Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Feature Review: "Stranger's Kiss," By Mary Blaney

By Melanie Murray, RBTB Correspondent

I don’t know about you, but I rarely encounter handsome strangers. And they’d come in handy, right? Especially when you’re about to step in a muddy puddle. Or need to make a quick getaway. Or can’t help bursting into tears in a private, darkened room.

Thankfully, there are plenty of good men to be found in historical romances, and they’re always armed with a thick coat for keeping your boots dry, a well-trained horse to spirit you from danger, and a strong, silent shoulder that’s perfect for crying on.

In Mary Blayney’s emotionally rich historical romance, “Stranger’s Kiss,” just such a mysterious hero not only exists, but he happens to know exactly what a woman in tears needs: a gentle demeanor, sympathetic conversation, and a kiss that’ll knock her socks off.


Lynford Pennistan, the Duke of Meryon, has been away from England for the entire year since his wife died. He has reentered the ton but finds social engagements tiresome. At one function, he takes a private moment in an empty salon to compose himself and is shocked to be interrupted by a beautiful woman he’s never met.


The lady is Signora Elena Verano, herself no stranger to heartache. Like Meryon, she’s lost a beloved spouse. And like Meryon, she’s almost ready to move on with her life. After an intimate conversation in which they reveal their inner-most thoughts and feelings, an unforgettable kiss has them each contemplating a possible romantic entanglement.

But when they meet again in the light of day, things get complicated. Both Elena and Meryon begin to feel suspicious of their own feelings. Can Elena sacrifice her independence for a Duke, a man used to people blindly accepting his authority? And will Meryon be happy with a woman who demands more of his heart and mind than he’s used to sharing?

And there’s more blocking their happiness than their own doubts. Elena has a score to settle with the aging Duke of Bendas. Bendas just happens to be Meryon’s sworn enemy, because he once threatened the life of Meryon’s sister. Suddenly Meryon’s worlds are colliding, and he has to decide whether an old vendetta is worth sacrificing his new love.

“Stranger’s Kiss” is a passionate and refined tale of second chances. The emotion between Elena and Meryon is bewitching and all the more enjoyable because the two characters are adults; they’ve each already found love and are bravely willing to try again. The story of how they decide to take a gamble on another go-round will have you cheering when you --

Buy the Book

28 comments:

Gannon Carr said...

Melanie, this sounds like a winner! I can see I need to add another book to my TBB list! :-D

Melanie Murray said...

Gannon, hello! It was a very rich read. That's a funny way to describe it, but the author has a wonderful way with words and if you like a dash of history in your books, this has lots of great political context. We live to grow those TBR piles!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Bellas! Grazie mille, Melanie, for this lovely review. I'm SO glad you wrote about this book. I'm about halfway through, and you didn't give anything away that ruined anything for me -- you just made me wish I had time to finish it NOW!

Calling it rich really is a great descriptive. The read really is kind of elegant, the ambiance, the way the characters move through their surounding climate -- as you say, historically, but also socially -- and the ways they look at and learn about themselves. Those things do make this book a really exceptional read, for lack of a btter term. Ugh. The power of communication fails me. The book's a real joy to read, especially for historical fans.

Will you tell us a little more about why you like the fact that the characters are, as you describe them, "adult," and whether you think that may become a trend in historicals if not romance in general?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

'morning, Gannon! I know. You guys kill me w/all your recommendations. When I buy books, MPG, my husband, Male Perspective Guy, is like, "Are you kidding me? You're buying a book? Who's responsible for this? Name her!"

Melanie Murray said...

Ah! Elegant! That is the perfect word to describe this book. The characters all seem to have some sort of self-possession that makes them seem untouchable in a way. In a great, this-is-why-I-love-historicals way.

By "adult," first I mean that simply, they're older than most heroes and heroines; well entrenched in their thirties. But more importantly, they're emotionally more complex than characters who have never experienced love before. Usually there's a touch of the romantic in our heroes and heroines (and don't get me wrong - I LOVE that!) but here Elena and Meryon have such a pronounced practical streak. They approach love with caution that just makes them seem older somehow.

debbie haupt said...

Good morning ladies,
Ah Melanie I can think of a few more things to do with the handsome stranger but this blog is pg right ;-)
And the cover ain't half bad either, but when will the cover Gods realize that romance readers like to see a little more of the guy.
And I'll be picking up this book definitely, and they're not sapplings either so I know I'll enjoy it.
Thanks Melanie
Deb

Melanie Murray said...

It's amazing that any blog remains PG when you're around Debbie, Ms. Sizzle Burner! I know you appreciate the older pair of lovers, too. I think you'll like this one.

Becke Davis said...

Oh, this is definitely going on my list. I'm not familiar with this author, Melanie -- is this her debut book, or have I just missed her? (You know I'm still catching up on all the historicals I'd been missing.)

Melanie Murray said...

This isn't her debut, Becke. She's written for years, and she's got several novellas in anthologies out there too. If Stranger's Kiss interests you, there are related books called Lover's Kiss and Traitor's Kiss.

Becke Davis said...

Oh, great. MORE books to read. How did I miss this author? Her books sound really good!

Melanie Murray said...

Becke, I'm surprised too. I feel like you know EVERYBODY out there!

Gannon Carr said...

Oh, goodie, there's a backlist, too! Michelle, my husband sounds a bit like MPG, except he can't say much since he buys almost as many books as me.

Oh, to have a house with a library. I covet Christina Dodd's library. Someday.....

1AnneB said...

Hi Everyone - AnneB here - I agree with everyone - this one sounds like a keeper! And I too am shocked that Becke hasn't read any by this author ! Add another to the list...

Anne

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Anne! Great to see you here, making the trip from BN.com, too! You know, Melanie tells the story much better than I, but I really found this book to be a cut above when I picked it up and started reading. And, yeah, we all dance a little jig when we find an author becke hasn't heard of.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Gannon, does Xtina have romance-novel sized shelves? oh, i'd be crazed/jealous over those... And, you know, I'm going to start giving MPG a hard time when he buys books. It's just that he's so proud of himself when he's going to actually read one; he got out of the habit from reading so much on the job, and now we all try to make a huge deal out of it when he practices his 'literacy skills.' :)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Yes, Melanie, we all hold our breath when Deb starts talking covers!!! But this one definitely is perty, Deb. It is cool that the couple's been around the block before. They've made some mistakes or learned to do some things the right way.

And, yeah, Melanie, that 'self-possession' is so evident in these two. But I love, too, that she's got a special talent. And the kiss is marvelous. sigh.

Gannon Carr said...

Michelle, Christina has amazingly beautiful floor to ceiling shelves. And one set has pillows on the top, and she has a ladder that she can climb and get all comfy in her nest of pillows. And there is a huge picture window with views of Puget Sound and the mountains.

My fantasy library, no doubt!!

amy kennedy said...

Melanie, I've read Mary Blaney in Novella form, and I will definately read this -- I love adults in romances, plus the fact they are both barely over grieving makes it even better.

And I have a thing for kisses from strangers -- I mean characters in books being strangers and kissing, I love it for some reason...probably because I longed for it as an angsty teen/young adult.

And can I say, "What?!" a nest of pillows up high with a view of Puget Sound? Say it with me, "Nirvana..."

amy kennedy said...

And can I also say -- I've read someone Becke hasn't! I'm not being snotty, I swear. I'm in shock.

非凡 said...

I'm appreciate your writing skill.Please keep on working hard.^^

Mitzi H. said...

"A kiss that will knock her socks off"....Oh I like that. I want more!!! This is a new author for me and one I'm adding this book to my tbp list. And that kiss....oh yeah!! Can't wait to read it.

Melanie Murray said...

Michelle: I didn't touch on it in the feature, but I love that Elena has her "special talent." (I won't give it away for those of you who want to discover this book for yourselves!) It added an entire layer to the story that you don't often get to read about.

Gannon: I want to go there. Pillows? Views? Piles of books! Ah!

Amy: I love the kiss between strangers! I love it in any book, in any situation.

Melanie Murray said...

Becke, you have quite a reputation!

Mitzi: The kiss does knock her socks off. He's a great hero: focused, in control, sexy, with a distant cool that is just irresistible.

Diane Gaston said...

This is a winner! Mary Blayney's Stranger's Kiss is a wonderful read and gives a realistic glimpse of what it must have really been like to be a Duke.
Mary always writes wonderful, realistic, complex characters who perfectly fit in the time period. Her books are gems! Grab a copy of Traitors Kiss/Lover's Kiss for more reading delight!

Melanie Murray said...

Diane! So good to see you!

PJ said...

I haven't read this author but I can see from your review, Melanie that I'll need to change that. More books to add to my tbr mountain!

Michelle, Christina Dodd has photos of her library at her website. I have serious bookshelf envy every time I visit the site!

Diane Gaston said...

Waving to Melanie (very late). Good to see you here, too. I've heard happy news about you. So glad for you.

jedisakora said...

This book sounds so awesome! I definitely have to get a copy. ^^