It’s In His Kiss by Julia Quinn
It’s In His Kiss opens with a prologue from the hero’s point of view, which is absolutely appropriate because after reading this book, I ended up thinking it was one of the funniest portraits of a man I’ve ever read. Gareth is a guy—a real guy. How unusual is that in romance these days? I read far too many books about men who aren’t men at all — either because they are really werewolves (all very well in their own way, but with little relevance to my home life), or they are pure alpha male with the surprising ability to convert overnight into a sensitive, loving beta (alas, also irrelevant to my home life). In fact, almost all the heroes I read about are shape-shifters of one sort or another.
I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. My husband is ruthlessly himself, and I can’t help wondering if werewolves are especially nice because they de-stress loping around the woods. Perhaps they survive the stress of going out to dinner two nights in one week without baying at the moon? (Because my husband doesn’t, she said sourly.)
But I digress.
What Julia has done in this book is create a hilarious, heart-rending, sexy picture of a real man: Gareth. I’ve read all of Julia Quinn’s books, and I’m putting on my literary critic hat for a moment to tell you that this is definitely one of the best books she’s written. It’s brilliant, screamingly funny, and yet manages to have a tender, deep side to it. Plus Hyacinth and Gareth squabble in a far more clever way than most of us do—and I loved that!
Now for a moment of prideful revelation: I actually had a hand in the book. Not in the writing, obviously, but there’s a mystery here that has to do with a diary written in Italian which Hyacinth wants to translate. Since Hyacinth isn’t fluent in the language, Julia needed the passage to go from English to Italian, and then back into English in a non-fluent translation. No problem! My husband is from Florence and (obviously) fluent. I’m from Minnesota and (alas) not terribly fluent. So Alessandro took the diary entries from English to perfect Italian, and I played Hyacinth and took them back from perfect Italian to an awkward English translation. I wish it had been a struggle to suppress my perfect knowledge of the language, but I am the person who politely snoozed through an entire dinner party in which the other couple detailed their experiences at a sexy “tantric” weekend for married couples. I thought they’d done a weekend of marriage counseling and couldn’t figure out why my husband was so fascinated.