Jeff Birmingham knows he'll have to settle down and find a wife soon, but the carefree bachelor isn't in any hurry, until he is nearly knocked down outside a hat shop by a girl who is obviously running from a frightening-looking man. Despite the young woman's ragged, dirty appearance, Jeff sees a rare beauty, who is the woman of his dreams, and is instantly smitten. Raelynn Barrett is trying to escape from her unscrupulous uncle who is about to sell her to another unsavory man, so Jeff gallantly offers to buy her instead. The minute the deal is struck, Jeff realizes his mistake. Even though he only had the best of intentions at heart, he has horribly compromised Raelynn. Everyone expects him to make her his mistress, but Jeff surprises them all by offering marriage instead.
This short novella is the second story in Kathleen E. Woodiwiss's Birmingham Family series, and the first in a trio of stories about Jeff Birmingham and his lady love, Raelynn. The Flame the the Flower, the first book in this series, will never be a favorite of mine like it is with so many other romance readers, but while reading it, I did admittedly fall for Jeff. He was a dashing Southern gentleman who truly knew how to treat a lady with respect, and I'm glad to see his charm carried over to the beginning of his own story. In one fell swoop, this confirmed bachelor falls madly in love at first sight with the ragged, but becoming Raelynn when she literally runs into him. He then saves her life, and also rescues her from the clutches of her unscrupulous uncle who was about to sell her to another equally unpleasant man. Of course, Jeff was only trying to be kind and chivalrous, but the minute he realizes how badly his actions have compromised the lady, rather than trying to make her his mistress as everyone expects, he immediately offers to marry her and even to delay his claim to conjugal rights until they've had a chance to get to know one another. With Jeff so grandly proving his gallantry, it's no wonder Raelynn instantly fell in love with him too. Normally, the love at first sight trope doesn't work very well for me, but this time, I was completely convinced that these two were meant for each other. Their meeting was pure serendipity.
The Kiss is only about the length of a chapter, and essentially, that's exactly what it is, the opening chapter in Jeff and Raelynn's love story. Raelynn is a sweet young woman who's had a run of bad luck, and Jeff becomes her white knight, taking her away from her troubles and giving her a life of luxury she'd never dreamed of. This novella was a quick but very enjoyable and satisfying read that has me looking forward to the next two stories in this couple's saga, Beyond the Kiss and A Season Beyond a Kiss. The Kiss can be found in the anthology Three Weddings and a Kiss.
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