IF HIS KISS IS WICKED
Emma Hathaway has made a comfortable home for herself with her uncle, Sir Arthur Vega, and his daughter, the lovely Marisol, by making herself useful in her uncle's painting studio and being something of a companion/servant to her cousin. When Emma is asked to meet with Marisol's lover, the result is nearly fatal: Emma is kidnapped and beaten severely. Battered from her ordeal and in despair at her family's disbelief that she is still a target, Emma seeks help from the mysterious Restell Gardner.
Restell has made a name for himself by helping people solve problems of scandalous proportion. With a combination of cunning and finesse, and an ability to barter favors for information and other intangibles, Restell's unique skills are oddly suited to resolving Emma's issues. As he gets to know Emma, Restell finds himself captivating by her dry sense of humor, her beauty, and her strength. Amidst attempted murder and romantic intrigue, Restell and Emma are drawn into a passion that threatens to consume them.
Jo Goodman always writes with sureness and sensuality, and her talent does not fail to keep things simmering in this romantic mystery. The relationship between Emma and Restell is beautifully depicted, and
the fact that they are married halfway into the book gives the romance an extra shimmer of tenderness. Much of the charm of this book is in the development of the trust and affection between the hero and heroine, and for these particular characters, nothing less than matrimony would have been acceptable. Being husband and wife allows Restell and Emma the freedom to explore their growing attraction without guilt or furtive measures tainting their pleasure in each other.
As always, Goodman's supporting cast are three-dimensional, fully believable characters in their own right. Goodman is skilled at layering information in her plots and then peeling it away in just the right increments to move the story forward without revealing too much, too soon. Readers will realize early on that nothing is as it seems in the Vega household, but red herrings and a complex plot will keep readers guessing right up until the final chapter. Marisol, the motherless beauty pampered by her adoring father, is jealous of Emma's closeness to Sir Arthur, yet she depends on Emma to make their lives more comfortable. Sir Arthur, crippled and unable to paint as he used to, relies on Emma to manage his social life as well as his artistic commitments. Marisol's fiance, Neven, was once attracted to Emma before he settled on her cousin, but his management of Sir Arthur's finances is suspect. Restell's family, whom we've met in previous books, are as warm and engaging as ever.
IF HIS KISS IS WICKED is yet another treasure from autobuy author Jo Goodman. Although the title is a bit random, the story delivers everything Goodman's readers have come to expect from her. This book is definitely a keeper.