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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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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. ClaudiaGC
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 14:23:38

    I’m not sure if it’s only me but I still don’t get this Harlequin Kiss line. Such different themes and the covers are so non-descript.
    Anyway, thank you for writing this review! That book would have totally escaped my notice.

  2. Ros
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 15:23:17

    @ClaudiaGC: I don’t think it’s just you, but I admit I have always loved it in its different incarnations (in the UK it’s existed for several years). They don’t have the fantasy feel of Presents. They don’t have the small-town feel of Romance. They’re whatever the modern equivalent of Friends is. Twenty-somethings with real jobs, usually living in cities, with relatively realistic backstories. They tend to be more fun and slightly lighter on the angst.

  3. Ros
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 15:27:23

    Oh, also, I think I read somewhere that they are changing the guidelines so that the closed-door books won’t be included in Kiss any more. Not sure when that change happens. I’m a bit sad about that, but I guess readers are accustomed to choosing category lines according to heat level. For contemporaries, anyway. In historicals/paranormals/suspense you don’t get that separation by number/explicitness of sex scenes.

  4. ClaudiaGC
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 15:31:41

    @Ros: I agree with you. But I also think the diversity thing Harlequin wants to achieve with this series bothers me the most. I never know what I get with this line. When I read a category book I kind of want this ‘safety’.

  5. Ros
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 17:40:51

    @ClaudiaGC: That’s what I’ve heard people say and it’s weird to me. I feel like I do know what I’m getting with this line, at least as much as with any other category line. It makes sense to me, but apparently I’m in the minority.

  6. Sunita
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 17:46:30

    I have this in my TBR and I’m really looking forward to it. Thanks Jayne!

    Ros, am I right that KISS is the successor of Riva? Because I really liked Riva, but apparently I was in the minority in thinking it had a coherent message?

    ETA: message in the sense of the line having a coherent set of expectations for authors and readers.

  7. Nikki
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 17:50:01

    I thought the friends to lovers storyline was fun but the amnesia was annoying. Otherwise it was a good effort by Hunter who has become a favorite since I discovered the KISS line.

    I think the variety of themes is pretty good. To me it seems like the stories that don’t quite fit in the other standard storylines are getting put in here. The stories seem fresher in terms of the setting, careers for female characters, and their relationship development. I wonder if Harlequin is looking to test out for new lines as well. Perhaps get the younger demographic?

  8. Ros
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 18:29:51

    @Sunita: Yes, it is. It’s now called Modern Tempted in the UK but they are the same books as the Harlequin Kiss line. And I agree about the coherence. But it seems we are in the minority. I’ve heard lots of people (including DA Jane, I think) expressing confusion about the line.

  9. leftcoaster
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 20:36:45

    What is the name of the book that covers the heroine’s other brother’s story? I liked this one enough (for the same reasons tou did) to want to read the other one but gave up after 10 mins of looking.

  10. Liz Mc2
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 20:46:42

    @leftcoaster: There are two previous books in the West family series: Flirting with Intent (Damon’s book), which I happen to have just read and enjoyed, and Cracking the Dating Code (Poppy’s book). They’re both in the Harlequin Presents line, just to confuse things more. I think they came out before Kiss existed, at least in the US. Hunter is one of my favorite category authors.

  11. Jayne
    Nov 18, 2013 @ 02:42:58

    @Liz Mc2: Thanks for posting the info. I had to search for it too after I remembered reading Damon’s book last year. @Liz Mc2: I mean, honestly, how confusing can that mix get. And did you notice that (IIRC) Poppy’s book isn’t even listed as being in this series? You could hunt under the author’s name but if leftcoaster gave up after 10 fruitless minutes, I wonder how many other book sales are lost by this?

  12. Jayne
    Nov 18, 2013 @ 03:05:19

    @ClaudiaGC: The books I’ve tried in the line so far have been hit or miss and, pretty much, all over the place as far as themes. But I do check the offerings every month because favorite authors’ books seem to get put here.

  13. Estara Swanberg
    Nov 18, 2013 @ 09:27:49

    Thanks for reminding me of this particular series of hers, I quite liked the other two books. As I was rather annoyed with that first free KISS book, I haven’t bothered browsing that line again, so I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.

  14. Jayne
    Nov 18, 2013 @ 10:17:44

    @Estara Swanberg: I’m just waiting to see under what line the last brother’s book is going to end up.

  15. Jayne
    Nov 18, 2013 @ 10:19:52

    @Ros: I’ve heard those comments a lot about the Presents line – that people know pretty much exactly what they’re going to get.

  16. Liz Mc2
    Nov 18, 2013 @ 11:36:09

    @Jayne: Hunter has good series order lists on the book page of her website. But I only realized that this was part of a series I had more of in my TBR (bad book hoarder!) because friends were talking about it on Twitter. I don’t understand why Harlequin doesn’t label series better or make it easier to find series order (the search function on their website is terrible). It seems like a recipe for lost sales.

  17. Julie B.
    Nov 18, 2013 @ 11:47:00

    I’m baffled by people who say that the Kiss line lacks coherence. Sure the heat rating varies from book to book, but the same can be said for Medical, Historical, Superromance and even Presents. The Kiss line, in all its incarnations, has always to me been the home of fun and flirty contemporary romances.

  18. Ros
    Nov 18, 2013 @ 12:08:57

    @Liz Mc2: I think Hunter’s been pretty messed around with this series by Harlequin. It’s a shame because I think it’s very good and readers who would have enjoyed this book and the next, which I think she’s working on at the moment, could easily have missed them as a result of all the changes.

  19. Rosie
    Nov 18, 2013 @ 17:57:28

    This book was exactly the kind of light read I needed today. Thanks for the review and bringing it to my attention.

  20. leftcoaster
    Nov 18, 2013 @ 21:05:52

    Thanks for the pointers, I thought my googlefu was really off. I never think to try the author page. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Ms. Hunter, but I’d really like to see her write something longer.

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  22. hilly
    Dec 01, 2013 @ 16:34:40

    ” I like friends to lovers plots but am not as wild about amnesia. Still, in your hands, I thought “what the hell.” “

    An amnesiac plot remains close to a deal-breaker for me in most books; I only persevered here because I wanted to see Trig & Lena’s relationship evolve & resolve. As such, I felt that the story was dragged down and sideways by such a contrivance, and so the story wasn’t as satisfying to me as I would have wished.

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