Review: The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

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From Goodreads:

He thinks she’s an annoying know-it-all…

Hugh Prentice has never had patience for dramatic females, and if Lady Sarah Pleinsworth has ever been acquainted with the words shy or retiring, she’s long since tossed them out the window. Besides, a reckless duel has left this brilliant mathematician with a ruined leg, and now he could never court a woman like Sarah, much less dream of marrying her.

She thinks he’s just plain mad…

Sarah has never forgiven Hugh for the duel he fought that nearly destroyed her family. But even if she could find a way to forgive him, it wouldn’t matter. She doesn’t care that his leg is less than perfect, it’s his personality she can’t abide. But forced to spend a week in close company they discover that first impressions are not always reliable. And when one kiss leads to two, three, and four, the mathematician may lose count, and the lady may, for the first time, find herself speechless …

New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn’s enchanting third novel in the Smythe-Smith quartet is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud and tug at your heartstrings in equal measures.

 

Julia Quinn continues her Smythe-Smith series in this third installment that features Hugh Prentice and Sarah Pleinsworth. Hugh is the man who, in a drunken state, accused Daniel Smythe-Smith (A Night Like This) of cheating during a card game and challenged him to a duel. Said duel left Hugh with a badly broken leg and Daniel fleeing for his life and freedom. But Hugh somehow convinces his somewhat mad father, the one who’s hunting Daniel’s life and freedom, to cease and desist and was able to find Daniel and bring him back to England. Sarah happens to be cousin to Daniel and to say that she is utterly disappointed with the duel and its aftereffects to their lives, and that she would likely forget about it soon, even if Daniel was back and soon to be happily married, would be the understatements of the Season.

 

I’m a big fan of Julia Quinn. Her Bridgerton series would remain on my favorites bookshelf for as long as I live. However, her Smythe-Smith series was just not at par with her Bridgerton series. I enjoyed Just Like Heaven but A Night Like This was such a disappointment for me. I didn’t care about the characters as much as I would have wanted to and despite the little gems of Julia Quinn’s prose sprinkled within that second installment, in the end it was just an okay book for me. But I’m happy to report that Julia Quinn redeems herself somewhat in this third installment. Her writing and characters shine through this book. One of the things I enjoy in Julia Quinn’s writing, and that I’m happy to note that it is much present in this book, is how it flows well. You know how conversations between characters can be a bit contrite at times or that the flow from one scene to the next can be so jagged, right? Well, Julia Quinn’s writing is nothing like that in this book. The conversations between her characters flow really well.

 

I found Lady Sarah a bit difficult to like in the beginning. As Hugh would initially think, she can be prone to the dramatic and the exaggerated. Her somewhat petty excuses made it hard for me to sympathize with her. Her redeeming feature for this particular point is that she’s the type of person who recognizes that she’s sometimes that person. She admits this truth to herself and I find that admirable about her. As the book progresses, Julia Quinn was able to make her a more complex character. She slowly shows the readers that Sarah is a person of great depth as well.

 

Now, Hugh, though, I absolutely adore. He’s this larger-than-life man who’s weighed down by one grave mistake in his past. He carries this mistake like a cross, bearing his guilt. Even when he was able to make amends and right everything, he hasn’t forgiven himself still. He damaged his leg during the duel and now has a limp and mostly needs a cane when he walks. He’s got all this pain and angst that he never shows to others and he keeps bottled inside him. And I love just how Sarah draws him out of this shell of guilt and hurt.

 

The romance was a slow burn. But that’s the development that I mostly appreciate in romance novels. If I’m to describe how love blossomed between these two, it’s like this continuous meeting of minds and hearts, of sharing your innermost thoughts and your most guarded feelings. This is one of the aspects of the book that I really enjoyed reading. One moment they were just acquaintances and the next thing you know they’ve fallen in love and you can’t pinpoint the exact moment where they did fall in love.

 

I would have liked not to have to read about Hugh’s father but he was a part of Hugh’s story so I understand that plot point. What I didn’t understand was Daniel’s reaction to a conflict in the latter part of the book. It was a bit out of character and a little over the top. And given the severity of what’s at stake, the confrontation with Hugh’s father was less strained and less edged with danger than what I had expected. But having said that, this book is still an enjoyable read for me.

 

Rating: 3 1/2 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

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