I don't know what you spent the first day of 2014 doing, but I spent today finishing The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn. As I commented in yesterday's post, I was a little leery about this book because of everything that has been said about it, and I have to say that not everything was wrong. There is a part of this story that comes out of nowhere and feels very out of place with the rest of the book. I know I shouldn't be surprised considering the twist being alluded to in the last novel (more on that later).
The Sum of All Kisses is the third book in the Smythe-Smith Quartet (the first two were Just Like Heaven and A Night Like This) and revolves around Sarah Pleinsworth and Hugh Prentice. Sarah is one of the Smythe-Smith cousins and as such is a member of the family quartet, which thankfully plays little role in this book (I can't even stand thinking about anyone playing as dreadfully as these women do). She and Hugh have only met once prior to the beginning of the book and that didn't go very well, neither of them remembering it fondly, probably because she accused him of ruining her life.
A year and a half after that meeting, there once again find themselves in each other's company for the weddings of her cousins (the heroine of the first book and the hero of the second), which are occurring within weeks of each other. At first, neither are happy to see each other, but they quickly begin to fall in love without either of them really noticing that it was happening.
I loved the way this part of the story was written as it felt completely natural and you could see both characters changing because of the love they feel for each other. If the book had continued on in this vein, I would have no problems giving it 5 stars, but unfortunately, about 100 pages before the end of the book, there is a huge twist, which as I said above I should have seen coming. The thing is that none of it was even mentioned in the first 3/4 of the book. It was only at the end that it showed up. (highlight to see the spoiler)
Before the book's action starts (although some of it is shown in the Prologue), Hugh and Sarah's cousin, Daniel Smythe-Smith, end up dueling over a game of cards and Hugh gets shot in the leg, almost dying. When Hugh's father found out that his son might die without giving him an heir, he threatens to kill Daniel, forcing him to flee the country. The only way Hugh was able to stop his father from killing Daniel was to threaten to kill himself if something happened to Daniel--you see Hugh's older brother and the official heir is gay and will not marry just to please their father, so if he wants an heir, Hugh must live.
This completely changes the tone of the book, although it is in character for Hugh to have done such a thing. I think that if this was meant to be as big of a game changer as it was then Hugh should have been thinking about his predicament all along, although his explanation of being so caught up in his feeling for Sarah did make sense.
Aside from this, I really did enjoy this book, some parts even more than others. One such thing is Hugh's obvious Asperger's Syndrome. I liked that he wasn't your stereotypical wounded hero. His injury could have been what defined him, but at times it felt background to the Asperger's, which was never mentioned because it wasn't even a thing back in the early 1800's. I loved the way Ms. Quinn described his almost magical ability to do math, especially the blank page thing. It was also interesting to see someone, who isn't comfortable in the normal social situations (I only know of one other character--the hero in Tessa Dare's One Dance with a Duke--that is uncomfortable in crowds).
Despite the big twist, this was a very good book. 4 stars.