Review: One Wicked Kiss

One Wicked Kiss audiobook cover. A brunette woman with long hair, wearing a scarlet off-the-shoulder dress looks back over her shoulder and towards the dark forest she is running from. One Wicked Kiss by Dawn Brower.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars ⭐⭐
Duration: 1 hr 20 mins.

One Wicked Kiss by Dawn Brower is a Regency romance which declares itself from the very first moments to be of my favourite kind, with its series subtitle 'Bluestockings Defying Rogues'. There's little I like more from a historical romance than for a woman - whose intellect and personality are a little too robust for polite society - to get the better of a man who thinks he can best her, so I had high hopes for this audiobook.

Miss Natalia Benson, the illegitimate child of Vicount Atherton, is indeed well-educated but seems a little timid compared to most 'bluestocking' heroines, and lacks the feisty wit that defines the type. She is not without courage, however, and Lia begins the tale by running away from an unfavourable marriage to a wicked French count. The group she meets on the road stand to change the course of her destiny; and she theirs.

As it is merely a brief prequel many of the characters and plotlines are left unresolved, but there's a lot of promise in both the primary and secondary relationships. The set-up for the next book certainly establishes both with enough depth to pique one's curiosity regarding their ultimate fates. It is the start of an adventure, but one which I feel ought to be a free 'teaser' for the series (such as Jodi Taylor's Chronicles of St Mary's prequel, The Very First Damned Thing).

Megan Green's narration is earnest and has a sweet, gentle charm, but is hindered a little in places by a slight lisp and awkward rhythm, which eases as she settles into the story and the language begins to feel more natural. Green delivers the various characters' voices admirably, switching easily from one accent to another without hesitation, despite there being quite an array!

It was unfortunate that there was so little subtlety to the protagonists' first meeting. Simply having the Earl think, inexplicably, that "she seemed special" before they had exchanged a word was a rather cheap observation with which to register his interest in the lady. Perhaps because this audiobook is only intended to be a short prequel novella it does not possess the lightness of touch at such a significant moment as would be expected in a novel.

It also borrows a few too many well-known names from Austen - Darcy and Western for example - which at times makes it feel a bit like Regency fanfiction. Whilst both surnames are common, I think one will always encounter a little difficulty in trying to establish a unique hero in any regency romance when he is a wealthy, well-bred, gentleman by the name of Darcy.

Overall I felt that this story was a little too much of a whirlwind, and rather lacking in the level of detail necessary to make the romance feel sincere. There was little of the formality which was of such great import to the era, and the author told us that the protagonists fell instantly in love without really spending the time on making either appear worthy of the other's affection. It meant that the 'love at first sight' sentiment around which the story centered was not especially convincing. Anachronistic language (such as use of the word "wanker" as a pejorative) as well as uncustomarily-informal behaviour meant that it never really felt embedded into Regency culture.

I wish this hadn't been my first experience of a book by Dawn Brower, whose other work appears to be well regarded within the genre. I like the look of many of her other books, and think that this one suffers more from the restricted length than anything else, and would have been better if more time had been devoted to building the sense of peril that would have made Lia's abandonment of Lucas feel more necessary.

I'd like to listen to other books by this author before passing judgement on her work, as I do not think that this piece is probably very representative of such an established writer's usual novels. I really wanted to like it but it was rather disappointing.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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