16 March 2014

The Secret Kiss of Darkness

Synopsis from Goodreads: Kayla Sinclair knows she’s in big trouble when she almost bankrupts herself to buy a life-size portrait of a mysterious eighteenth century man at an auction.

Jago Kerswell, inn-keeper and smuggler, knows there is danger in those stolen moments with Lady Eliza Marcombe, but he’ll take any risk to be with her.

Over two centuries separate Kayla and Jago, but when Kayla’s jealous fiancé presents her with an ultimatum, and Jago and Eliza’s affair is tragically discovered, their lives become inextricably linked thanks to a gypsy’s spell. Kayla finds herself on a quest that could heal the past, but what she cannot foresee is the danger in her own future.

Will Kayla find heartache or happiness?

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, published by Choc Lit Limited, 2014; won in a Book Girl of Mur-y-Castel blog giveaway.

First line: He'd sworn he would wait an eternity for her if he had to, on the assumption that the waiting would eventually be rewarded.

My thoughts: I was unfamiliar with the term “time slip” until this book. After seeing the book referred to as a time slip novel, I had to Google that term to see exactly what it meant. Considering that time travel is one of my all time favorite tropes, you'd think I would’ve come across the term before, but if I did it didn’t stick in my head. While time travel stories do seem to fall into the category of time slip, not all time slip stories actually have time travel in them. That's where this book fits. There are two story lines running concurrently, one in the present, and one in the past, and the narrative goes back and forth between them.

Kayla is our heroine in the present. A legal secretary (as was I for many years, so, you know, relate!), she comes into some money (not relate!), and decides to spend it on something for herself rather than save it or invest it or something equally boring. So she goes to Sotheby's, where she is mesmerized by a painting. Which she then spends nearly all of her money on. And then the man in the portrait begins talking to her.

Said man, Jago Kerswell, is the hero of the past story, set in Devon in 1781. He owns the local inn, is the bastard son of a gypsy and a titled gentleman, and is a smuggler. But a good guy smuggler, whose actions, along with the rest of the gang, benefit the poorer members of the community. When he runs into his half brother's wife, the Lady Elizabeth, he is instantly smitten with her, and thus begins an illicit affair between the two of them.

Back in the present, the Jago of the portrait needs Kayla to find the matching portrait of Eliza so he can be reunited with her. This quest takes Kayla to the scene of the crime, so to speak - Marcombe Hall, still owned by a descendant of Jago's half brother.

Both story lines were enjoyable, but Kayla's was much more engaging for me. She was a very likable heroine, who struggles at first to accept that a painting is talking to her, and that she's not having nightmares or going insane. I appreciated that it took her a little while to come to that acceptance. In Devon she meets the descendant, Sir Wesley, and his young daughter, Nell, who was precious without being sickening or ridiculously precocious. Not everyone can write a realistic child into a story, and make the child an integral part of the story and not just a plot moppet, but the author did a wonderful job with Nell and I was quite enamored of the little girl.

While finding Eliza's portrait is the reason Kayla visits Marcombe Hall, it's not what keeps her there longer than planned, and the quest often took a backseat to Kayla's own life. We come to know Kayla quite well, and at times I was so caught up in what was going on with her life that I momentarily forgot about Jago and his story, until the scene would shift back to his time. Jago's story wasn't quite as involving, and we barely get to really know Eliza at all. But I was quite content with that, and I was very satisfied with how both stories wound up in the end. 

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