Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Sum of All Kisses - Julia Quinn (Avon - Nov 2013)

Series: Smythe-Smith Quartet (Book 3)

He thinks she's an annoying know-it-all

Hugh Prentice has never had patience for dramatic females, and if Lady Sarah Pleinsworth has ever been acquainted with the words shy or retiring, she's long since tossed them out the window. Besides, even if Hugh 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.

She thinks he's just plain mad

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 abide. But when the pair is forced to spend a week in close company, they discover that first impressions are not always reliable. And when one kiss leads to two, three, and four, the mathematician may lose count, and the lady may, for the first time, find herself speechless.

Very good book. It starts out with neither character being particularly likable. Hugh has gotten himself into a really stupid duel. He and Daniel had both had too much to drink when they argued over a card game. Normally the best of friends, neither would back down once they sobered up. When Hugh actually shot Daniel (unintentionally) and Daniel shot back, Hugh ended up with a badly injured leg and Daniel exiled from England because of Hugh's father. Three years later Hugh and Daniel are friends again, but Hugh is still bitter about what happened and blames himself for his stupidity. Sarah is a young woman who tends toward the melodramatic. She blames Hugh for the years that Daniel was away and the shame it brought to the family. When she meets Hugh face to face, she really goes off on him, saying quite a few nasty things to him. She would love to avoid him completely but that isn't going to happen. There are two family weddings happening in a three week period, both of which Hugh has been invited to. One of the brides is worried that Hugh will not feel welcome and asks Sarah to take care of Hugh. She knows that they don't get along, but she does it anyway. 

At this point Hugh and Sarah start to grow on me. The two of them can't seem to say a nice thing to each other, but also find themselves fascinated. I feel for Hugh. He is in nearly constant pain because of his leg. He is also somewhat socially inept. He is a brilliant mathematician but those skills don't help him conversationally as he tends to simply say what he thinks. He also hates not being able to do the things he used to do and feels like he is not a whole man because of it. Sarah tends to be overly dramatic and a bit shrewish, but she does love her family. She's not thrilled to be stuck with Hugh, but she'll do it to make her cousin happy.

As they are stuck in each other's company, Hugh and Sarah start out with their usual bickering. But once they realize that are going to have to get along for the foreseeable future, they call a truce. This allows them to begin to get to know each other. Hugh discovers that he likes Sarah's honesty and forthright nature. Her family is something completely outside his experience and he fascinated by them. I loved the way he related to Sarah's youngest sister Frances. The way he treated Frances went a long way toward improving Sarah's view of him. He also discovered that he was attracted to Sarah in a way that he hadn't been with any woman since the duel. He is also surprised to find that his injury doesn't seem to matter to her. Sarah spends the first part of the book thinking mainly of how the duel affected her family and she herself. It isn't until she spends time with Hugh that she starts to think about the effect it has had on him. When she sprains her ankle she begins to gain an small appreciation of what his life is like. I loved seeing the way that her attitude began to change as she got to know him. She began to like spending time with him and looking forward to their encounters. I really liked the way that his injury didn't make any difference to the way she felt about him. I also enjoyed seeing her stand up for him to others. 

The development of their feelings for each other was quite nice. Once their antipathy was overcome they were surprised to discover how much they liked each other. Hugh's biggest difficulty was the lack of self confidence he had because of his injury. It was fun to see his reaction to Sarah's attitude toward it. I also enjoyed the softening of Sarah's personality as her feelings for Hugh made her more empathetic to others. Things were going along great for them until Hugh's father showed up. He is a horrible man and the things he said and did to Hugh were unforgivable. One of the best scenes in the book comes when Sarah faces him down in order to get what she wants. Her strength there was fantastic. I loved the way it was then followed by showing the love she had for him and the softness she could show because of it. 

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