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REVIEW: After the Kiss by Suzanne Enoch

Dear Ms. Enoch:

book review Like commenter Corrine, I had admittedly had some issues with the past few historicals. I had enjoyed England’s Perfect Hero so much (as Corrine says “hands-down favorite SE title”) that it may have affected my opinion of the books that followed.

Needless to say, I adored After the Kiss. First, I loved the title. It had real meaning for the story. Sullivan James Waring joined the Royal Dragoons and while he was gone his mother, Francesca Perris, died. She was a tenant of Sullivan’s father, the Marquis of Dunston. Dunston has never recognized Sullivan although it is well known that he is Dunston’s bastard son. Sullivan is sneaking into houses at night to recover his mother’s legacy – 13 paintings that Dunston commandeered and sold or gave away.

One of the paintings was given to the Marquis of Darshear’s family. Sullivan sneaks in, grabs a number of things including the paintings and is about to scamper off when Isabel comes down for a late night snack. They engage in a short conversation and Sullivan grabs and kisses her to keep her from screaming and then escapes only to realize that during the kiss Isabel took off his mask. The next day, Sullivan and Isabel meet in person and Isabel decides she will blackmail Sullivan, just for the fun of it. She makes him sell her a horse and promise to train the horse to be saddle ridden. Suddenly both Isabel and Sullivan’s life change, “After the Kiss.” So simple, yet so clever. (okay, maybe not clever, but I will always remember that this book is about Isabel and Sullivan).

Isabel is a bit delighted that she was kissed by a handsome burglar. She’s a society girl whose life is filled with balls, suitors, and frivolity. Her dance card is always full. She’s courted by the best bachelors in England. She’s considered to be a darling of the Ton. The tale of confronting a burglar is full of dashing and is only going to raise her in the esteem of her peers. Maybe because Isabel’s life is so perfect that she impetuously decides that Sullivan can be brought to heel like anyone else.

Isabel is actually frightened of horses (and for very good reason) and her family is delighted that the well known Sullivan is going to help her ride again. Her brothers are practically drooling being in the same area. The training of the horse and the riding lessons put Sullivan and Isabel in close contact with each other on a regular basis. As they grow closer, Isabel becomes the subject of malicious gossip which turns her from the Belle of the Ball into a near social pariah. Her family speaks to her, her mother warns her of the danger of continued association.

Both characters change over the course of the book. They have to set aside preconceived notions such as how Isabel views herself as a member of the aristocracy and Sullivan has to set aside his prejudice against the aristocracy. I particularly liked how details of the characters were revealed in an offhand way, dropped here and there throughout the story, like the reason that Isabel was afraid of horses and why Sullivan joined the Royal Dragoons. Both details provided depth to the main characters and were added at just the right time instead of telling us all of it right up front.

Isabel and Sullivan are a great match and it’s a wonderful play on the stableboy/lady of the manor storyline. One other thing that I loved were Sullivan’s interactions with his friend Bram:

With a quickly covered frown, Sullivan glanced at his friend and then away again. “I kissed her,” he said shortly.

He felt rather than saw Bram pause. “Beg pardon?”

‘I kissed her, and she took my mask off before I’d realized it. That’s how she recognized me.” Sullivan kept his back to his friend, but it didn’t help. He didn’t need to see Bram eyeing him to know that he’d been an idiot. “I never expected her to appear at Tattersall’s, and it’s not as though we’d ever meet at Almack’s.”

‘What? Apologies. I’m still at the part of the conversation where you said you kissed her.”

‘She stumbled across me.”

‘And onto your mouth?”

and

‘Tell me again why you don’t have any friends of your own station?” Sullivan asked, stripping off his rough work jacket as they entered the cottage and hanging it on a peg beside the door.

‘They’re all jealous of my good looks and keen wit. You, however, know the true, inner me.”

Sullivan shook his head. “The only inner you I’ve seen is when you got sliced on the arm. It’s red.”

‘Precisely. As are your innards. You see, we have so much in common.”

There’s a well placed suspense to the story both in whether Sullivan will get caught and hung for the crime of theft and in whether Sullivan and Isabel can actually be together given society’s constraints against the match. The way in which both Sullivan and Isabel developed made the ultimate resolution very natural. It all seemed organic, as if the story told by you could have actually happened and you were just the narrator. A-

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

16 Comments

  1. SonomaLass
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 15:08:44

    Squeee! I read an excerpt from this book in the back of something recently (a Loretta Chase, I think) and put it on my list. It intrigued me, and now that I know you liked it so much, I will move it to the TOP of the list.

    Thanks, Jane.

  2. Meljean
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 15:25:28

    I really liked this one, too. I think the only thing that threw me out was the idea that a brilliant horse trainer would put a woman petrified of horses (and on only her third or fourth ride, evah) on a three-year-old filly that had only received two weeks of training (and had only been ridden by a stableboy once or twice). So I had to extend the time of their acquaintance in my head so that I wasn’t constantly waiting for Isabel to fall off and break her neck.

    But everything else (and everything that is important to me — the horse stuff made me shake my head, but it’s not on the same level for me as character or plot) was handled in a believable manner — especially her family’s reaction to her romance. I was also surprised that I ended up liking the heroine. After the opening scenes, I wasn’t sure I would, but her character developed nicely. And I loved the resolution with Sullivan’s father; I felt it wasn’t a magical turnaround, but fit exactly what his character had been throughout — it was only the circumstances that changed.

  3. Catherine
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 15:41:51

    I love when you guys review a book that’s already been out for a while. I actually get to talk about it. I really enjoyed watching the slow and subtle transformation of the characters. It’s always nice when I can see them change instead of being told about it.

    Isabel started out very spoiled and something of a twit, but she really grew into herself. I really liked that the story focused on how hard it would be for them to be together with the class difference. It always annoys me when those situations are just brushed aside because of course their love will conquer all. I thought her family’s dislike of the situation seemed pretty realistic too. It’s not all hearts and roses, even when it’s your own family.

    You liked England’s Perfect Hero? I really like the hero in it, but what the heroine tells her father… she really pissed me off. My favorite of SE’s is London’s Perfect Scoundrel. Something about a genuine asshole rake who ends up loving the heroine despite himself… *sigh* gets me every time. I really would have enjoyed the heroine standing up to her family more though.

    Great review!

    *edited for spelling mistake*

  4. Danielle
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 15:43:20

    This book to me out of my reading slump — I loved it!?!!?

  5. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 17:15:03

    I think the only thing that threw me out was the idea that a brilliant horse trainer would put a woman petrified of horses (and on only her third or fourth ride, evah) on a three-year-old filly that had only received two weeks of training (and had only been ridden by a stableboy once or twice).

    And this is why I don’t read “horsey” books. I love Enoch’s books, but I’m not sure I can get past this (in fact, I know I can’t). Bummer for me.

  6. Lori
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 17:23:02

    I have had the same issues with many of SE’s books after England’s Perfect Hero as well. That book was not just my favorite SE title, but one of my all time favorites. So well done. I think it’s hard to top a book like that. I haven’t read this one yet; I’ve been waiting to pick it up at the Literacy Signing at RWA. But I’m so glad to hear that everyone has been loving it!

  7. Keri Ford
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 19:22:24

    I think the only thing that threw me out was the idea that a brilliant horse trainer would put a woman petrified of horses (and on only her third or fourth ride, evah) on a three-year-old filly that had only received two weeks of training (and had only been ridden by a stableboy once or twice).

    I have this book in my TBR stack and I can’t wait to get to it, but on this subject, this is absolutely possible. I know, it sounds a little far fetched, but some horses train easier than others. Some like to learn and once they figure out that’s what you’re doing, they’ll pick up easy. I trained in a 2year old gelding (with help) and was riding him down the road in a small parade in under a month. Car honking at me all the way and didn’t have any trouble. This was only working with him for 3 hours every evening. I couldn’t imagine the possible progress with someone who REALLY KNEW what they were doing and with more time to do it in.

  8. cecilia
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 19:33:49

    I really like Suzanne Enoch, and she’s one of a few romance authors whose books I’ll hang on to when all others are purged to make room for new stock, but I found this one fairly uncompelling. It actually took me several days to get through, and normally, I’ll read a book by her in one sitting. The fact that the heroine was so young was part of the problem. She didn’t seem to do much other than shop or go for rides in Hyde Park, and unlike Sullivan’s fun and interesting friends, her friends seem barely-sketched outlines, of little significance. I was bored by her.

    The other big thing for me was that the likelihood of even her indulgent family being happy with her involvement with an illegitimate horse trainer seemed so implausible to me that even though that thing happens to affect his status in society, I still couldn’t believe it. On the whole, the ending seemed no more persuasive as a result than Loretta Chase’s latest’s did, but the book didn’t have the sparkle for me that Chase’s had to make the read feel worthwhile.

  9. Mireya
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 19:46:11

    Um, interestingly enough I read “England’s Perfect Hero” for review and ADORED it. It was also my first Suzanne Enoch book and even though I have enjoyed the other books from her that I’ve read afterwards, none compares. I most definitely will give this one a try.

  10. Robin
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 20:11:12

    LOL, depending on the breed, my problem would be *anyone* riding a three year old horse (yeah, that’s right, don’t even get me started on racing), as they do not have their growth plates solidified until several years later, making their joints, bones, and ligaments/tendons susceptible to injury from the weight of a rider, especially a scared and inexperienced rider.

    But I will still give this a try based on Jane’s recommendation. The only other Enoch I tried and could not get through was Sin and Sensibility.

  11. vanessa jaye
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 20:31:05

    Yet another book to buy. *sigh* Good thing I just recieved notice that my order of SeaWitch (another of your recs) came in. I’ll pick it, and this book, up at the store tomorrow.

  12. Corrine
    Jul 10, 2008 @ 08:08:32

    I was also surprised that I ended up liking the heroine. After the opening scenes, I wasn't sure I would, but her character developed nicely.

    I felt the same way. The first few chapters I was half tempted to push the book aside, but I’m glad I stuck it out because her growth was phenomenal (definitely one of my favorite flawed heroines).

    The other big thing for me was that the likelihood of even her indulgent family being happy with her involvement with an illegitimate horse trainer seemed so implausible to me that even though that thing happens to affect his status in society, I still couldn't believe it.

    I didn’t get their happiness at all; in fact, the thing I enjoyed was her parents’ real struggle to accept this fact. Of course they did in the end, being great parents, but there were some tense moments, especially between Isabel and her mother.

  13. Patty L.
    Jul 10, 2008 @ 08:24:50

    I had seen this book, but hadn’t picked it up yet, now I have too. This sounds like a wonderful book and I am going to add it to my wish list at Amazon.

  14. Patty L.
    Jul 10, 2008 @ 08:24:50

    I had seen this book, but hadn’t picked it up yet, now I have too. This sounds like a wonderful book and I am going to add it to my wish list at Amazon.

  15. cecilia
    Jul 10, 2008 @ 15:06:48

    in fact, the thing I enjoyed was her parents' real struggle to accept this fact. Of course they did in the end, being great parents, but there were some tense moments, especially between Isabel and her mother.

    To me the struggle seemed minor, even barely there; the tension seemed to be more about Isabel was having sex outside of marriage than the issue of class. To you it seems that they’re great parents; to me it seemed overly idealized. On realizing she’s been “ruined,” their reaction is “You were reckless, my dear, but believe it or not, there are worse things than being ruined” and “he shouldn’t have touched her, but you know, I admire him.” (That second one is somewhat paraphrased, obviously). That’s just too mellow to seem realistic to me.

  16. Vanessa
    Jul 10, 2008 @ 21:37:41

    Oh man :( Usually I’m in sync with DA with the reviews, but I was totally unimpressed with this book. Enoch is awesome, she’s seriously one of my most favorite authors, but I couldn’t get into this at all. I found nothing in it believable. I, personally, didn’t see any character growth in Isabel, I thought she started out bratty and stayed bratty throughout. The thing with the horses really bothered me lol She was horrified of them, and then in like, 2.5 minutes she’s riding all over the place to get to him. The only positive thing I found in the book was Bram, I hope I love his book :/

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