Once Upon a Kiss released June 3, 2014 – read about the book from USA Today HEA
Title: Once Upon a Kiss (Book Club Belles Society)
Author: Jayne Fresina
Genre: Regency Historical Romance
Story Setting: End of Summer, 1815 in the small country village of Hawcombe Prior
Published By: Sourcebooks Casablanca (June 3, 2014)
About the Story: Justina Penny, a woman who can’t stop her imagination and writing down her thoughts, belongs to a book club in a small village town where nothing exciting happens. Five close friends form the Book Club Belles Society to read novels together and discuss the merits of the stories, hoping someday to find their own hero. They have just started reading Pride and Prejudice.
Justina can’t seem to be on time, dress, act or speak as a young women should. She’s a curious person with a sense of humor and passion for living and learning.
Darius Wainwright has just had word that he inherited his great uncle’s home in Hawcombe Prior. He decides to look at the property himself to see if he should sell or lease and also get away from his mother, half-sister and niece who live with him in town. They are always harping about something; he doesn’t eat right, he’s unsociable, he’s a dry disposition, and he should marry to do his duty.
Darius is tongue-tied when it comes to women. His sentences are terse and he often stutters when anxious. He has few friends, ruthless in business and gets what he wants.
Before he arrives to town he is driven off the road to avoid a couple of young girls who are carry a pig in a cloak. His carriage is damaged so he walks to the inn and begins his introduction to this sleepy little town where there is more happening than appears.
The following day as he’s looking over his property he finds someone climbing over the fence to his property—the same girl that he saw on the lane with the pig. On closer look she’s older than she first appeared—Justina Penny is her name. He comes to realize he’s met this woman before, just a year before when he found himself jumped on in the middle of the night in his bed chamber in Bath. Oh, yes, Justina, is no ordinary young lady.
With Justina he is perpetually astonished at her remarks, the way she talks to him and her actions. At the same time, she intrigues him. Darius likes to see how things work—he’s perpetually taking clocks apart and putting back together. He wants to find out what makes Justina tick. And with that thought his few days in this little town are prolonged.
When Justina recognizes that the man that came to town is none other than the man she jumped in Bath, she decides to keep him at arm’s length and hope he leaves town quickly, before her secret gets out. He was the wrong man in that bed and she was completely humiliated. She hopes he won’t recognize her.
My Thoughts: This story was interesting to read in several ways. The author lets us read Justina’s thoughts in her personal journal throughout the story. We learn she has a huge imagination, and can’t seem to hold her tongue. It amused me to read the journal and it was a clever way for the reader to get to know Justina.
For those who have read Pride and Prejudice there were lots of similarities between the characters in Jane Austen’s book and those in Hawcombe Prior, which the young ladies of the book club discuss, taking certain parallels between the newcomer in town and Mr. Darcy.
I enjoyed how the author talked about Phineas Hawke, the great-uncle of Darius. One day as the old housekeeper walks into the study, she mistakes Darius as Phineas’ ghost. He had the same expression on his face that his great-uncle wore. So the reader learns either Darius changes the direction of his life or he’ll be just like his great-uncle, an old embittered, crotchety man.
Darius, very cleverly, rather deviously with secret delight gets Justina to help sort all the documents in the big house. Curious Justina loves doing it because she was told as a child that the house held a treasure. She is determined to find it. Coincidently, Darius was told the same by his great-uncle, the one time he visited him.
Justina and Darius do find treasure–eventually. They find each other after many encounters between a sharp-tongued Justina and a stumbling, terse, dry-worded Darius. Is there still more treasure to be found?
This is book one of a series. I’ve always enjoyed Ms. Fresina’s books and the way she writes a story. This is a fun read, with comical characters with real faults. I’ll look forward to her next.
About the Author: Jayne Fresina sprouted up in England, the youngest in a family of four daughters. Entertained by her father’s colorful tales of growing up in the countryside, and surrounded by opinionated sisters – all with far more exciting lives than hers – she’s always had inspiration for her beleaguered heroes and unstoppable heroines.