by Gaelen Foley, historical (2006)
Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-345-48010-4
Reading Gaelen Foley's His Wicked Kiss is like flying first class and enjoying the scenery as well as being served champagne by hunky male air stewards and all. And then, suddenly, a trap door opens under my feet and I am sent screaming all the way down, without any parachute, until I fall with a splat on the ground. Ouch. That's how I feel when this book cheerfully goes off the rails about two-thirds into the story.
Our hero Lord Jack Knight, once a pirate who has now settled into a life of semi-respectability and legitimacy in Jamaica, has come to the aid of Bolivar revolutionaries wanting to topple governments and all that. So with a plan to return to England to bring back soldiers to aid the rebels ("And that is always a good idea, if we say so ourselves," go the happy native folks all over the Great Democratic British Empire in the rest of the world), he and his crew are traveling down the river when they spot this woman at the top of a tree in the rainforest. She is Eden Farraday, the daughter of the renowned botanist Dr Victor Farraday who makes it his mission to locate and study plants in the jungles that could be of use in modern medicine. Eden wants to return to an England that she can barely remember but her father is not leaving the Amazon. In fact, he wants to go deeper into the wilderness. Even so, Jack is not willing to give passage to Eden, so all that is moot. But Eden, being the intrepid lass that she is, stows away in Jack's ship.
For the first two-third of the story, this is a pretty enjoyable if somewhat standard ship/road trip romance. Ms Foley has set up an enjoyable dynamic in the relationship between her main characters. There is good sexual tension as well as chemistry between Jack and Eden. Jack is a somewhat standard action hero character and Eden can be confusing at times in that sometime she is pretty brainy and sometimes she acts like an unbelievably innocent child, but their romance has its moments. Ms Foley also sets up the atmosphere very well - the seafaring adventures of Eden and Jack are vividly depicted and I can imagine myself in those scenes.
Once the story moves to England, that's when the trapdoor gives way under my seat and I am sent screaming hundreds of feet down to the ground. Eden starts acting like a complete brat while Jack turns into a boorish donkey. The conflicts in this part of the story feel forced because they arise from the main characters abruptly acting out of character too many times.
I could also do without some of the overly sugary happy koochie-koochie kissie-kissie scenes in this book but that's a very minor complain compared to the painful last third of the book.
The set-up and build-up of His Wicked Kiss would have made it a solid above-average romantic adventure of a tale, but the payoff is terrible in the last third of the story. What happened, Ms Foley?
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