Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

Title: The Sum of All Kisses
Author: Julia Quinn
Publisher: Avon (HarperCollins)
Release Date: October 28, 2013
Where to Buy: Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Books-a-Million
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In this post: 
  • From the Book
  • My Review **contains spoilers**
  • Excerpt (external link to Prologue)
  • About the Author
  • GIVEAWAY

From the Book:

Hugh Prentice has never liked Lady Sarah Pleinsworth, and his opinion is confirmed when he overhears her yammering on about how she must get married this season or she will simply die. He’s never had patience for dramatic females, and the words shy and retiring have never been in Sarah’s vocabulary. Besides, even if he did grow to enjoy her company, it wouldn’t matter. A reckless duel has left this brilliant mathematician with a ruined leg, and now, unable to run, ride, or even waltz, he could never court a woman like Sarah, much less dream of marrying her.

Sarah has never forgiven Hugh for the duel he fought three years earlier, the one that forced her cousin into exile, nearly destroying her family. But even if she could find a way to forgive him, it wouldn’t matter. She doesn’t care that his leg is less than perfect, it’s his personality she can’t stand.

But when the pair is forced to spend a week in close company they discover that opinions--even those firmest held--can, in fact, be altered. And when a kiss leads to two, three and four the mathematician may lose count and the miss may, for the first time, find herself speechless. 



My Review (CONTAINS SPOILERS):

Lord Hugh Prentice is first introduced to us in A Night Like This, where the story between him and Lady Sarah's family first begins. In that novel, Hugh isn't made out to be a terrible person, but rather a seriously flawed one, and perhaps a bit more than touched in the head.

The Sum of All Kisses begins in 1821, at the time of the ill-fated card game where Hugh loses to Daniel Smythe-Smith and calls for a duel. They're both rather drunk, and definitely not entirely in their right minds. Hugh can't understand how he lost (he's a math genius - hence the title!) and Daniel is as pig-headed as his friend, so the duel happens, and Hugh is seriously injured from it. When Hugh's father, the Marquess of Ramsgate, realizes that his only chance at an heir has been stolen, he chases Daniel through many countries, trying to kill him...and Hugh is the one who brings him back to England (really, you've got to read A Night Like This, it's a fabulous read). 

Fast-forward to the here and now (1824). Hugh is a man of few words. He's brilliant, and serious, and never breaks a promise. But he also hates drama...and that is exactly how Lady Sarah Pleinsworth seems to appear each time he's had the (mis)fortune of hearing her voice.

Lady Sarah is cousin to Daniel, and blames Hugh for the scandal brought upon her family. She, like almost everyone in the ton, suspect it to be Hugh (not his father) who kept Daniel from home. She hates him with every fiber in her being, and she believes him to be the reason why she hasn't wed - she missed her first season due to the scandal, and fourteen (this number is very important to her, as she tries, unsuccessfully, to explain to him) men married that season. 

Their first meeting is explosive - it starts with Sarah confronting him and goes as badly as you'd expect from two people who cannot stand each other. Hugh is curious about her and Sarah is disgusted with his very presence, but they are brought together for the wedding of her cousin Honoria and Marcus Holyrod (Earl of Chatteris). As Sarah loves Honoria above almost all else, she'll do anything to make her happy - even if it means babysitting Hugh during the festivities, so it is obvious to the tongue-wagging ton that the Smythe-Smith family welcomes him and accepts his and Daniel's amends. 

We're given our first punch in the stomach in a very unexpected way, which makes it all the more intense. Instead of it being between both protagonists, it's from an exchange between Sarah and her cousin, Iris. This scene stole my breath, and I felt the burn of tears and hollowness in my chest at Iris's callousness. Iris says, in "that scornful way one could adopt only with family and still hope to be on speaking terms the next day," that Sarah is, at her core, selfish. Sarah is shocked, humiliated, horrified, and shaken - with one sentence, Irish rocks her world from its steady axis and makes Sarah question herself from the inside out. 

Hugh's been dealing with his own self-loathing for years. When he meets Sarah after Iris's comments, he affords her a very basic, but very kind gesture - he affords her the chance to turn her back to a very crowded ballroom and allow her a moment to collect herself, under the guise of studying a painting.

This is opens the door to some very smart, quick and wonderful dialogue. You can actually see, through their words, the feelings that begin to develop between them. Even when Hugh dispels the notion that it is his fault she remains unwed (the fourteen men, you see) and tells her to look in the mirror for the real reason, I could see that she valued the truth in it. They're attracted to each other's wit, and they work very well together in navigating the sometimes vicious ton.

Hugh is desperate not to fall in love with Sarah, but as he gets to know her (and her sisters), he begins to value what he saw as dramatics, but realizes it actually just her personality in the presence of her siblings. The interactions between the Pleinsfields are mind-boggingly dizzying. (Really. That's the best term I could come up with the conveys the speed and inanity that only those lucky enough to have close sisters understand.) Their interactions, though filled with more child-like ideas (the youngest is only eleven), are reminiscent of the much-envied relationship of Quinn's Bridgerton siblings. 

I saw Sarah come out of her "family" shell and into her womanhood throughout this book, and I can't say I've seen that in any others by Quinn. I've always adored the fast-paced dialogue and heart-hurting scenes she manages to consistently produce in new ways, but this book felt just a bit deeper than any of her others (I've read them all at least twice...and in the case of Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, probably close to ten times). I enjoyed watching Sarah blossom from a slightly self-centered typical young lady of the ton (who, in theory, put her family above herself) to a thoughtful woman who, in practice,  actually does put her love and her family first.

A warning, though - if this is your first Julia Quinn novel, there are a of couple things you should know:

1. Quinn writes as though she expects her readers to be intelligent. Her characters have phenomenal vocabularies, don't dumb anything down, and are smart themselves. Quinn rarely spells everything out for you, and this is a VERY good thing. It keeps her books engaging.

2. The dialogue in this novel is, perhaps, her fastest to date. I love when characters go back-and-forth so fast that I'm slightly out-of-breath when the scene ends, but in this, the dialogue is not only fast, but so confusing. I think it's intentional. We are, after all, dealing with a family of four sisters who know each other inside and out. Sarah is the eldest, Harriet is an, um, imaginative playwright, Frances (the 11-yr-old) strongly believes in unicorns., and Elizabeth is superior in such a teenage way...their interactions are so startlingly dead-on as to how sisters talk with each other, that I wonder how much fun the author's family get-togethers might be.

3. Pick up every other JQ novel out there. She is a master of human interaction, of human connection. And she'll get you right in the heart every time.

About the Author

#1 New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn loves to dispel the myth that smart women don't read (or write) romance, and in 2001 she did so in grand fashion, appearing on the game show The Weakest Link and walking away with the $79,000 jackpot. She displayed a decided lack of knowledge about baseball, country music, and plush toys, but she is proud to say that she aced all things British and literary, answered all of her history and geography questions correctly, and knew that there was a Da Vinci long before there was a code. Ms. Quinn is one of only fifteen members of Romance Writers of America's Hall of Fame, her books have been translated into 26 languages, and she currently lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest.

You can find her at her website, on Facebook, or at her author page on Avon Romance.


GIVEAWAY



13 comments:

  1. I love all things Julia Quinn. No one writes dialogue like she does. I can't keep count of the number of times I've re-read her books.
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    1. She really is fantastic at what she does. I never tire of the characters in her stories; each time I re-read her books, I realize something new. There's a lot she does in the dialogue to give the reader a sense of who these characters are - both as they present themselves to the ton, and who they really are inside.

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  2. Thank you for the lovely review! I'll try to pop back over here later today in case anyone has any questions.

    Cheers!
    JQ

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  3. I loved this story - I'm having lots of fun with regencies and regency era stories of late....

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  4. Woohoo! And the tours begins!

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  5. I love Julia Quinn's the Bridgertons series, it's hard just to pick a favorite out of the bunch. But if I really had to, I'd go with the book that started it all- The Duke and I. I just loved Simon and Daphne's story!

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  6. It's definitely "Romancing Mr. Bridgerton"! Julia is one of my go-to authors, can't go wrong with her books! :-)

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  7. I totally love Julia Quinn! I have been waiting for this book forever. I could not read the review since it contained spoilers.. I can't afford to get the book right now. So, winning it would be super awesome.

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  8. I've loved every book by Julia - one of the best writers out there in this genre. Can't wait to read this one.

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    1. And to add on, my absolute favorite is To Sir Phillip, With Love.

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  9. Ten Things I Love About You :)

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