REVIEW: When Harry Met Molly by Kieran Kramer
Dear Ms. Kramer:
I specifically asked for this book to be sent to me by your publishing house because I had received the second one entitled “Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right” (a title I love by the way) and really wanted to read the first book in the series. St. Martin sent me out a review copy right away. I think that the contents of the book match the title pretty well. It’s a charming and light hearted story with enough depth to keep the story from being treacly. What keeps this from being a full throated recommendation is that some elements of the story are pretty unbelievable and require a huge suspension of disbelief. In some ways, I found the book to be intentionally farcical. Whether I’m reading it correctly, I guess I don’t know, but that is the vein in which I took it. And by farcical, I don’t mean funny, exactly but exaggerated intentionally for effect.
Harry is the younger son of the Duke of Mallan. From the moment he was born, Harry was the spare and after engaging in a scandal (kissing his brother’s betrothed), Harry has decided to live down to the expectations others have had of him. His next door neighbor, Molly (and sister of the betrothed), has been a thorn in Harry’s side since she was born. Molly was the one revealed his interlude with his brother’s betrothed. Molly was the one that got him banished to the army. And while the army was to be the making of Harry, he comes home under a cloud of disgrace, rumored to have consorted with his commanding officer’s wife while the rest of his unit suffered an ambush.
One night, carousing with his friends, The Prince of Wales shows up and says that the men must engage in a competition. Each will bring a mistress to a house party and the one with the “Most Delectable Companion” will be excused from the marriage mart for an entire year. It just so happens that Molly, only child of the wealthy Earl of Sutton, and Henry’s nemesis, is at the same inn where Harry and his mistress of the moment stop on the way to the week long competition. Molly is attempting an elopement with her father’s assistant, Cedric Alliston.
Harry is determined to win the contest and looked around for one of the most beautiful available courtesans. One reason Harry is not married already is that he doesn’t want to bring another person into his life who will only be disappointed in him. He’s got enough of those already. When his delectable mistress decides to run off with Cedric, Harry proposes Molly serve as his faux mistress for the competition, thus allowing Molly a way to escape ruin by secretly bringing her back to London and allowing him to win his competition.
Here is a real problem (besides the utter silliness of Prinny appearing through a secret door like some hedonic Santa Claus bringing whores and dildoes to every bad little boy in England). Molly is portraying this tarty prostitute / mistress in front of these other men and no one is going to know it is her when the gig is up just because she is wearing “loads of face powder and rouge”? I just find that idea ridiculous in the extreme. BUT, if you view this as a farce or a story gently poking fun at the genre and its crazy stories, then it kind of makes sense. I thought that the nod to this idea was tossed around here and there such as this line about secret doors in houses:
And then the bookcase opened. The one near the fire.
Harry rubbed his eyes.
“What the hell?” said Arrow.
Harry knew, of course, that every great house had a secret door to somewhere, but he’d no idea his own club did.
Another problem the disneyfied contests Harry made up (he was the host) because one would think a bunch of rich dissolute men would be having their delectable companions do a lot of perverse acts to win this contest but instead the first act is the “kissing closet” which reminded me of teenagers playing spin the bottle. Seriously? Kissing closet? Another contest is who can do the best acting or literary reading? They played charades? Wouldn’t it be “who could give the best blowjob” or “whose body can do the best pretzel act”?
What I did enjoy was seeing Molly blossom making friends with the lightskirts, revealing their various reasons behind becoming lightskirts (many do it because they have no other options) and helping them out in small ways, showing the competitive women that bonding together can have real advantages. This in turn helps Molly who had never had close friendships and had felt ignored by her father (benign neglect) and not as good as her older sister. Further, I thought Harry’s character growth was well done. He goes from being an adamant bachelor to recognizing that being a person no one expects anything from isn’t really all the fun or exciting:
He’d always been free of expectations, hadn’t he? So this notoriety–as well as every man-about-town activity he’d once viewed with enthusiasm and pleasure–was actually somewhat…
Beneath the silly games and the improbable nature of the story were two very likeable characters with insecurities who fall in love with each other and the reader is allowed to see what it is the two love about each other. In a genre of insta lust and insta love, this was a nice departure. In the beginning, these two really did not like each other. Plus, some of the incidents, lines, scenes are pretty funny. Harry has a very wry sense of humor and Molly’s “fish out of water” portrayal provided moments of comic relief. I wavered between a C+ and B-.
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besides the utter silliness of Prinny appearing through a secret door like some hedonic Santa Claus bringing whores and dildoes to every bad little boy in England
HAHA. Yes Prinny was naughty and this book is way over the top..but I liked it. Definitely won’t be a historical for everyone…but I think because she keeps the crazy tone throughout the book it works.
I’m curious to see what she does with book two.
I was happy to see your grades on this book but I didn’t your review(s) because I’m going to start this book today.
Oh, I’m glad this book got a decent review! LOL I picked it up the other day because of the title, and after skimming a few pages I thought I’d give it a chance. Molly looked like a strong female character, and I usually enjoy humorous historicals. I look forward to reading it soon.
I probably won’t ever read the book. (Too many dukes, et al out there for me – I’m a contemporary girl, myself) – but I LOVE the title. It got me to read the review.
That’s maybe not quite as silly as you might think. Just recently the Duke of Devonshire had a sale of items from the attics at Chatsworth. Included in the sale was
Thanks for the review – looking forward to what your review of Kieran’s next book, DUKES TO THE LEFT, PRINCES TO THE RIGHT.
I recently interviewed Kieran for my blog and found her to be refreshing. I wrote that she may be related to the Dos Equis beer man as she was one of the most interesting authors I had met. Read her bio on her website and you’ll know why. This book probably reflects her personality – fun and different. Definitely not a wallflower.
Slightly off topic … but you wrote that you asked the publisher for the first book. Have you considered using your publishing contacts to interview them about the ebook geographical restrictions? We’ve heard from the readers. And a few authors. But what sayeth the publishers? Kieran’s book happens to appear on the Lost Sale website you created.
The author’s name is spelled wrong. I tried to google Kiernan Kramer and kept coming up with nothing until I noticed that the author’s name is spelled Kieran Kramer on the cover.
Ohs.. I am not a massive historical reader, but I’ve been in a hellish reading slump lately, and this caught my eye.
I think it will move to the top of the pile once it arrives.
I really enjoyed this book, although I too found it a bit difficult in several places to accept the storyline without question and just go with the flow. The farcical aspects do pull you out of the story at times. My biggest issue was a scene towards the end, which brought my grade to a B- (3.5 stars). But I did like her writing style and the steamy scenes quite a bit, it was just the story itself that had some hiccups.
I read this a week ago and had the same impression…a fun, if really totally implausible story. I am also looking forward to reading her next book.
@Dana S Thanks for the catch.
@Laura Vivanco It wasn’t really just the secret door because as Harry notes there must be one in every big house. It’s just the whole scene.
Question: You mention Molly’s sister but then say that Molly is the only child of the Earl of Sutton. How can she be an only child if she has a sister? Or am I misreading this somehow?
@Susan/DC: You know, you are right. She is not the only child. I think I got the sense of that because her sister marries when Molly is young and she lives with her father alone for some period of time (after Molly gets out of a finishing school where she was sent as punishment post the infamous xmas party).