cover image The Sum of All Kisses

The Sum of All Kisses

Julia Quinn. Avon, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-207292-4

The already well-worked Bridgerton universe (subject of eight books, including On the Way to the Wedding) is attenuated by this novel linking it to Quinn’s Smythe-Smith stories. Lady Sarah Pleinsworth is 21, melodramatic, and tactless, so it’s not really a surprise that she’s on the shelf. Her nemesis is the lame mathematical savant, Lord Hugh Prentice, younger son of an insane, sadistic marquess. Hugh rouses himself from bleak self-recrimination over the long-ago duel that crippled him only to express how he despises Sarah in terms such as “fingernails on slate.” Romance, of course, is inevitable. Quinn’s verbal Punch and Judy performance has lost some of its charm in repetition, and these characters are little but mouthpieces for witty repartee. A last-minute inheritance plot tangled by homosexuality, insanity, suicide, and kidnapping leads to a dramatic denouement, but the conflation of lust and coercion among both the good guys and the bad guys makes it difficult to see how a happy ending is possible for Hugh and Sarah. Agent: Steven Axelrod, Axelrod Agency. (Nov.)