Thursday 3 December 2015

#CBR7 Book 131: "A Kiss in the Dark" by Kimberly Logan

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 1.5 stars

Warning! There will be spoilers for the plot in this review - because I have to pick apart the mediocre plot to fully get my scathe on. 

Lord Tristan Knight has come into the Earl of Ellington after his estranged father died unexpectedly in a carriage accident. As the late Earl blamed his son for the death of Lady Ellington, stabbed to death by an East End bandit, Tristan has been absent for a long time. His younger sister Emily was left alone with a grieving, neglectful father and after the return of her brother has tried to act out and scare away a series of governesses in an attempt to make her brother notice her. When she finally runs away, Tristan realises he's been very dumb.

After traces of Lady Emily's belongings are found in Tothill Fields, the same area where their mother was murdered years ago, Tristan becomes desperate. His butler recommends he seek out the aid of Lady Deidre Wilks, the notorious Viscountess Rotherby, who is known for her charitable acts in the area. When Tristan turns up on her doorstep, Deidre recognises him instantly. She was the pickpocket who lured Lady Ellington down the alley where she was murdered, and she's convinced Tristan has come to bring her to justice. Instead he convinces her to aid him in the search for his sister. Together they comb the slums for the runaway, fighting their instant attraction to one another as they grow ever closer.

Dear readers, this really wasn't a very good book. It sadly wasn't a bad enough book to really be entertaining either, and as it fit into nearly all my reading challenges in one go, there was no way I wasn't going to finish it. Apparently it's Kimberly Logan's debut novel, and as I doubt I could write a whole book, I don't want to be too dismissive here, but people, it's a very sad example of a historical romance.

First of all, Ms. Logan is extremely keen to let the reader know that Tristan and his sister Emily, like their mother before them, have violet eyes. Not blue, but a purply violet. This is mentioned twenty-one times over the course of the book (I went back and searched, because, really). Also, Deidre has strawberry-scented hair (this is only mentioned four times, however).

There is a whole lot of tell, don't show in this book and mostly very clumsy exposition. Luckily, when Lady Emily runs away, shortly after she is eye-witness to the criminal gang boss who unbeknownst to her also murdered her mother stabbing a dude to death, she is rescued one of a gang of kind-hearted pickpockets, the same ones Deidre reads stories to and tries to save from a life of crime by donating food and blankets to. All of them seem uncharacteristically rosy-cheeked, perky and optimistic for orphaned children who mostly have to steal to survive, with the notable exception of Jack, the bad seed, who is sullen, mean, untrustworthy, but allowed to stay with them until he resorts to attempted rape. Then he's driven off, without any of the boys cottoning on to the fact that he'll clearly sell their location and that of their foundling Earl's daughter out to the dastardly villain who's combing the area for her.

Lady Emily, despite being raised in a perfectly nice townhouse and while neglected by her father, not really used to a life of any sort of hardship, has no trouble settling into the drafty, dilapidated hovel the pickpockets stay in, helping with the cleaning, flirting with their young leader and learning pickpocketing right along side the others. Even when Deidre and Tristan show up looking for her, the boys lie about having seen her, because clearly a young noblewoman is much better off living with a bunch of orphan thieves than with her worried brother.

Deidre, once an orphaned pickpocket herself, picked the pocket of Viscount Rotherby and was pretty much adopted by him. Taught to speak, walk, dress and behave like a lady, she eventually married her patron because he was worried how she'd survive once he died. His servants have stayed on in her house and been nothing but supportive of this pickpocket street urchin who is now her mistress. There are all manner of unsavoury rumours about her, but Lady Rotherby is in fact, that wonderful creature amongst romance heroines, the virginal widow.

For all that Tristan darkly imagines the woman he lusted after from pretty much the moment he met her in the arms of a man old enough to be her father, Deidre is of course untouched and inexperienced. Sure, one of her best friend's is a prostitute, but she's never seen a naked man before she does the deed with Tristan. Naturally, despite her inexperience, they both climax simultaneously - and Deidre is hard pressed to imagine how sex could possibly have been better, had Tristan known in advance that she was a virgin. He claims he wanted more time to prepare her, but apart from some time spent giving attention to her boobs, there is no sign of anything like oral sex or fingering, to you know, give her pleasure without his penis being involved. During their first passionate encounter, there was also this description, that stood out to me as I honestly can't even: "It was as if they had been made for each other, two halves of a whole that had been made one."

Neither Tristan nor Deidre really have a lot of interesting character traits. Tristan is very tall, has violet eyes and feels haunted by seeing his mother stabbed to death in front of him (sadly, he doesn't become the Regency version of Batman, that would have been the best plot development!). Deidre, despite her lowly origins, has become the perfect lady, who spends most of her days doing charity works in the East End slum she grew up in, all the while ignoring what society gossips say about her. They both spend an unseemly amount of time thinking about boning each other when they should be worried about the safety of a young girl lost in a very rough part of London. Of course, she's the luckiest little girl that ever was, taken in by friendly Disney pickpockets rather than kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery or something similarly seedy.

Apparently Ms. Logan also wrote a sequel, where a grown Lady Emily is reunited with Peter, the head of the cheerful band of pickpockets who rescue her, now a Bow Street Runner. I have absolutely no wish to read this book, or anything ales that Ms. Logan has written. Her writing may have improved after her debut, but based on this, I'm not giving her another try any time soon.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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