Review of THE KISSING GAME by Kasey Michaels (see her website)
Warner Books, 2003
The Earl of Sunderland has been hiding on his country estates for years--since being driven out of London society by general disgust over his constant pranks. Now, though, his daughter, Allegra Nesbitt, is 18. It's time for her season, if the Earl, Oxie, is to provide for her after his death. Of course, a few gags while the family is in London are very much in order. Unfortunately for Allegra, the family's ill-fame has spread before it. Even though her father is an Earl, no invitations await them, no callers visit. It's a perfect disaster--except a chance meeting with the one man who can change everything--or create an even larger disaster.
For three years, Armand Gauthier has been the mystery of London society. He's got money, charm, and a deadly hand with both weapon and cards, but he agrees to every rumor--he's son of the Prince, heir to the throne of France, a gambler, an adventurer, a pirate. For the first time in years, he questions his search when he sees Allegra. He can open society's doors to the beautiful debutante, but what will that do to the doors that he needs opened?
Author Kasey Michaels tells a charming story of a joke-crazed man whose misplaced adventures put himself, his daughter, and the handsome adventurer in danger. Allegra is sexually innocent, but a lifetime with her jokester father leaves her vastly experienced in adventure and intrigue. She's the perfect match for Armand. Armand doesn't take long before he realizes that affection from a woman like Allegra will be a full-time job and his adventuring days are over. Still, there is the small matter of surviving the Earl.
THE KISSING GAME is a cute regency-era historical with the charm and comedy of manners readers expect from the genre. I would have wished for a bit more conflict between Armand and Allegra--who never seem to have much reason not to end up together. The lack of conflict kept THE KISSING GAME from being quite as compelling as the strong writing and entertaining secondary characters should have made it.
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