I received this book for free from NetGalley, the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: His Scandalous Kiss by Sophie BarnesHis Scandalous Kiss by Sophie Barnes
Series: Secrets at Thorncliff Manor #3
Published by Avon Impulse on July 26, 2016
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
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Thorncliff Manor is the perfect setting for a masquerade ball... where the heart’s secret desires are about to be uncovered in this scintillating Regency romance from Sophie Barnes...

Richard Heartly has exiled himself from society since the war, plotting his revenge for a terrible betrayal. A masked ball at Thorncliff Manor is intended to be a brief diversion. Instead, he encounters a fascinating young woman as entranced by the music as he is. He can’t reveal his identity to Lady Mary. But her siren song keeps drawing him back, and their clandestine meetings could be hazardous to his plan—and to her virtue.

Avoiding an unwanted marriage was easy when Lady Mary was ignored by the ton. Thanks to her dazzling appearance at the masquerade, she’s a wallflower no longer. Eligible suitors abound, yet the only man she wants is the brooding, seductive companion who keeps his face hidden. A man who tempts her to disclose her own shocking secret, one that could divide them forever.

I’ve never read a book by Sophie Barnes before, and that means that I come into the Secrets at Thornhill Manor series a bit late in the day, with book 3. Still, the promise of intrigue and a Beauty-and-the-Beast scenario in His Scandalous Kiss had me keen to read this book, and I was fortunate enough to get a review copy.

Unfortunately, I found that rather than Beauty and the Beast, a story formula I’ve always enjoyed, this book was more Phantom of the Opera, a musical I dislike. The hero, Richard Heartly, hid himself from society and allowed the scars from the wounds he sustained in wartime to define his very existence, despite the protests and pleading of his loved ones. The heroine, on the other hand, was a woman with a rare and secret talent for singing, who was plagued by the financial demands placed on her by her family.

To be fair, I think this might be a good read for someone who does enjoy the Phantom story, but I found that, as with The Phantom of the Opera, I found myself bored in some parts and annoyed by the abundance of drama in others. It felt a little too contrived for my tastes, I’m afraid.

Moreover, while I found that the story can indeed be read as a standalone without much loss of cohesion, the same cannot be said for the novel’s feels, especially where the supporting characters are concerned. I was very conscious all throughout the novel that these characters had been featured in previous novels because they already had intimacies and inside jokes that went a bit above my head. It was a bit like switching to another school in the middle of the school year; everyone’s already picked their bosom buddies, and you don’t have a hope of joining anyone’s inner circle even if you do get to make friends.

All things considered, I found had to give this read a two-star review, even recognizing that some of the aspects of the book I disliked are likely to be right up other readers’ alleys. I just had a hard time engaging with the characters and the story, and I found myself hoping things would happen already (plus I spent a lot of the novel thinking, “Oh, great, now this is going to happen,” only to be proven right, which added to the yawn factor, I think).


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Secrets at Thorncliff Manor
Series Reading Order

1. Lady Sarah’s Sinful Desires
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2. The Earl’s Complete Surrender
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3. His Scandalous Kiss
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About Sophie Barnes

Born in Denmark, Sophie Barnes spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She's lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish and Romanian. She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor's degree from Parsons. But, most impressive of all, she's been married to the same man three times—in three different countries and in three different dresses.

While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion: writing. When she's not busy dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.