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Review: 'Libertine's Kiss' by Judith James

I received an eARC for Libertine's Kiss via netgalley.com.  It is Judith James' August HQN Historical release in stores now.

Here's (part of) the blurb from the author's website:

"The Civil war has cost the once high spirited Elizabeth Walters her best friend and her father, leaving her unprotected and alone. She flees an unwanted marriage, seeking safe haven, but what she finds there is something she never expected. Despite William’s gratitude and promise to aid her, Elizabeth never expects to set him again, but the Restoration of Charles II to his throne will bring her to the attention of both William and the king.

Can a promise long forgotten and a friendship forged in the past help two lonely people find each other and themselves? Can a debauched court poet and notorious libertine convince the wary Elizabeth he is capable of love? These are the questions asked by Libertine’s Kiss…”


I saw this on Netgalley several months ago, but decided against reading it originally because I find the English Civil War and Cromwell era utterly depressing and because I thought knowing too much about Rochester's real life would detract from the story, seeing as he died of the pox or another STD at the age of 33.  It didn't seem much of a recommendation for a romantic hero, even though the Earl of Rochester became an utterly compelling person when I first stumbled across him several years ago and was inspired to do some research on his life.  If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend the movie 'The Libertine' starring Johnny Depp.  If nothing else, it will make you reconsider your love of reading about rake heroes - showing as it does what happens to those who 'dip their wick' too freely and contract venereal disease.

But I kept hearing about Libertine's Kiss and a number of people who share my reading tastes recommended it so I requested it day before yesterday. 

I'm not sure I've much to say about Libertine's Kiss except I loved it.  I don't normally notice prose and find those authors who get lauded for it more often than not deadly boring, but I was compelled into the story by the lyrical prose from page 1 despite all my misgivings about setting and the author's inspiration for the hero and only stopped reading in the middle of the night when my mind kept spinning the story into dreams after my eyes had closed despite all my efforts to keep going.

I finished it this morning and wish it weren't over.  I had a couple of language use quibbles, which were hopefully fixed before the final edition hit the bookstores and electrons, but if not they did not detract majorly from the story itself.

James again included a scene as in her debut book Broken Wing which involves one of my absolute dealbreakers, but fortunately it turned out it was a false scent as in BW.  I do kind of wish she wouldn't do that because it does involve an utter no-no for me personally, but even if the no-no had taken place it would have made sense for the character and story, though I would have hated it (how's that for an utterly vague, non-spoilery comment :).

Libertine's Kiss is a very intense story, but not without lighter, joyous moments. Just the way I like my historical romance best.

Highly recommended. A-

ETA: A kind soul pointed out that I should mention that this is indeed a romance novel with a HEA and that the hero is only based on Rochester in a 'what if he had become a faithful husband' kind of scenario.

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