The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn
Everything I learned, I learned from Bullwinkle J. Moose. For those of you who don’t know who Snidely Whiplash is, or Bullwinkle Moose, I cry for you. Actually back in the days when cartoons were cartoons there was a wonderfully funny “kids” show, Rocky and His Friends, later The Bullwinkle Show, mixing satire, puns and irreverent humor. On this show were numerous characters, including Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman, Dudley Do-Right, Snidely Whiplash, etc. Snidely Whiplash was an evil villain; he liked to tie Nell Fenwick to the railroad tracks! Well, in this book we have a Snidely Whiplash moment, but we’ll talk about that later.
The Sum of All Kisses is another in the Smythe-Smith series. This time we get to watch Hugh, the friend of Daniel Smythe-Smith. Now, we get to learn a little bit more about the duel between Daniel and Hugh which led to Daniel’s banishment and Hugh’s leg injury. The Smythe-Smith series has been an uneven series for me; I didn’t care too much for Just Like Heaven, but I did enjoy Daniel’s story in A Night Like This.
I liked Hugh a lot in this story, and I thought his character was pretty well-developed. He’s a math genius of sorts, or at least he has a brain that remembers numbers. His mind is always processing, processing, processing, and while that may shout out intelligence, it also creates a problem when he tries to communicate. Sometimes his mouth just cannot move as fast as his mind, making his social skills just a tiny bit awkward. Especially when it comes to Lady Sarah Pleinsworth, a cousin of Daniel’s and a member of the musical Smythe-Smith family. Hugh and Sarah don’t like each other. Hugh thinks Sarah is over-dramatic and Sarah blames Hugh for ruining her life. You see, the year Sarah came out there were 14 eligible men, but because Hugh challenged Daniel to a duel, her chances in landing one of those 14 men never saw the light of day. Sarah is also a tad bit selfish, so these two just do not get along. So, watching these two first avoid each other, then be forced to endure each other was pretty amusing.
Hugh and Sarah are together a lot in this story, so there was plenty of humorous banter between the two of them. Sarah’s younger sisters also play a big part in this story. Watching Hugh develop relationships with these sisters was charming, although there was a point when I thought the sisters might take over the book; Hugh and Sarah’s romance came awfully close to getting lost in the sibling clamor. However, one of the more poignant moments in this story happens because of some sisterly turmoil. Sometimes in a Julia Quinn novel there is so much banter, witticism, and humor that we miss some of the subtle angst moments. But in this book there is a moment when Hugh is prevented from performing his manly duty because of his leg injury. We get to see past the banter to the tortured man underneath. That scene was very well done by Ms. Quinn.
Now, on to the Snidely Whiplash moment, a moment that diminished my overall opinion of this book. First of all, leading up to that moment is the overreaction of Daniel when he finds Hugh and Sarah in a compromising situation. Then the exposure of what I can only think of as a “silly” agreement between Hugh and his father. But when we journey down the path to Hugh’s father turning into this over-dramatic, crazy tie-my-son-to-a-bed Snidely Whiplash person, I couldn’t do any think but ask… “are you kidding me?” It was sooo over the top, so ludicrous, I kept thinking there had to have been another plot line to choose from. I wish that part of the book had been edited out because it detracts from all the wonderful storytelling that came before it.
Overall, I loved the story of Hugh and Sarah. They were a bickering, bantering, fun couple. Sarah’s realizations about herself were wonderful to read and Hugh’s struggle with his disability was some of the best character development I’ve seen Ms. Quinn do. I will even admit that I enjoyed the book so much that I will overlook that disturbingly cartoonish Snidely Whiplash moment at the end of the story.
Time/Place: Regency England