Thursday, June 2, 2011

Once Upon a Kiss by Kate Willoughby

TITLE: Once Upon a Kiss
AUTHOR: Kate Willoughby
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 38k)
GENRE: Contemporary fantasy erotic romance
COST: $5.20

Livvy is the last of her friends to get her true love wish, but a technicality makes it impossible for her to get it by legal fairy means. Davina figures out how to grant her wish for a fairy tale ending using black market magic, which has the unfortunate result of a house made of gingerbread, hair that weighs a hundred pounds, and finding a naked man asleep in a glass coffin on her front yard. All right, so that last one isn’t unfortunate, especially since the man is her hot new neighbor, and Davina’s magic has restored the use of his legs…at least for now…

This is the third story in the author’s Be-Wished series, but surprisingly enough, can be mostly read alone. However, compared to the first two books, I can’t say that I enjoyed it quite as much.

Livvy is a freelance illustrator, the last of a trio of young women who made wishes on vacation a few years earlier to find true love. Her two friends have found theirs, but when Livvy had been offered hers, she’d turned it down as a joke, thus nullifying Davina’s commitment to her. Now that she’s seen it come true for her friends, she’s more open to it, especially with her friends wanting it for her as well. Davina decides to use black market magic to satisfy Livvy’s request for a fairy tale ending, but the results end up turning chaotic at best. Most of them are temporary, thank goodness. Like Livvy’s walls turning to gingerbread. And her hair growing ten feet over night. But then she discovers her gorgeous new neighbor, the paraplegic Joe Kimball, asleep in a glass coffin in her front yard. She kisses him awake, and after momentary confusion about whether or not he’s dreaming, he whoops for joy at being able to use his legs again. There’s a catch, though. Every time he leaves Livvy’s house, all of his clothes disappear. Which is convenient considering how much sex they are about to have.

My respect for this author is no secret. I love that we seem to generally share the same sense of humor, something I’ve found surprisingly rare in romantic fiction. While this romantic comedy is much in the same vein as its two predecessors, however, I can’t say that I enjoyed it quite as much. It has some fantastic farcical elements, with the various fairy tales enacting themselves in her life, and while I did laugh at some of them, as soon as the new scenario with Joe was introduced, I found myself more worried than anything else. See, none of the other things that had happened with the wish had lasted. Compound that with the knowledge of how erratic Davina’s magic is at the best of times, and I couldn’t shake the dread that Joe’s legs were going to give out on him at any moment. With that ominous thought always lurking in the back of my mind, I was never able to completely give myself over to the moment and enjoy what was going on between them. I also didn’t understand why Livvy wasn’t more worried about it, either, which lowered my respect for her as a character. She’d reacted accordingly to all the earlier problems, why not to this one which had so much more at stake?

Joe’s disability isn’t dwelled on too much, actually. There’s a single scene of him in his wheelchair before the glass coffin incident, and then he’s so exuberant about being able to walk that any drama is tossed out the window. Some attempts are made later on in the story that generate a little conflict, but it felt a tad too orchestrated by that point, especially considering their lack of a serious reaction earlier in the story.

For the first time, I found myself not amused by some of the humor, too. That’s more likely due to the characters and my lack of immersion more than the author’s skills, however. The jokes are there, and I laughed or smiled at a good number of them, but not everything is going to tickle my funny bone and sometimes it just felt like these guys were trying too hard. Like Joe’s characterization. He’s a gorgeous war hero who has a secret geek side, and his excitement about getting to spend a night with Livvy having sex and playing Dark Source (a collectible card game that sounds remarkably like Magic: The Gathering) annoyed me a little as both a tad immature (even if probably accurate in regards to male thinking) and too hard to believe.

Did I enjoy the read? Ultimately, I did. I like the characters, and there’s a farcical edge to the whole thing which differentiates it from much that’s out there. But it doesn’t quite attain the same levels as its predecessors for me. It’s more of a sketch than a fully rendered picture, appreciable for its potential and hints of what it could be but ultimately not quite as satisfying.


8/10 – Mild headhopping and some humor that doesn’t always work for me (a first with this particular author) detracts here


6/10 – For some reason, I kept expecting more depth in regards to his disability, though in keeping with the romantic comedy mood, I suppose the lack of it makes sense


7/10 – I liked her humor and independence, but I couldn’t help but wonder for too long why she wasn’t more worried about Joe’s legs

Entertainment value

7/10 – Diverting entertainment, but not as memorable as I’ve found other work by this author

World building

7/10 – There’s more exploration into the fairy world, but it seems to skate over the surface rather than fully satisfy



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