Author: Julia Quinn
That's the exact number of days that I waited to read The Sum of All Kisses, the latest installment in the Smythe-Smith series, after reading A Night Like This. (I'm trying to be in keeping with the adorable Hugh Prentice, who counts everything). And while I'm normally impatient when waiting for the sequel to a series I'm enjoying, oh Julia Quinn, you made it worth the wait.
Since I discovered the historical romance genre, I've read hundreds of them by now and I have come to realize that a lot of the plots are similar. The Sum of All Kisses is no different, with the two protagonists, Hugh and Sarah, sniping at each other since Day 1 and eventually falling in love. But what set this book apart is the wit and humor of each character. Hugh stands out all the more so because of his mind and oft-unsuspected sarcasm.
Hugh Prentice is another one of those imperfect heroes who overcome their self-loathing all for the love of their woman. And while I would just normally snort (it does get tiring to read about the same type of man every week/month for three years now) at the typicality of his characterization, Julia Quinn managed to make him loveable, romantic and not so pathetic as to make me disgusted at him. I confess that he has usurped Marcus Holroyd from the top position as my favorite Smythe-Smith hero. I sometimes think (mostly when reading historical romance books) that I was born in the wrong era because I would have loved to be with those dukes, or even a baron, or a second son, as long as he still thinks it's his role to carry me in his arms when I faint, or that it's beyond the pale to look at women lower than their eyes outside bed. Plus, he defended the possible existence of unicorn, all to help out a kid. Seriously. Please come to life, Hugh.
Sarah Pleinsworth is not my favorite of the Smythe-Smith cousins, and I agree with Iris' confession that she is quite selfish. However, Sarah's bravery and repartee with Hugh, and Lady Danbury even, slowly won me over. Plus, she reminded me of myself with her little teases towards Hugh. I also love that she didn't stay away from Hugh despite his lameness. I applaud that she (or rather Julia Quinn?) distinguishes Hugh as simply being lame instead of being a cripple. And like every other Smythe-Smith woman, she just can't stay away from the musicale in the end, despite her desperate attempts to get out of it.
Aside from two main characters, as with the other two Smythe-Smith books, The Sum of All Kisses' allure is also aided by the supporting characters, especially the Smythe-Smith cousins, who are so raucous that I kind of want to be a Smythe-Smith myself. The banter between the cousins, right from page 1, got me hooked that I somehow stayed in my chair at the dining area twenty minutes after I finished breakfast.
I was also entertained when I read some references to Julia Quinn's other books, like the Bridgerton men, the oft-mentioned book Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron (it's been mentioned so many times it has become easy to recall!), and one of Quinn's fabulous characters to date - Lady Danbury.
The cover of the book is a great representation of the book and looks like a chick lit book, if not for the period dresses of the characters. It evokes fairy-tale romance and light-heartedness. Despite the book not containing slapstick comedic lines (like in Just Like Heaven), the dry wit was enough for me.
But what I loved most about The Sum of All Kisses is the description of the first throes of falling in love - that giddiness, that confusion, the excitement, the feeling that everything is alright with the world. After a couple of broken hearts, I have slightly forgotten how wonderful falling in love, and love, is. Reading the book was a good refresher of sorts and has brought out the romantic in me, even if only for the two hours I've been reading it.
The Smythe-Smith Quartet is seriously one of my favorite series to date (right after the Bridgertons, also by Julia Quinn, imagine that!). I'm so excited for her next book, although it may be the last since the series is entitled a quartet after all. I'm guessing it's Iris, or possibly even Harriet, although I'd love it to be little Frances Pleinsworth! But no matter who's next, I'll be sure to get it as soon as it arrives.