Upon finishing Carrie Lofty’s new release, Scoundrel’s Kiss, and its 2008 predecessor What a Scoundrel Wants, I have that sense of frustration I often get with romances: Why do such great books have doofus-y covers? Especially ones where the shirtless dude doesn’t look a thing like the hero? And being a lifelong reader, you’d think I’d have gotten used to how this genre is marketed — with clinches and cleavage and not much thought to the characters on the page. Sure, there are the generic pastoral covers. They’re equally non-representative of what’s inside. But, at least with those, you don’t get the idea that someone is reading this just to get their jollies. Because beyond the physical inaccuracies like Will Scarlet wearing belted 21st century pants, I feel like covers that imply Lofty’s books — and the books of other equally talented writers — are just salacious wank material diminishes them a little. They’re fabulously written stories about breathable, visible characters…not a hot pair of pecs and a bountiful bosom.
Will and Meg and Ada and Gavriel are so vibrant, and each so unique. I really enjoyed both novels because these were deeply flawed, relatable characters…all overcoming various obstacles and finding strength in love. Both books are set in the Middle Ages, at the dawn of the 13th century, and Lofty flawlessly combines a modern tone with a lot of historical research. After finishing WASW, there was no question in my mind that I was going to pick up Scoundrel’s Kiss to find out what happened to Meg’s troubled sister, Ada. And that Lofty tackles the subject of opium addiction in this book is really cool. This is not a delicate dewdrop heroine needing to be rescued from some brawny villain. Neither Ada nor Gavriel can fight their respective addictions and weaknesses with a fist. It’s about grit and tenacity and facing your internal demons head on. And in her book, Meg, too, is an enormously tenacious character. She’s constantly fighting for herself — it’s almost a relief when she accepts Will to fight with, fight for, and fight for her. God, they’re a passionate duo.
I also loved that a significant character in both books is Jacob ben Asher, a young swordsman with a lot of ingenuity. And I really hope he gets his own novel sometime in the future. Not for nothin’, but we could use more badass Jewish heroes in romance!