The Duke and I

The Further Observations
of Lady Whistledown

How to Marry a Marquis

An Offer From a Gentleman

Romancing Mr. Bridgerton

To Catch an Heiress

To Sir Phillip With Love

The Viscount Who Loved Me

When He Was Wicked

It's In His Kiss by Julia Quinn
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 006-053124-X
Julia Quinn has done it again. The Bridgerton family saga continues with Hyacinth's story. It's In His Kiss is at times funny and serious, silly and intense and full of the bantering that Quinn's characters do so well. Lady Danbury has a major role in this tale and she is, as always, delightfully obnoxious. The story slows a bit but finishes well, maintaining the recommended status all of Quinn's tales have received at TRR.

Hyacinth is the eighth and final child of Violet Bridgerton. She is the last daughter, a fact her elder brother reminds her of, pointing out that she needs to marry. This is the beginning of her third season, and she doesn't seem close, since she hasn't found anyone whom she can love. Hyacinth spends time with her friend, Lady Danbury, every Tuesday, reading to her and generally gossiping about the antics in the ton.

Lady Danbury has a grandson, Gareth St. Clair, for whom she is determined to find a bride. Gareth grew up trying to please his father. Just before he left for Cambridge, Elder St. Clair informed him he had to marry a "simple" girl neighbor in order to restore the family coffers. When Gareth refused, he cut him off, claiming that he was not his son. Apparently Gareth's mother had an affair and Gareth was the result. But since he had been raised as legitimate, there was nothing the father could do now. Gareth left his home, and sought out his grandmother Lady Danbury (his mother's mother) for help, never revealing his secret. When his older brother George died unexpectedly, Gareth was in line to inherit. But what he will mostly inherit is debt.

Lady Danbury uses her influence to get Gareth to attend the annual Smythe-Smith musicale and there he meets Hyacinth. He is attracted to her directness and her ability to be herself despite the strictures of society. She is not any one thing Hyacinth is intelligent, witty and full of life. Yet she doesn't hide that and that is what makes her unique. She is rather intimidating to many lesser souls and seems to like it that way. Gareth finds her refreshing.

When Gareth is given a diary from his father's mother, Isabella, written in Italian, he seeks out help with interpretation from his grandmother. Lady Danbury enlists Hyacinth and their reason for being together is born. As they delve into Isabella's mystery surrounding hidden diamond jewelry, they find themselves falling in love. There are the usual exploits like sneaking into the house at night to search and almost getting caught (and compromised). Hyacinth, of course, must help search, despite the danger.

There is some predictability here and it slows the story down. Hyacinth is stubborn and demands on participating in all their endeavors. Gareth's juvenile reaction to his father has predictable results when Hyacinth overhears their heated words, but the fact that Gareth recognizes his reaction as juvenile is a bit of a help. Lady Danbury and Lady Bridgerton play matchmaker, as one would expect.

But the quality of Quinn's writing and the depth of the characters keep the tale from losing its stride. Gareth doesn't sulk when he realizes what has to be done; he confronts it and goes forward. Hyacinth, too, sees the result of their caper and decides to accept it. She does have second thoughts, but again, in Quinn's capable hands, this can be easily accepted and doesn't destroy the fun or tone of the story.

As always Quinn pokes fun at the antics of the ton, while maintaining the need for the characters to conform. It is this tongue in cheek style that is her trademark. This time she uses romance tales from the times that Hyacinth is reading to Lady Danbury. Despite the title "Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron," the silly antics of the heroine help move the story and add to the fun.

The next Bridgerton (and only one left) is Gregory. He puts in his appearance and we can all look forward to see what Quinn has in store for him. But this is definitely Hyacinth's book and It's In His Kiss is a fine addition to a long and well-written series.

--Shirley Lyons

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