Dear Ms. Warren:
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book of yours. I know I read your debut books that were released back to back but for some reason, I fell off the bandwagon. I was curious about what your move to Avon would produce and so picked up and read In His Kiss.
Cade Byron, the younger brother of the Duke of Clyborne, has returned from Portugal. Haunted by the war, he wants nothing more than to hole up on his inherited estate and be alone.
…Cade mused, knowing he’d forced his brother out-’out of his house, out of his life. Just as he wanted.
And I do, he assured himself. I want solitude. Solitude and peace.
Taking up the bottle again, he refilled his glass, the last drops of whiskey draining out in a slow drip-drip-drip. Setting the bottle aside, he lifted the glass to his lips.
Meg Amberley, all of nineteen years and orphaned, is on her way to live with her elderly aunt in Scotland when she and her maid get stranded in the snow near Cade’s estate. She literally forces herself on him, not quite ready yet to go live in exile in the north. Meg challenges Cade to eat with her, read with her, play chess with her. She wreaks havoc with his supposed need for solitude, unwilling to abide by his grumpy attitude. Unfortunately, once the snow melts, visitors come and Meg’s presence in Cade’s home leads them into a faux engagement. Cade’s past, however, threatens the safety of their relationship.
The writing was very competent and the book started with a lot of promise. I appreciated Cade’s tortured background and Meg’s desire for flirtation and fun before hieing herself off to the hinterlands. I thought that their banter and their attraction was genuine. What seemed like an internally, character driven story morphed into a suspense driven one. This lent a very episodic feel to the book, one that missed opportunities and motifs that were presaged in the first third.
Any foreshadowing appeared for naught. For example, there were quite a few references to Cade’s overindulgence with liquor yet he has no difficulty turning away from it when Meg becomes important to him. What he endured in Portugal during the war was truly horrific and it is easy to see someone coming out of that experience embittered and dependent on something to dull the painful memories. Yet, like the liquor, the past seems to be easily overcome by the presence of one lithe young thing ala Meg.
As for Meg, she has suffered her own loss. Her father died just five months previous and her mother four years before that. She’s essentially alone in the world and there’s little internal introspection to get us to understand exactly how is it that she is enduring.
The last third of the book was given over to a suspense plot which resulted in Meg acting like a foolish girl in order for her to be placed in jeopardy so that there was external tension placed on Meg and Cade’s relationship. I felt like this was unnecessary given the rich backstory that Meg and Cade had been bestowed. So much could have been made of their loss and mutual victory over the pain of loss. Instead, the suspense devolved into almost a farce as Cade and Meg competed to be more foolish than the other. Once Meg, in particular, had acted with such lack of thought and care, it made every action thereafter grate on my nerves.