After the Kissby Published 03 Oct 2000
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Margaret Esterly is desperate—and desperation can lead to shocking behavior! Beautiful and gently-bred, she was the essence of prim, proper, English womanhood—until fate widowed her and thrust her into the poverty overnight. Now she finds herself at a dazzling masked ball, determined to sell a volume of scandalous memoirs to the gala's noble host. But amid the heated fantasy of the evening, Margaret boldly, impetuously, shares a moment of passion with a darkly handsome gentleman...and then flees into the night.
Who was this exquisite creature who swept into Michael Hawthorne's arms and then vanished? The startled, yet pleasingly stimulated Earl of Montraine is not about to forget the intoxicating woman of mystery so easily—especially since Michael's heart tells him that he has at last found his perfect bride. But once he locates her again, will he be able to convince the reticent lady that their moment of ecstasy was no mere accident...and that just one kiss can lead to paradise.
After the Kiss Reviews
The first 150 pages of this book were amazing! I couldn’t put it down! It was such a page-turner. Then it slowed way down. It became pretty boring and predictable. Also, I felt like the hero changed, and I became angry with him. Average historical romance. Not the best Karen Ranney book out there.
Margaret Esterly is a widow. Michael Hawthorne, Earl of Montraine, happens to meet Margaret quite by chance and becomes instantly obsessed with her (overthrowing his reserved, planned life as a cryptographist) . Margaret is forced to sell one of three of volumes of The Journals of Augustin X, which are a risqué collection of travel stories. Someone wants the collection for their own, and is willing to do whatever it takes to obtain them. Can Michael bridge the gap in their social classes to make Margaret his own? And if he does, will he be able to keep Margaret safe?
A new found fixation with my Kindle, contemporaries & MM had me set this aside for quite some while and I do regret it because it is a beautifully written book full of rich imagery, sensual scenes and a H/h who are actual adults and ones anyone would be glad to know as they are smart, funny and able to have direct conversations. There are no Big misunderstandings but real actual conflict that is resolved in a non Fairy-God-Mother kind of way.
Plus there are passages like this:
"Until she'd known him she'd never experienced sorcery. Never known what it was like to feel passion. For the sheer blinding alchemy of that she would ever be grateful. But being with him was oddly more. It was the taste of an orange, the smell of a rose, the touch of the first spring raindrop expanded and multiplied and folded over itself. The meaning, perhaps of joy."
"Dawn was making an appearance on the horizon. The sky was growing lighter; its midnight blue fading reluctantly like a reveler not ready for his bed. Across the horizon streaks of pink, a hue to match the the color of Margaret's cheek, warned of the sun's approach."
I'm pretty sure I may be giving this a reread at another time when because I'm sure it would benefit from an active read rather than a scattered read over a couple of months.
Recommended for lovers of smart & sensual historicals.
Pass the Azo, please.
Memories Schmemories: After the Kiss by Karen Ranney. Isn't it wonderful when you are hooked from the very first paragraph? From the opening pages to the end, this book was a treat to read. It starts out with a fire in a book store/home of our heroine Margaret. Margaret is able to grab a box by the bedside, awaken her maid Penelope and escape through a window. Margaret's husband is not so lucky, he perishes in the fire. Before this first chapter ends we are also introduced to the villain of the book. There is never any question in this story who was responsible for Margaret's husband's death; the only question we left with is when will this guy strike again.
Time passes. Margaret and Penelope are sharing a small house in the country, but they are in need of money. When her house was destroyed by the fire, Margaret happened to grab a box and in that box were three volumes of what was called the Journals of Augustin X. Well, these journals are in actuality bawdy books and there are a number of men who are willing to pay a pretty high price to own them. While Margaret has enjoyed viewing the books and having her eyes opened a bit on just how flexible a human being can be, she also likes to eat. She decides to take one of the books to the highest bidder. She journeys to London and arrives at the house of the man who is going to buy the journal. Well, it just so happens he is having a costume party. After the transaction Margaret wonders out onto the terrace, attracted by the music and there she meets Michael Hawthorne, Earl of Montraine. Michael mistakenly thinks her shabby clothes are a costume and that she is an aristocrat. Michael and Margaret are immediately attracted to each other and not just physically. They share a moment of lovely companionship and a kiss. But, much like Cinderella, Margaret disappears into the night leaving Michael to wonder about her. Or should I say obsess about her, because she becomes someone he just simply cannot forget.
Time passes. Penelope wants to marry a local man and Margaret wants to give her something special. In order to do that she decides she must sell the second book. She returns to town, only this time instead of the man she sold it to the first time she finds Michael waiting for her. For months both Michael and Margaret have been obsessing about each other. Michael has asked his friend to let him know if the mysterious woman makes contact with him. He has been unable to concentrate on his work, which is cyphering (he's a spy or something). He must get her out of his system - somehow. Let me just say - this scene was hot! He asks her for one more kiss, only a kiss. They go to his house for that kiss. Well, it turns into something a great deal more than just a measly little kiss. Fan please. It is a night full of hot, pulsing, sweaty stuff. Then Margaret leaves in the morning, because she must. She has no place in Michael's life, she knows it and he knows it. But he cannot forget her, so he finds her. Michael must find a rich wife, so the only thing that Margaret could be is a mistress. They are people from two different social strati and they are really really really attracted to each other.
Time passes. Margaret is pregnant but doesn't tell Michael. She turns down Michael's offer of being a mistress, but maybe they could spend a week together. Then after the week go their own way. We all know that much like the "only one kiss", only one week will not work out. But, they enter into this relationship. Then his mother from hell shows up. She figures out that Margaret is pregnant, spills the beans to Michael. Michael and Margaret marry. The story does not end with the wedding.
This book is so much more than the average oh-hum "I'm not good enough I can't marry you but you are really hot" story. Michael and Margaret are adults, they talk, they discuss their problems, they find solutions and they support each other. There isn't any rich relative who turns up to give Margaret the money Michael needs, no siree. Michael comes up with a solution - a wonderful solution - a realistic solution. All the characters in this story are fleshed out but even though this is a character-driven story there is also a mystery to be solved. Much to my delight, the mystery does not detract from the wonderful love story being told; it only adds to it. The whole book balances nicely. It's well-paced, nothing is strung out longer than it should be.
If I had one quibble with this book it would be the abundance of sex. I feel for you Margaret, I know you had to have developed a bladder infection with all that friction that was going on in your mommy parts. And, what's with the ribbon. I had to read the ribbon scene a couple of times just so I could figure out what Michael was doing with it. Authors: please include ribbon footnote instructions in all of your books.
Bottom line. This was a wonderful book, complex characters, great pacing, quiet tender moments, hot stuff - a great book. You really should read it if you haven't by now.
Not a big fan of the gender dynamics going on in the hero’s perspective in this book. One of those cases where I liked the wya the heroine was written except that I couldn’t understand her actions and reactions as regarded the “hero”.
I usually don’t fall for this kind of story: a noble, a privileged, falling in love with a plebeian (a HEA it’s not believable and I dislike the prince syndrome: I’d like to think there were worthy plebeian males). That’s why I usually don’t read regency. But I saw a good review from a GR friend and I gave it a try. I’m happy I did it.
In the middle of the book I just fell in love with Margaret and Michael, earl of Montraine. They are wonderful characters, different from what’s usual in this kind of romance, and their love is just beautiful.
This book deserves more stars (at least one more), but my historical skepticism doesn’t let me be more benevolent. But it deserves being read all the same.