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Kelly Hunter

REVIEW:  What the Bride Didn’t Know by Kelly Hunter

REVIEW: What the Bride Didn’t Know by Kelly Hunter


Dear Ms. Hunter,

You know I just have to look at blurbs whenever I see your name now. The one for this book got me interested in trying it and once I got started, the name of Lena’s other brother kept ringing vague bells until I realized that, yes I did read his book. I like friends to lovers plots but am not as wild about amnesia. Still, in your hands, I thought “what the hell.”

Australian Special Ops expert Trig Sinclair has always kept his romantic distance from childhood friend and colleague Lena West – ever since Lena’s brother Jared gave Trig some pointed “keep off” guy glances about her when they were all teenagers. But that hasn’t stopped Trig from wanting a future with Lena.

Now Jared’s been missing for 19 months and Lena’s afraid of what he might have got himself into trying to solve the mystery of who shot and nearly killed her on an ops. Lena heads to Istanbul to try and just see if he’s alive and the West family rallies Trig to go along with her since her recovery has left her a bit wobbly on her feet.

Trig thinks it’s the perfect time to finally see if he can move their friendship to something deeper, something permanent but an attack in the bazaar leaves Lena with no id papers, a spotty memory and Trig claiming to be her husband to expedite her treatment in hospital. As days go by and Lena still can’t remember, he reluctantly keeps up the charade, nobly tries to keep his hands off her and gets tortured by her happy attempts to consummate their “honeymoon.” But what’s going to happen the day she realizes what he’s been up to?

Ma Gawd but Lena and Trig can be stubborn people. Lena in not believing in her own self worth and Trig in his determination to finally win her love. The reason Lena doesn’t annoy me the way other “Oh, I’m just not beautiful/smart/tall/endowed/whatever as other women!” heroines normally do is that she has unconventional athletic beauty and that everyone in her family is a damn maths genius. Since I’m not a math genius either, I’ll cut her some slack about that. To your writing credit, her character stays stubborn to the end – she just shifts her focus to trying to get the details of their short “married life” out of Trig and then entice the poor bastard into bed. At one point I did wonder if she was just deliberately pulling his chain as a way to get back at him but when her memory finally returns, I realized she wasn’t. It was still fun to watch.

He took a deep breath. ‘You also need to know what

you do to me when you book us into a hotel as hus-

band and wife. Because it gives me ideas.’

She didn’t understand. He’d peppered her with too

much information and not enough time to process any

of it. ‘I— Pardon?’

‘I want you.’


He looked at her as if she were a little bit dim. ‘Yes.’

‘But…you can’t.’

‘Pretty sure I can.’

‘I’m broken.’

‘Nah, just banged up.’

‘I’m me. ’

‘Yes.’ He was looking at her as if she were minus a few brain cells again.

Trig is a wonderful guy. He’s wanted Lena for years – especially after he watched her almost die on the mission – and now that she’s as healed as she’s ever going to be, by golly he’s going to do something about it. The man has laser focus and it’s all on Lena. Good thing he’s strong enough, mentally and almost physically, to hold out long past when lesser men would have caved to her sexy nightie and bed snuggling efforts. Trig is a rock in getting Lena well and looking out for her – albeit helped along by the knowledge that her brothers will gut him otherwise.

“I can’t find my honeymoon nightie. Do you have it?”

Trig opened his mouth as if to speak and then shut it again with a snap. He shook his head. No.

She looked beneath the pillows. “Did we rip it?”

Still no sound from Trig.

“Could be the cleaner mistook it for ribbon,” he said at last.


“There wasn’t much of it. But there were bows. Lots of bows. Made out of ribbon.”

“Oh.” Lena tried to reconcile ribbon nightwear with the rest of her clothing. “I really should be able to remember that.”

She passed her husband on the way to the shower and when she stepped beneath the spray she could have sworn she heard him whimper.

When the truth is remembered, Lena is rightly furious yet also eventually willing to listen to her own conscience and her sister-in-law’s advice about how much work she put into getting “her husband” Trig into bed and how mightily he resisted. And then they talk. Well they’ve talked all along – and the wonderful dialog of yours I enjoy so much is alive and well here – but they talk to get over the white lies and on to a future together.

‘Can we ignore them and get married now?’ Her voice still wobbled.

‘I’m ignoring them. I can’t even see them. There’s only you.’ He closed his fingers over hers and brought her fingers up to his lips.

And the amnesia? Well it’s still not my favorite pIot device but here it wasn’t too bad. I assume that Jared’s story will appear eventually but I’m glad this one focused tightly on just Trig and Lena and them finally getting to the altar. B


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BOOK CLUB: The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter

BOOK CLUB: The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter

the one that got away1) What was the genesis of your story?
A bunch of romance author friends and I were comparing Presents alpha heroes to the likes of Christian Grey and Gideon Cross. Dominant behavioral traits defined them all, yet Presents heroes didn’t really dominate in the bedroom. Was this a line constraint? Given the success of books like FSoG and BTY, would it stay a line constraint? After a hard day at the office, did a 21st century alpha hero really just want to come home and sub?

We talked about incorporating D/s sexual dynamics into sexy category romance. Would the sex scenes need to be fully realized and described? Could you load up the subtext and go easy on the details? Would glossing over those details limit exploration of character? Limit the resolution? Would readers feel short-changed? I really wanted to explore these questions, preferably within the framework of story.

2) What is the theme or overriding concept, as you understand it, behind the KISS line?

I put this question through to KISS Senior Editor Bryony Green.

Bryony: Harlequin KISS is flirty, fun, fresh and contemporary! It is a brand new series that reflects the way 25 – 35 year olds actually find love today. It’s about spirited, independent women – their lives, work, friendships and how they meet the guy who’s right for her. And when you’re talking about women who know what they want and don’t need a man to make their life complete, these men have to be super-hot and alpha in a totally 21st century way! The guidelines are here:

3) The balloon covers indicate a fairly light hearted romance but the story of Evie and Logan is fairly dark. Did the tone evolve or did you know going in, that this would be a darker romance.

I knew going in that this story would be darker and more experimental than my usual. I got the go ahead from editorial and started writing. The cover came later. More on the cover later.

4) Was there any thought to Evie and Max having a romance? Why or why not?

The first scene I wrote for this story was that of a newly engaged Evie meeting Max’s family for the first time and realizing that she’d once been madly in love with his brother. I liked the inherent conflict. Max’s brother would be the hero. It could have gone either way at that point, but that was the direction I chose. Given that Max wasn’t going to be the hero, I needed that initial engagement to be one of convenience so that he could walk away unscathed. Cue the set-up of Evie and Max agreeing to marry in order to access his trust fund. I don’t often work backwards to get to the set-up, but this time I did.
5) Logan’s feelings toward Evie were conflicted due to his past. What changed in the intervening time? His control or his feelings overcoming his desires?
For me, what changes for Logan is that he learns how to trust. Logan trusting in himself more, as he tries to navigate an intense love relationship without doing damage. Logan trusting that Evie can hold her own with him and rein him in, both in the bedroom and out, should he ever go too far.

6) The dark feelings that Logan had exhibited themselves in a sexual manner yet the sex scenes are rather restrained and there was no attempt to work those control issues out in the bedroom. Was that intentional? Why did you choose to go that route?

Initially, I wrote sex scenes for the story that included pain play and breath play. This let me explore bedroom control issues more (though I never fully resolved them) and shone a different light on character. It made Logan more confronting and the story very dark. If I’d had to label the story at that point, I’d have called it erotic romance. Not a problem. I’d gone into this story perfectly willing to pick at the edges of what was sexy category romance and what was not. I took the breath play out. Reworked the characterization. Took the pain play out. Tweaked. Put it back in. Tweaked. Took it back out (drove myself nuts…).

Other factors came into play. I’d written the story with a Presents Extra audience in mind but then my publisher told me that the story was going to open for KISS. Fantastic, but the potential audience for the story had just become a mystery box. I saw the cover (And it’s sweet and romantic and contemporary and… doesn’t fit the story at all). My story had identity issues. My cover had… balloons.

I have no sway over cover concepts. And this cover was pulling double duty in representing not just my story but an entirely new series. Some KISS stories don’t have explicit sex scenes in them at all.

I took another pass at the story. By now I’d pushed just about all of the sexual pain play and a lot of the sexual power play into subtext. Would readers feel short-changed by this decision? I’d soon find out. I’d wanted to find out.
*note to self: Next time you get curious, Kelly, step away from the manuscript and go visit Madagascar. Plenty to satisfy curiosity there.

7) Do you intend to write more for the KISS line or the HP line? Or, in other words, what are your next writing plans?

I’ve another KISS story on the go. Amnesia. I love this trope. It’s my duty as a proud category romance author to twist this trope at least once. As for writing straight Harlequin Presents, I’ve never actually written for HP editorial, even though 3 or 4 of my stories are packaged as such. It’s complicated. Will a simple ‘I’ve no plans to write for HP editorial’ suffice?

I have a single title contemporary romance in the works and a fifteen thousand word story that’s coming out in May as part of an Entangled Anthology called When Honey Got Married... . Collaborating with Kimberly Lang, Anna Cleary and Ally Blake on this project was an absolute joy. Four linked stories. One big Louisiana society wedding… My story’s called Nina Tempted The Lord. Yes, really.

Thanks for the Book Club pick, Jane, and the opportunity to answer a few questions


Over to you readers. What were your thoughts on “The One That Got Away” by Kelly Hunter.