The Smyth-Smith Quartet: The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

I regret returning The Sum of All Kisses to the library quickly, but I don’t want to buy my own copy. This tells me that while I enjoyed the book, it didn’t make a lasting impression

If you are a historical romance fan, you already know who Julia Quinn is. If you are interested in trying historical romance, her Bridgerton series provides an excellent gateway. I use the words deft and witty every time I review one of her books because they are always apropos and Quinn is almost always a light-hearted, satisfying read. She is guaranteed to make you laugh and offer at least one truly romantic moment.

Quinn’s current Regency series revolves around a family group that puts on an annual concert of consistently awful quality. The Smythe-Smith quartet, as they are called, has an evolving membership and over the course of the novels, members get married off and make good their escape from public humiliation. This time up, it’s Sarah Pleinsworth and family acquaintance Hugh Prentice. He caused a scandal several years ago by dueling with her cousin and Sarah feels the resulting imbroglio ruined her matrimonial opportunities. She hates him. He finds her melodramatic. Forced to spend time together at house parties for their friends’ weddings, no one is surprised when they end up engaged in under three weeks.

Despite an overall decline in Quinn’s recent work, I do read every book she publishes and The Sum of All Kisses is by far the best book in the Smythe-Smith series. They can’t all be of equal quality and the Bridgerton series has at least two classic historical romances, although I change my mind as to which ones they are. The complaint I’ve had about her other recent books is also present here: the story  floats along beautifully, as it has been skillfully structured to do, but when the tone has to shift to accommodate the plot’s stumbling block, the whole thing sinks a bit. The Sum of All Kisses plot escalated so quickly that I was actually confused and had to go back and figure out what I had missed. The story got back on track and glided along nicely to the sweet ending.

Note: There was a brilliant scene in this book when Hugh explains to Sarah that his brother prefers men. Sarah’s baffled response was to ask “Is that even possible?”. Never mind the Regency, my mother grew up in the 1940s and she said she didn’t even know being gay was something that existed, so I thought Sarah’s bewildered surprise was a lovely touch. She is a sheltered woman in a buttoned up time. It was very nicely done and a great period detail.

A summary of Julia Quinn’s catalogue can be found here. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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