This book tickled my funny bone and touched my heart. Once Upon a Kiss introduced me to Darius Wainwright, a man so stiff in demeanor that a joke goes right over his head. He was a hero that needed a special woman to not only make him unbend and smile, but to help him realize there is more to life than schedules, accounts and routines. Justina is the heroine to do it and I was completely charmed by her.
My first giggle came from the pig escapade. The pig is actually a very pivotal secondary character, sort of. He breaks the ice and by being his cute sweet self, entrenches himself into the affections of a man who would deny that was possible. It’s adorable.
Justina is a young lady who has bits of fancy and imagines herself in a grand adventure. She makes things more ebullient than they really are. She finds joy in the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. In that, she came across as very young and perhaps not quite the person a slightly older, more serious gentleman would take a shine to. And some readers might decide that Justina is too silly to take seriously. I beg to differ. I was a young bride to a man who did not know how to smile on command. He was serious all the time and he once told me that I helped him connect to the joy of life inside. Because of that, I relate to Justina’s character; I believe that she is perfect for Darius and I loved every single minute of their romance.
The strong point of this story is Justina. As I got to know her, and watch her make decisions and see consequences, as I watched her thought process unfold during interesting and entertaining internal dialogues, I saw a young lady growing up to be a woman. She still retained her joie de vivre but it was tempered with a new maturity that complimented her relationship with Darius.
As for Darius, I thrilled at the parts that shared hints of his thawing, of seeing Justina as a woman and how he routinely tried to justify things to himself by claiming that he was only doing what was right, that he was ‘protecting her from herself’. In fact, he was fighting the attraction. As soon as she inspired a full out ear to ear grin from the hero, it was a lost fight. It was a beautiful transition. It was so much fun!
The secondary characters are from the Book Club Belles and I believe Once Upon a Kiss might be the start of a series that follow these young ladies who like to read romances. I guess it was a bit naughty at the time. There was a foreshadowing with one of them and at the end of the book, it looked like it might actually come to pass. If so, it’s extremely intriguing! Talk about an effective hook.
One of the most amusing aspects of this tale is the sensual build up, the teasing and the funny but sexy escapades that Justina and Darius get into. There is not a lot of sex but what there is, is effective, delicious and highly entertaining. I even giggled a few times.
I should mention Miles. As a secondary character and friend of Darius’, he was a terrific addition and a delightful supporting cast member. The same could not be said for Darius’ step sister. What a pompous poser. Ugh.
As for the happy ever after, I’m very satisfied. It ended the way I like, with a lot of important loose ends tied up, and a perfectly wonderful little carrot dangling like a tease for the next book. I can’t wait!
Historical romance fans should snap up their own copy of Once Upon a Kiss. It’s a winner. I enjoyed myself immensely and even though it’s a rather lengthy book, time sort of went ‘poof’. It was pleasant, entertaining and a joy to read. I’m so very glad I read it.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short Reviews. It has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.