This Perfect Kiss
by Christie Ridgway, contemporary (2001)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81256-8

Interesting that this is the second book I read this week that has the hero who's doing the Miss Shy-Shy act. The first, Catherine Coulter's The Scottish Bride, didn't work because I find the hero boring, anally-retentive, and is in dire need of some dominatrix wearing a lethal stiletto high heel to kick that stick up a few inches higher up that a-hole. The hero Rory Kincaid in Christie Ridgway's This Perfect Kiss is boring, anally-retentive, and is just in need of someone to shove that stick up higher until he squeals, but this book is divine.

Go figure. Sometimes I can't predict my own reading preferences.

But a great zany dose of no-nonsense humor, great writing, a deliciously fun heroine, and a healthy dose of befuddlement to plague the hero go a long way in making up for the hero's buttplug antics.

Rory is running for Senator-hood under the Blue Party umbrella. For those who will throw up at the mention of elections and politics, don't worry - politics is practically nonexistent. In fact, Rory is more like a pop star than a politician in Romance Novel Land where all you need to succeed in politics seems to be good looks and lots of money.

Anyway, Rory's father and grandfather were chronic philanderers when they were alive, and now Rory is determined to never ever let his penis rule his actions. Especially now that he is left to take care of his four-year old Aunt (his grandpa was pretty industrious in making the most of his last years on earth) as well as to convince everyone that he is not his father or grandfather.

But too bad - here comes Jilly Skye, beautiful, gorgeous, legs all the way to her armpits and enough chest to make Pamela Anderson Lee regret removing her implants. She opens a vintage garment store, and she is here to clear Rory's newly inherited mansion of vintage clothes. But she turns up in some almost-not-there garment. Rory's libido skyrockets beyond the stratosphere and explodes into a firework display of testosterone technicolor.

Actually Jilly has a mission. Rory's aunt is the daughter of her friend Kim, and she is out to see if dear lil' Iris is okay and if possible, convince Rory to let Kim take back her daughter. But Rory and she get in a rather compromising position thanks to the wonders of the webcam (no, no, not that sort of caught-pants-down thing, more the pity), and Jill agrees to play sweetheart to save Rory's image.

It doesn't take a psychic to know how things will turn out from there, right?

Now, Rory is an a-hole. He blames his lust, his loss of control, everything on everyone but himself, and he takes for granted that it is Jilly's obligation to play his sweetheart and save his sorry ass. Which goes to prove there is no such thing as a perfect politician, if you ask me. The more they try to be perfect, the bigger the a-hole they are. But this time, I don't wish to kill Rory, because his relationship with Jilly is laced with so much fun humor.

Jilly is a woman who isn't afraid to live. Fun, bubbly, and knows where she stands in life, she more than makes up for Rory's mulish behavior. TPK is absorbing in its humor as well as its impressive emotional depths. Rory's an a-hole, but his slow change is realistically done and I am willing to put away the Scud missiles and only knock him in the head with a rolling pin towards the late third of the story.

Then the author has to do the Drop-The-Bombshell thing in a way that makes me grit my teeth and want to kill Rory. I won't explain what happens, but suffice to say, Rory's character development gets a nice kick in the butt, sending him back to square one. The mule is back. Then after a few more chapters and I get the obligatory happy ending. Um... what is going on? What a self-sabotage. I feel cheated. I want to see Rory on his knees, dragged along the ground as he screams and weeps while clinging to a fed-up Jilly leaving. "Don't leave me, please! Waaa!" he'd wail and Jilly would whack him with her luggage case, "Get off me, you mule!" That would be a nice scene.

The secondary romance between Kim and Rory's brother is nice, but I don't really appreciate it much because Kim turns out like a complete idiot. A woman who marries a well-known ancient philanderer and cheat for non-monetary gains can't be too smart. Kim comes off a spineless, weepy, passive ninny. It's the ninny part I can't stand. But never mind, Greg, a very nice hero compared to his brother, seems up to his babysitting duties.

TPK has me laughing until my ribs ache, and for most of the time, rooting for Jilly and Rory. In fact, I want them to be together, and considering Rory's anal antics, that's saying a lot. The chemistry and sexual tension are just perfect, and the humor and the emotional poignancy just fit like hand-in-glove. The emotional part isn't that substantial, but it's not lightweight either. It provides adequate substance to this romantic comedy.

All in all, apart from that rather ineptly-executed Big Drama towards the end, This Perfect Kiss pretty much lives up to its title. Ooh-la-la indeed.

Rating: 88

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