Saturday, January 10, 2009

Review: After the Kiss

Title: After the Kiss
Author: Suzanne Enoch
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Notorious Gentlemen/Book 1
Published: July 2008

She surprises him. He kisses her. She blackmails him. He calls her bluff. What do a horse breeder by day/thief by night and a lady have in common? Everything and nothing at all. But Sullivan Waring and Lady Isabel Chalsey don't let that stop them from falling for each other.

After the Kiss starts off with a bang and doesn't stop. My first Enoch novel and I was enchanted. It's a story of revenge and the righting of wrongs. Along the way Sullivan and Isobel discover that their place in society doesn't always define them. They can and do have value beyond what status the ton confers on them. The discovery of not only who they are but what they are capable of plays a major role in the decisions they make regarding their relationship.

Blackmail. It's an ugly word but one that Lady Isabel Chalsey doesn't shy away from. She is determined to find out what Sullivan Waring was up to the night he broke into her family's home, stealing from them. So she sets off on her quest by purchasing a horse from him, convincing (blackmailing) him to break the horse to saddle and teach her how to ride. She is a strong heroine and not at all shy about going after what she wants. I got the impression that her parents indulged her and even spoiled her some but she wasn't at all bratty or irritating.

Isabel is a fairly typical lady of 1813 London. She grew up in a loving home with her parents and brothers. Isabel is young, only 19, but has see two seasons of London's balls and soirees. And even though she has had a number of proposals she remains unwed. When she meets Sullivan he catches her interest with that kiss and keeps it. She practically becomes obsessed with finding out why he is stealing.

I enjoyed the character of Isabel and for the most part forgot her young age unless it was mentioned. I think her maturity was more a product of her upbringing than her experience with the world. While she is a member of the aristocracy she is not a snob and cares deeply about her family. Without wanting to she comes to care deeply for Sullivan despite his questionable background.

Sullivan Waring returned from war injured and in grief. His mother died while he was fighting the French and he returns to find all of her possessions have been taken. If that isn't bad enough they have been taken and given to member of the ton by someone who Sullivan despises. So he sets out to get them back, specifically her paintings. His day job is as a horse breeder, something he excels at and has earned a reputation as one of the best. But at night he takes the risk of breaking into the homes of the ton and stealing away with their belongings.

While he doesn't have many friends he does have a few close friends. One I enjoyed every time he made an appearance on the page was Lord Bramwell Johns or Bram. His dry wit and cutting remarks gave the story an insightful look at the male friendship. Sully and Bram might trade insults with each other but they obviously have a strong bond of friendship that was only strengthen during the war. Sully was an interesting character with a definite reckless streak running through him.

As Sullivan and Isabel's relationship develops you can see how they are alike despite their different upbringings and stations in life. The ups and downs they experienced seemed real and completely plausible. The fact that Sullivan is a respected horse breeder but not deemed good enough for Lady Isabel is a fact that is brought up more than once and by various people. Isabel herself realizes this but can't seem to help being attracted to Sully. Sully himself thinks he's not good enough for her and tells her to stay away from him. Partly due to him not wanting her associated with him since he is a thief.

There were a few antagonists that made life difficult for Sully and Isabel but there was also assistance from some unlikely sources. As for the dialogue between Isabel and Sully I found believable and enjoyed their discovery of each other as Sully taught Isabel how to ride. The dialogue between Sully and Bram was a real treat and certainly got me interested in Bram's story. The little insight's into Bram's character show he is not always what he seems. Not always the scoundrel is pretends to be.

The next book in the series is called Before the Scandal and features Lieutenant Colonel Phineas Bromley as the hero. He is good friends with Sully and Bram and makes a brief appearance in After the Kiss. Before the Scandal is out now. Book three, Always a Scoundrel, Bram's story will be out in April. Suzanne Enoch also writes contemporary romances in addition to her historicals. You can find her back list at her website.

Rating: A

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