This review contains spoilers for books in the Sweetest Kiss Series – Just FYI.
After my Grace Burrowes review, I wandered through her Amazon page a little bit, and happened to see a free novella, and downloaded it to my Kindle. That book, A Kiss For Luck, was short, and sweet, and had unusual enough characters that I was interested in the following trilogy of books, and downloaded them once I finished it. The characters in the novella are tangentially related to the main characters – the three Knightley brothers, Attorneys at Law – in the rest of the series, but don’t really make that many appearances, or have any real impact on the remaining plots.
The first in the main trilogy of books, A Single Kiss, is the story of Trent Knightley, single father and family law partner in the brother’s firm, and the firm’s newest, reluctant family law associate, Hannah Stark. Hannah’s back-story is such that domestic law is not where she wants to be practicing, and it’s only supposed to be a temporary stop gap before she can transfer to the company’s corporate division. Of course, things get complicated – and not just professionally. I really enjoyed Hannah’s story and the perspective of a woman who’d grown up in foster care being forced into the family court system again and seeing it through her more mature eyes. “Foster care left a woman with an overactive imagination for all the wrong things,” she muses at one point. At another, once their relationship becomes more intimate, “Now he would leave. Now he’d decide she was too much work. Now he’d make some sweet, sad riposte, and she’d never know – ” I think there’s a lot of ways a person’s history influences their adult decisions, and it was great to see that impact here – without the idea of it being an excuse. It wasn’t “Oh, poor Hannah doesn’t understand families, and therefore she could never have one or be a mother or make good choices.” It was: “Hannah has been on the wrong side of this equation, and can therefore see outcomes more optimistic Trent is overlooking” or “Hannah has some issues related to trusting the wrong people, but you know what? Who doesn’t? So does Trent, and let’s see what they can work out if they communicate like humans should.”
The next book, The First Kiss, is James Knightley’s story. And the best part of of James’ story, for me, was his unabashed player-ness. Seriously: he’s called “a gentleman slut – on hiatus”, no shame involved. Flirting is his major mode of communication, and it’s served him well. He’s a nice guy, who also happens to like to sleep with lots of women. Sure, it’s a romance novel cliche, the guy who gets along with all his exes, but it’s one I don’t mind. (And we could use some ladies with the same talent, IMO.) The heroine in this story – Vera Waltham – is a concert pianist of renown, with a young daughter and a past that has left her hurt and cautious, particularly around charming men. This book gets good marks from me too, because I enjoyed the main character’s chemistry, and sense, and the idea that somethings leave indelible marks – not everything can be overcome.
Which brings us to the infuriating final installment of the series, Kiss Me Hello – where the MAJOR SPOILERS ABOUND. The eldest Knightley brother, Mackensie has been portrayed throughout the series (previous to this book) as mostly taciturn, but sweet, a caring, but abrupt kinda guy. “Another person, another disappointment. Mac knew the sentiment firsthand.” Basically, that sums it up. And when single, foster mom Sidonie Lindstrom moves into his parents’ old homestead (who knew people still used that word?), it seems like he may have met his match: “It’s ok to cry, Sid.” She pokered right up, her back to his chest… “No, Mr. Knightley, it is not…Not when I have a house to sset to rights, groceries to put away, and a child to raise. Crying is for when you have nothing left to do and nobody to do it for. I’ve cried enough.” I liked them both, and their families, and how they came together, that’s why it was so goddamn frustrating when the author chose to ruin a perfectly happy ending – having the couple together in the end – by fixing that was supposedly unfix-able.
You see, a large plot point in the story is that both Sid and Mac are infertile. Not evenly vaguely, ‘maybe/maybe not’ infertile: But solidly, “You are barren, a difficult indelicate word, but I am sterile, which is somehow an even more unfortunate appellation, imbued with not even backhanded compassion,” 100% non-knock-up-able. And yet… three pages left in the book, and guess who’s pregnant? I mean, I get that we’re supposed to be happy for them, but these magical cures need to just f-the hell off, once and for all. It’s not realistic, it’s not a good ending, and it erases the possibilities of happy endings that don’t look like everyone else’s. It’s just so frustrating!
Perfectly good series, ruined (for me, at least) by an author’s completely unnecessary need to fix something that didn’t need fixing. Infertile people exist ~ They get happy endings too, even if they don’t look like how you expect them to look. (Which is not even mentioning that some people don’t want kids, because that is a separate rant, but also a perspective that is lacking in romance novels. Or the fact that – on the very next page – they also agree to foster two additional children, which would have been a perfectly valid happy ending. GRRR.)