With This Kiss: Part One
Lady Grace Ryburn, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Ashbrook, has fallen wildly in love with Colin Barry, a dashing young lieutenant serving his country in the Royal Navy. When he returns home to exuberant celebrations, will he even notice the quiet wallflower he grew up with … or will he fall for Grace’s sparkling, gorgeous sister?
With This Kiss: Part Two
Lady Grace Ryburn has accepted another man’s proposal after the love of her life, Lieutenant Colin Barry, asked for her own sister’s hand in marriage.
But when Colin returns home from the wars, injured in body and spirit, will she be able to turn her back and marry another? Or will she throw away every rule her mother taught her and try to seduce a man who has shown no interest in her kisses?
With This Kiss: Part Three
Lieutenant Colin Barry returns from the wars knowing that he has no right to steal Grace from the arms of her fiancé. Yet the same warrior’s spirit that won so many battles at sea is prompting him to throw propriety to the winds, imitate his pirate father, and simply take what he most desires!
With this Kiss is a story that was published in a kind of serial form, in three separate instalments.
The protagonists are Lady Grace Ryburn, who is the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Ashbrook (The Ugly Duchess) and Colin Barry, the adopted son of Gavin Barry who also featured in that novel and subsequently in his own novella (Seduced by a Pirate).
The story falls, naturally, into three distinct parts. In the first – which was my favourite – Grace and Colin meet when they are both quite young (Grace is ten, I think) and he is about to join the navy. On one of the rare occasions they meet subsequently when Colin is on leave, Grace discerns that Colin is not completely happy with his lot – and he isn’t. This is a time of war and he hates the killing and having to watch his men die while he comes through without a scratch. He doesn’t tell Grace all this, of course, but sensing his unhappiness, Grace asks if she can write to him – and he agrees.
The correspondence – such as it is, because he rarely answers her letters – continues for several years, with Grace regaling him with tales of home which are full of warmth and humour. Grace is also a talented artist and frequently adds drawings to her letters as she feels that there are some things she can only communicate through pictures. I loved the description of the picture she sent of her as a wallflower – a little mouse in the corner of the ballroom.
Of course, Grace has fallen deeply in love, but when Colin comes home on leave and is dazzled by her beautiful sister, Lily, she is devastated. Her parents had no idea Grace was writing to Colin, and kindly but firmly tell her that she must now desist. Colin has offered for Lily, and although her father turned him down, feeling that Lily was too young to marry, Grace’s world is turned irrevocably on its head.
What really made this part of the story for me was the depiction of Grace’s love for Colin through her letters and her thoughts. She never had any real hope of a return – he’s beautiful and could have any woman he wanted – but even so, she continued to love him and to try to help him through her letters, sending him stories of home which she hoped would help get him through the dark times. She doesn’t hate her sister either – Lily’s beauty has always drawn men like moths to a flame and she’s not cruel or unfeeling – she just had no idea of Grace’s feelings when Colin proposed to her.
It’s not until the second instalment of the story that we get any of Colin’s perspective on this, and we discover that it’s not long before he realises what a stupid thing he did in proposing to Lily. He saw her – her beauty and the fact that she was untouched by the horror of his life at war – as a means of escaping his own nightmares, but he quickly sees his error and laments the fact that it has also cost him Grace’s friendship. And more.
In his next action, Colin is injured and is sent home to recover. Grace has, in the meantime become engaged to a lovely young man – but still carries a torch for Colin. It’s here that the story started to go off the rails for me, as Grace breaks her betrothal and insists that she wants to be with Colin, even if she has to seduce him to do it. Colin has been blinded and Grace is sure he will reject her in the belief that she is motivated by pity, hence her determination to do something irreversible like sleep with him.
In a drug induced haze, Colin – thinking he’s having another erotic dream about Grace – makes love to her (in a moving carriage, no less *eyeroll*) and is less than gentlemanly, leaving Grace sore and rather puzzled as to what all the fuss is about. He compounds his error by putting his foot firmly in his mouth, making Grace believe that he’d been imagining he was having sex with Lily.
Thankfully, things are straightened out in part three, as Colin finally tells Grace about his reasons for not writing to her and for proposing to Lily; everything is straightened out and yes, Colin makes up for his previous mistake and proceeds to show Grace exactly what all the fuss is about. *wink*
I thought the first part of the story was absolutely beautifully done – I had a lump in my throat at times because I felt so strongly for Grace and her disappointment in discovering that the man she’d fallen in love with didn’t want her; it was absolutely the best thing about the story. The rest of it was a disappointment in comparison, but I did enjoy reading it, even though I thought the second part was rather sloppy. The third part redeemed things somewhat, and I especially liked the idea of Colin finally answering Grace’s letters, which was a nice touch.