when Scarlett was 4. (Her date of birth is given as 4/10, which, if she was 4, would make her year of birth 1992. In the other installments, her age is given as being one year older). Reading the articles about how she became an orphan and demanding answers from her racist aunt throw out more questions than answers.
Scarlett will stop at nothing to clear Jase's name (if in fact he is innocent) and to protect Taylor from Plum's ruthless schemes and conniving. One of the best parts in this book was when Scarlett went to bat for Taylor by giving Plum a taste of her own vile medicine. I just loved the revenge she exacted using the option of a pillowcase or a haircut to cut Plum down and make her toe the line. Plum was truly odious.
The Scarlett Wakefield series is riveting, intense and a delicious escapist read. The strength of the characters and the interlocking mysteries make for very effective reading. Lauren Henerson is truly a genius. I recommend you read the series in order to get the full impact and the fullest picture of how each mystery segues into the next.
KISS IN THE DARK is the third novel in the series featuring Scarlett Wakefield.
Scarlett is finally able to get on with life at Wakefield. The worst part of her routine is dealing with her nemesis, Plum, on a daily basis, and sneaking around to meet up with her boyfriend, Jason. Jason's dad and Scarlett's guardian, Aunt Gwen, have forbidden them to see each other. But life for Scarlett is never easy, and soon more excitement lands in her lap.
Taylor and Scarlett are out for their daily run around the grounds when they notice that the gate encircling the lake is open. Scarlett knows that the lake is off limits, so the two of them wander over to investigate. What they find changes everything. There, lying on the ground, dead, is Mr. Barnes, Jason's dad.
While Jason and his grandmother are telling detectives events of the previous evening, Scarlett is determined to prove it couldn't possibly be Jason's fault. Yes, she overheard the heated argument between Jason, his grandmother, and his father, but Jason is kind and gentle. He couldn't possibly have killed his dad.
As Scarlett searches for the truth, more secrets come to the surface. There is history between Scarlett's parents and Jason's parents. As she delves deeper, the secrets become darker. The ending of KISS IN THE DARK leaves the reader on the edge of their seat, awaiting a future installment in the Scarlett Wakefield drama.
Unlike the PRETTY LITTLE LIARS series that keeps going with the same theme, this series keeps readers enthralled with new mysteries around each corner for Scarlett and her friends. Ms. Henderson weaves a captivating story that is at once both believable and highly addicting. Scarlett is likeable and easily relatable for readers.
One doesn't have to have read the prior books in the series to enjoy KISS IN THE DARK. Yes, it makes the background easier to follow, but because this story contains its own mystery, it can stand on its own.