It’s an interesting phenomena in romance when publishers reissue books. As a reader, I think it generates a love/hate relationship – love, if the book was great to begin with and it’s hard to get a hold of or hate, if the author is so prolific that you end up buying a book you’ve already read because the cover looks so different and you’re desperate to read anything by that writer. With a lot of publishers purchasing author backlists, usually for ebook reissuing, this is becoming more of a landmine, but the good news for readers is that we benefit from more great books on the market.
Prior to getting a copy of this novel from NetGalley, I hadn’t read anything by Kristine Grayson, the penname for the prolific powerhouse of Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Rusch has published dozens of novels and short stories in various genres, particularly in the area of fantasy fiction, so paranormal romance definitely seems like a natural fit for her Kristine Grayson persona.
Thoroughly Kissed is the second in her Fates series, succeeding the story, Utterly Charming, but it’s totally feasible to read them independent of one another (a fact I was happy to discover a couple of chapters into this novel). Utterly Charming was the story of Prince Charming in the Sleeping Beauty tale, who is now a 1000 year old magician living in modern times as a cutting edge chef. He has guarded Sleeping Beauty’s glass coffin for all that time but when she awakes he has lots of problems, not the least of which is the fact that he is attracted to the lawyer he hired to help him with this situation. Moral of the story: really pay attention to prophesies since you’re not always interpreting them correctly.
In Thoroughly Kissed, Sleeping Beauty, who has taken the name Emma Lost, has managed to forge a life for herself in the last 10 years, including becoming a highly successful history professor whose expertise on the Middle Ages has landed her book deals and television interviews. She’s incredibly content with her life at the university in Madison, Wisconsin, with her lovely house and crazy cat and when men fall at her feet from her beauty she just ignores them – they never really see her, after all.
But in just one day, everything changes. Emma inherits her magic (which she is supposed to get in a few years, but it seems her 1,000 year sleep made it come a little faster) but she has no mage nearby to train her and things are getting a little out of control. Part of that loss of control is the arrival of her new department head, Michael Found, who thinks Emma is a shady academic who doesn’t know the first thing about the Middle Ages. She’s bowled over by his incredible good looks and simultaneously put off by his condescending attitude while he fights his attraction to her beauty and intelligence tooth and nail.
When her temper gets away from her and she zaps them both (temporarily) back to the Middle Ages, Michael confronts the idea that magic isn’t just a subject for intellectual speculation – it’s very real. Emma needs someone to accompany her to get to her mentor for training since tradition says she has to make the journey without magical assistance, but she’s kept everyone at a distance. After all, the last time she let someone close, she got kissed and fell into an enchanted sleep. It’s enough to make anyone swear off relationships.
Michael realizes that his ordered existence has to be temporarily put on hold while he accompanies Emma from Wisconsin to the Pacific Northwest, with her (completely hilarious) cat. They face a series of adventures on this lengthy car trip, some magical and some not, but all revealing more about each of them as they fall for one another.
This is a sweet romance – lots of longing but no kissing until the end and a behind the bedroom door ending. In actuality, the original cover, while dated looking, is a better demonstration of the sensuality level of the novel. I love the new cover, particularly the castle in the background and the dreamy fairy tale quality, but I think bare chests indicate a much racier level of sensuality, so that’s a bit misleading. (The first book in the series also got a nice reissue and it’s much more accurate since the male figure has a shirt on.)
The best compliment I can give this romance is that I started off not really liking either character and experienced a complete turn around by the end. Michael was seriously uptight and quite frankly, really rude about not agreeing with Emma’s academic approach, and she flipped into a testy, stressed personality with the onset of her magic (this was a little more understandable). I usually don’t enjoy sweet romances that much but I felt Grayson did a great job of character development to the point that I really found myself unable to put down the book. I’m not sure I will read the other books in the series, but I will be adding these to my library as they are ideal for a young adult audience.