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The Pleasure of Her Kiss (Avon Romantic Treasures) Mass Market Paperback – 1 Nov 2003
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Her husband was coming home and the time of reckoning was at hand for Kathryn Westbrooke née Trafford. Left to her own devices by a husband she can barely remember, Kathryn has devoted herself to helping those suffering from the great potato famine in Ireland. Not only has she taken in several orphans and used her husband's estate to raise funds, Kathryn is leading a secret life few know of. When an attractive gentleman unexpectedly arrives claiming to have a reservation, Kathryn is forced to put him up and somehow finds herself continuously running into him. However, the tables are soon turned when Kathryn realizes who her mystery guest is.
The first in Linda Needham's Gentleman Rogues trilogy, THE PLEASURE OF HER KISS tries for an interesting premise but never manages to rise above its flaws. While Kathryn is supposed to be an independent and strong-willed heroine, more often than not she comes across as abrasive and manipulative. The question at the heart of this story is never answered. Why? Why does Kathryn embrace the cause of famine relief so vehemently, to the point that she breaks the law? She isn't Irish, nor does she have any Irish relatives or friends, other than those she meets after she gets involved. Given the absence of an answer, she's a bleeding heart who's out of control. As for the hero, it's hard to like one that seems to take a back seat to such an overpowering heroine. Given the time period and the setting of this story, Jared's continuous acceptance of Kathryn's actions is just one more discordant note in an already uneasy mix.
Sadly, Ms. Needham has once again fallen into the trap that awaits writers of historical romance, characters who just don't belong in their settings. Unanswered questions and implausible character traits leave THE PLEASURE OF HER KISS a disappointing tale.
Jared is likeable too, he had a hard childhood that has left him emotionally scarred, but he is honorable, compassionate, protective and sensitive, even if that is not apparent from the beginning. But when he held the orphan baby they had saved against his body to warm her, it melted my heart.
What is the problem then? Why did I not rate this book with 5 stars? Well, for one thing, the story was slow, and there was not much romance in it. It was more about the orphans and Kate's efforts to save the children. What should have been the background of the story (the potato famine in Ireland, and the starving children) became the foreground, mixed in with some romance.
I applaud Kate's efforts to help the starving children, but as admirable as the enterprise is, that is not what I want a romance novel to be about.
And what about the ending? I don't think it was satisfactory at all. Jared agrees to join in Kate's scheme to help the children, which is illegal, so he is risking everything he has worked so hard for and even his life, if he gets caught. I wouldn't suggest that they abandon the children to their fates, but if Jared was the advisor of the queen, maybe he could have gotten her to help with the situation in Ireland, instead of becoming an outlaw. I guess the story will continue in the sequels with Jared friends, Drew and Ross, but I hate to have to read another book to see the conclusion of a story started in this one. I think it's just a marketing strategy to make you buy the other books and I consider this a cheap trick.
Another thing that was exaggerated was the total "re-decoration" Kate did of the Hawkesly state house. When I first read about the condition of the house, I though she was housing at least a hundred orphans. When I found out it was only 9 children I wanted to laugh. It is not necessary to convert a house like that into an orphanage dormitory to house 9 children. They would have fit in the nurseries! Even if they didn't, I'm sure the house had more than 9 spare bedrooms, since in one of the passages it says that the house has more than a hundred rooms.
Another thing that is debatable is how Jared got to his actual position of Earl and advisor of the Queen. How an orphan escaped from a workhouse would even be in a position to meet the Queen of England, much less give her financial advice? Please!
As you can see, the story has too many holes and inadequacies. The book is not the worst I have read, but I wouldn't recommend it either.