Kiss Me Quick
by Margaret Moore, historical (2003)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-052620-3

While I'm glad I don't have to use bad puns like End It Quick or Kill Me Quick in this review, Margaret Moore's Kiss Me Quick has an appealing premise and an appealing couple, but she fails to capitalize on her story or characters. But we'll get to that later. First, the story.

It's a cute one. Diana Westover is a bluestocking who dreams of writing her own Gothic novel. She's in Bath, a daughter of a minor nobleman, maybe to look for a husband while living with two dotty old dingbats, but her real dream is to write her book and get it published. Her muse and inspiration is the purportedly rakish hero Edmond, Viscount Adderley. Actually, Edmond is far from a rake. He's a closeted bookworm who reads - gasp - Gothic novels. No, he doesn't read them, he devours them.

They keep stumbling into each other at ballrooms, bookstores, mazes, and more until they realize that they're falling in love. There's a minor subplot involving her Boring Suitor who conveniently has a bad side to make his disposable while there's a shameless hussy who tries to snare him with revealing dresses. Inadvertently, these two will somehow stumble their way into a happily ever after.

This book is charming. I like Diana, even if she's a cookie-cutter Regency bluestocking heroine, because while she's naive and puts too much emphasis on love versus pragmatism like only a romance heroine would, she's far from stupid. She also manages to pull off a few very good one-liners, stunning and charming the hero (and sometimes herself) in the process. Edmond is a nice hero, and I always have a weakness for bookwormish heroes, especially when this bookworm doesn't fall into the "I'm so intellectual I'm practically a robot" nerd hero stereotype.

Unfortunately, there are several character points that are left dangling - I still can't really reconcile the rake and the bookworm aspects of the hero, because it doesn't feel as if the author has done enough to make Edmond a more fleshed-out character. But the bigger problem is how the story ends up moving in circles. The repetitious meetings in the ballrooms, bookstores, and more ballrooms begin to bore me. The author seems more intent on creating humorous scenes - and some scenes are humorous - rather than to actually move the relationship of the main characters forward.

I've also been spoiled by the last few books I've read, where there are great character developments happening, so I'm even more disappointed by the lack of strong character development in Kiss Me Quick than I usually would be. Diana is charming at times, but she's so distressingly cookie-cutter that I really wish the author has taken a little time and effort to, I don't know, make Diana's every thought, action, and principles less predictable. I also wish that the author has made the secondary characters and plot a little less obvious and formulaic.

There are plenty of charming moments in Kiss Me Quick, but the author's playing it safe with her characters and plots never allow the book to rise above being a merely acceptable, charming, but unmemorable read. Diana and Edmond are charming enough and their shared passion for books really appeal to me, but it's just too bad that everything else about this book soon becomes tedious in its strict adherence to the romance formula. This is a case where any tweaks to the formula - even minor ones - would have been welcomed by this reader. The characters deserve better than the story they are stuck in.

Rating: 75

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