I spent twelve years of my adult life teaching at universities. I taught Speech Communication and Performance of Literature. One of the things I always told my students was that it wasn’t enough to do the minimum necessary to pass. Because once they left college and got out into the working world, doing the minimum necessary would not be enough. No. They would be expected to learn from failures and successes. No matter what their chosen profession, they would be expected to improve. Always. The flat line on the graph of improvement wouldn’t cut it.
This lesson was usually the most difficult for the “A” student to learn. “But, I got an A on the first speech and a B on the second speech! Why? I did just as well on the second as I did the first.”
Exactly. You did “just as well.” It needed to be “better”. An athlete who just set the world record in the 100 meter race doesn’t sit back and say, “Well, I’m done.” S/he says, “I can run even faster.”
I view writers the same way. I’m drawn to those authors who just keep writing better and better novels – even if the previous novels won awards and got rave reviews.
So it is with Melissa Brayden. Brayden’s first two books, Waiting in the Wings and Heart Block, are Golden Crown Literary Award winners. Rightfully so! But what is so lovely, is that Brayden didn’t rest on her laurels and just squeeze out another book that was written “just as well” as her previous novels. She took the next step and said, “I can write even better.”
Sleeping with the enemy has never been so complicated.
Twenty-eight-year-old Brooklyn Campbell is having a bad day. A speeding ticket, a towed car, and a broken heel are all working against her laid-back vibe. To top it all off, her birth mother, whom she’s never met, has requested contact. The only bright spot is an impromptu date with a beautiful and mysterious brunette.
Jessica Lennox is what you would call a high-powered executive. She’s the head of a multimillion-dollar advertising firm in New York City, and it didn’t happen by accident. But when the blonde head turner from the wine bistro turns out to be her number one competitor, her life gets infinitely more complex.
Is New York big enough for both Brooklyn and Jessica? Maybe it’s just time they experienced it together…
Oh, but I did so enjoy Kiss the Girl (Bold Strokes Books). It is, I believe, Brayden’s best. And that’s saying a lot considering how much I enjoyed her previous offerings. Brayden does romance so very well. She provides us with engaging characters, a plausible set up with understandable and realistic conflict, and ridiculously fantastic dialogue.
As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, if an author doesn’t pull me into a story within the first couple of chapters, I lose interest. Fortunately, Brayden doesn’t waste time and gets right into heart of things. We’re provided with a solid introduction to the characters and setting right from the first page. Relationships between and among the characters are established quickly so that the reader has a strong understanding of the players involved. I love this! There’s nothing that bothers me more than being half-way through a book and still not knowing who people are when they show up in a chapter. Not so in Kiss the Girl. Brayden introduces us to Brooklyn Campbell and her three best friends in the prologue and right away the reader gets the sense that Samantha, Mallory, and Hunter are going to play an essential part in the story. Technically, they can be considered “secondary” characters, but there is nothing secondary about their place in Brooklyn’s story…or life. (I really hope these folks make more appearances in future SOHO Loft novels.) Jessica Lennox is not introduced until the second chapter of the book, but that doesn’t mean she’s given the short shrift. What Brayden does so well is to help us learn about characters through the eyes of other characters. In this case, we learn about Jessica as much from Brooklyn’s point of view as we do from Jessica’s.
What I’ve always appreciated about Brayden’s novels is that they are plausible. I can see these situations actually happening to people. Attraction at first sight? Yep. Forgetting the events of a bad day because of a connection with someone you’ve just met? Sure. Being competitors in the same industry? Oh, yeah. Friends with preconceived ideas about the person you’re attracted to? Most definitely! It all works. I’m never thinking, “Oh, right! Like that would happen!” and get pulled out of the story. Never. I’m able to stay wrapped up in the story – thinking of the myriad ways the situation can play out and eager to learn how it does get played out. Even more delicious for me is that the expected conflict wasn’t the actual conflict! Brayden has this wonderful way of surprising me by taking a direction that I wouldn’t expect. At first glance, and based on the back cover blurb, it would seem that the professional rivalry is the basis of the conflict. That makes sense. Perfect sense. But as the story goes on, I found that rivalry to be secondary to the story and the conflict. That’s just so delicious.
Don’t you hate it when a character says something that is just so far out in left field that it just jerks you right out of the story. If I have to stop to say, “Who says stuff like that?” things are not going to go well for the rest of the book. The dialogue in Kiss the Girl – as it is in Brayden’s other novels – is fast-paced and witty. What’s even more appealing to me is that each character has a distinct “voice” throughout the novel. It’s always clear who is speaking because of the style and tone of the dialogue rather than because of dialogue tags. This becomes especially important when 4 or more characters are in a scene and having a conversation!
Overall, this is a really nice romance. I was able to get lost in the story and the storytelling. With each passing novel, Brayden’s skill at storytelling gets sharper and more colorful. Words are on the page for a reason. It’s clear that those words are chosen carefully to convey setting, characterization, and emotion. And Brayden does emotion very well. (I admit to having tears in my eyes at a few points in the story and laughing out loud at other points.) This is on my “highly recommended” list and my “to re-read” list. If you haven’t read it already, make sure it’s next on YOUR list.
Oh, and keep an eye out for the rather delightful cameo.