I really need to be careful how many books I check out from a single author at once. I was so confident in Medeiros' writing from CHARMING THE PRINCE, that I thought for sure I'd enjoy her other novels. Gaily, I went ahead and checked out three Medeiros novels at once. Little did I know I was in for a rude awakening. Can you believe this is my 4th Medeiros novel after CHARMING THE PRINCE (****), THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST (*), and AFTER MIDNIGHT (*)?! Wow, I'm a regular masochist!
Except for CHARMING THE PRINCE, I find that Medeiros novels are strictly for girls -- little girls at that. Similar to her other two novels I've read, the goal of this one: bending, breaking and grinding the hero to dust under a pretense of "saving-the-hero's-soul." The tortured history A KISS TO REMEMBER's hero agonizes over is pretty pathetic. Any self-respecting, mature 28 year-old guy would get over the grudge he holds over his dead mother for "abandoning" him to a duke when the mother only felt she was handing him over to a better life. When the heroine stomps and pouts and begrudges, it's usually justified in Medeiros' novels, when the hero does it as a little child after his parents agree to turn him over to the Duke, he needs to be taught a dire lesson.
I couldn't stand Medeiros' heroine in this one, it's tough to get behind her lying and manipulating and grinding the guy to her satisfaction. She doesn't feel any remorse or regret for lying her way to marry him under false pretenses, she's pretty much floating on clouds the entire time, satisfied she's molded him to her heart's content. I don't know, if I were getting someone to marry me knowing I've consistently lied to them about who they are, I'd feel something wasn't right at the altar, I'd feel a prick of conscience. Not our heroine Laura. Of course in the end, we're led to believe everything the heroine does was justified. That the lying, manipulating and grinding was doing our hero a huge favor. Including leaving him at the end when she was about to have his child. Funny, despite all the lying and manipulating, it's the heroine who's angry at the hero in the end, it's the heroine who receives the apology. The heroine is too proud to verbalize any formal apology. Of course.
With the exception of CHARMING THE PRINCE, Medeiros' heroes appear little more than playthangs for her heroines to mold and grind as they please. Very annoying to read actually. Medeiros' heroes are like the tar crushed by a roller for the pavement on a road. A KISS TO REMEMBER's Sterling Harlow represents a fine example to this proclivity. Whether the hero captures the heroine (THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST) or the heroine captures the hero (A KISS TO REMEMBER), it's always the heroes' ways that are in dire need of reforming and taming. Always. And of course Medeiros' heroes' volition and will are nothing in the face of her heroines' [will]. Grrr, I can't stomach Medeiros' heroes even in the least. They're a pitiful device to the will of her heroines and the larger fairytale she wishes to tell.
Predictably, all the male relatives (his father and uncle) in our hero Sterling's life are evil men marring his heart and soul. Also predictably, they're dead by the opening chapter. But the women are saints -- Sterling's mother and of course Sterling's cousin. I'd be remiss to forget our heroine Laura, the virtue of sainthood saving our hero's soul from the grudge he holds over his mother.
Speaking of Sterling's cousin Diana, I was more interested in Medeiros' secondary pairing: Diana & Thane than the main one between Laura & Sterling. Of course Medeiros always has more than one romantic pairing and A KISS TO REMEMBER is no different in this regard and many others.
The heroine's younger siblings, again whom the heroine nurtures as a mother like other Medeiros books, are vicious. The 10 year-old little sister Lottie plots to murder our hero -- seriously, with poison. I'm sorry, but that isn't funny. I don't care how much jealousy the 10 year-old feels over losing her sister or how many murder mysteries she's read, that's pretty twisted. It's all a big joke though, as the statue she plots to fall on Sterling and kill him almost kills her sister instead. She's sick and twisted, and in serious need of psychiatric treatment.
The Story, possible SPOILERS again.
The story begins when 7 year-old Sterling Harlow's parents agree to hand him over the boy's uncle, the Duke of Devonbrooke, whose wife passes away without a male heir. In return for making Sterling the heir, Sterling's parents receive the small estate Arden Manor. Although Sterling's father is a horrible drunk and gambler, Sterling can't get over the fact that his mother would agree to hand him over and holds a huge grudge against her. Sterling pouts over being separated from his mother's love, since the duke of Devonbrooke is a horrible man caning little Sterling.
Twenty-one years later, the Devil of Devonbrook Sterling Harlow earns a reputation of notoriety as a libertine, continuing to hold a huge grudge over his mother which batters his soul. By this time, both his evil father and despicable uncle the former duke are dead. When Sterling's mother's caretaker, 20 year-old Miss Laura Fairleigh, writes to Sterling informing him of his mother's death and scolding him for not responding to his mother's pleas for reconciliation, Sterling decides to head over to Arden Manor.
Some convoluted plotting has our heroine Laura in dire need to marry before her 21st birthday; otherwise, Arden Manor which currently shelters her little brother and sister would be handed over to the Devil of Devonbrook Sterling Harlow. She's turned down many suits already but when she finds an unconscious Sterling in a wood near Arden Manor, she's captured by his beauty, and kisses him. He awakes from his slumber to discover he's lost his memory and doesn't recall who he is. Laura decides to use his memory loss to grind him in a mold of her ideal husband and consequently acquire Arden Manor.
The story continues insipidly as Laura concocts one lie after another, telling Sterling of his habits before his memory loss, habits which align perfectly with her ideal characteristics of a husband. Like wanting to be a rector, not drinking, adoring her twisted little sister, etc. I lost interest from the beginning when Sterling's battered soul really couldn't get over being separated from his mother and the grudge he harbors against her when anyone could clearly see she was doing what she thought was in her son's best interests, a life to be a duke.
Things deteriorate after Sterling regains his memory. He's a swell guy about Laura's manipulation, and his response involves seduction and marrying Laura. So horrible for Laura, to be a duchess and bask in the riches that go along with that. They return to London to live at Devonbrooke Hall, the Duke's lavish estate.
Sterling is the virtue of goodness in the second half. Sterling officially hands over Arden Manor in Laura's name, the very cause of her deceit. When he notices that Laura is lonely, he calls over her brother and sister and beloved servants from Arden Manor. When he learns of rumors in Society tainting Laura in a not-so-respectful light, he throws a ball at Devonbrooke Hall in Laura's honor.
I hated the ending. In spite of showering Laura, after Laura finds some locked-away letters from Sterling's mother, she becomes angry at him for not reading them. Even though she understands his tortured feelings on the matter by this point. Having little patience with Sterling, she leaves him the next morning with their unborn child. Sterling follows and apologizes to Laura, I can't remember exactly what for anymore.
And they live happily ever after.