Perfect Kisses is a collection of three historical romances of the more earthy variety.
The first story, "School for Scandal," appears at first to be very similar to Georgette Heyer's Devil's Cub, where the sensible older sister tries to rescue the flighty younger sister from the dishonorable attentions of a rake. However, this story has far more of a modern undertone: the rake, Viscount Ormond, persuades Claire, the older sister, to become his mistress in payment for him helping the younger sister, Harriet, to make a good match. Rather unbelievably, Claire agrees almost instantly and throws herself into the sexual relationship with surprising gusto. Ormond has slightly more to him than just the sex-crazed rake, but his history with women is so appalling that I couldn't really like him. I also found it hard to believe that two examples of “love at first sight” happen in this story in the same evening and that marriages results from both within three days.
The author's understanding of the historical period is a little patchy in places, and there are a number of Americanisms that stand out - one example being people having cream in their cup of tea, not milk. The terminology used for body parts and sex is also rather too earthy, using swear words in some cases, even between lovers, and I found that rather unpleasant. In some ways, this feels like a modern story of sexually liberated people being squeezed, and not quite fitting, into the English Regency era. The happy-ever-after is not entirely convincing - I’m not sure this rake is reformed or that there is enough between Ormond and Claire upon which to build a future. This story isn't very romantic – it’s more transactional, and it didn't inspire me to read more by this author.
The second story, "Mischief and the Marquess" by Sylvia Day, follows the meeting after many years of childhood friends. The Marquess of Fontaine had a youthful love for his neighbor, Lady Sophie Milton-Riley, who was a bit of a tearaway, always getting herself into scrapes. She thought the Marquess was a stuffy young man who disapproved of her; she married Lord Langley and had a son, Thomas. After Langley dies, her grandmother and the Marquess's mother conspire to bring the two together again in the hopes that they can rekindle some passion.
There is passion in this story, but the Marquess and Sophie can't have a smooth relationship because she is considered ruined by the world. Apparently this is because she has a bastard child, but I'm not quite sure how Thomas can be classed as a bastard when she was married to his father and, as far as I can gather from the text, they were married before Thomas was born (I think the father died before the child was born, but he was his child). Apparently this means that she isn't a suitable woman for the marquess, but he can't bear to just have her as a mistress so he works to find a way to restore her to society.
The main focus of the story is the relationship between James, the marquess, and Sophie, and it's largely through sex that we learn about it. They seem to have a lot of sex and then, fortunately, all problems slough away. It's not badly written, and I like the way that the differences between the natures of the two people caused misunderstandings when they were younger, but overall the story is a bit thin, Sophie's rehabilitation seems to happen remarkably easily, and I'm not entirely sure of the perceived morality of their behavior. It's a pleasant read, but more focus on the plot and less on the sex might have served it better.
>The third story is "The Ruby Kiss" by Noelle Mack. In it, we meet Susannah Fowler, daughter of a gem trader, whose entire life has been spent in India. Following the death of her father, she returns to Victorian England to find a husband with Carlyle Jameson, her father's friend, as her guardian. She soon discovers that one of her corsets is full of sapphires and rubies and suspects Carlyle of stealing them from the Maharajah. When she discovers someone is watching her, she confronts Carlyle, but things aren't necessarily as they seem. Her quest for freedom in this new life may not be as easy or as desirable as she hopes. There's less sex in this story than the other two and more sensuality, but I found the plot in this story, as in the others, rather too thin to provide proper enjoyment.
Short stories often have disadvantages, and they are apparent in this collection. Characterization is thin on the ground, most of the action appears to happen in the bedroom, and the plots are thin. These stories are enjoyable enough for a light read, but they aren't ultimately very satisfying.