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Monday, November 10, 2008:
Keeper shelf: "Kiss & Tell" by Suzanne Brockmann (1996)

Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (October 28, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0553592009
ISBN-13: 978-0553592009

When Leila Hunt is swept off her feet by a ninja at a New Year's Eve costume party, she has no idea who the masked man is—but after he disappears into the night, she’s determined to find him. When the clock struck twelve, what began as a friendly New Year's greeting quickly became the most unforgettable kiss Leila had ever experienced with anyone—including her absent boyfriend. But of all the possible suspects, Leila hardly imagines that the ninja is the same man who’s teased, tormented—and secretly intrigued her—since childhood.
Marshall Devlin is finally ready to face the terrifying truth: he’s in love with his best friend’s sister, and has been for years. There’s just one complication: Leila didn't know he was her ninja. To win her, Marsh will have to woo her. But can he make Leila forget their decades of verbal sparring in time to stop her from making the biggest mistake of her life?

Yes, this is it. The novel that started my unabashed love for all things Suzanne Brockmann. Back in the day before her Troubleshooters and her TDD (Tall, Dark & Dangerous) Silhouette Intimate Moments (though not much before), Suz wrote the book that changed my whole idea of contemporary romances. Now with the re-release, other readers can pick up a copy and see if they love it just as much as I did (like Shannon loved "Body Language"). And this is how she did it...

It's New Years' Eve, and Leila Hunt is on a two-week vacation from the stressful job she loves in New York. She's come home to Sunrise Key, Florida to relax, and quite possibly get engaged to the man she's been dating.

Dressed up as Cinderella for her brother's costume party, Leila feels less like a princess and more like a giant elf, being as tall and cute as she is. But the man dressed as a ninja standing in front of her with those hot, wicked eyes seems to like her just fine as she is. At first she resists his request to dance, but he doesn't give up so easily. Silently she moves into his arms, unable to look away from the heat in his eyes. Leila is aware of his clean scent, the way he moves, and his gentle fingers on her face. When the clock strikes midnight, her ninja leans in and kisses her. Oh what a kiss it is, hot and dangerously seductive. Too soon he pulls away from Leila, heat and shock banked in his eyes, until he smiles at her, and pulls in close again, letting desire take them both over as they ignore the party's fireworks and party revelers and sink into their fiery, devouring kiss. But they can't ignore his beeper, and he takes off without a trace, telling her not to leave...

Hours later, when her ninja hasn't shown up, Leila is discussing what happened with her brother Simon. The two have always been close, with the exception of agreeing on his choice of best friend, Dr. Marshall Devlin, and Simon's surprised yet delighted by Leila's unusually uninhibited behavior, as he doesn't care for her current boyfriend and wants her to find someone really special. As she's helping him clean up, mostly to keep her mind off her mysterious kissing bandit, Simon's best friend and her nemesis Marsh walks in, buzzing with excitement from the night before. When he reveals to her that he knows about what happened at the party, Leila misunderstands and thinks it's because her brother told him all about it, so she flies off the handle and storms off, mad at both Simon and Marsh for invading her privacy. Confused, Marsh goes to Simon to figure out what the hell just happened, and admits the truth: not only is he Leila's ninja, he's also rather desperately in love with her, and probably has been for years.
Rather than tell her straight away (therefore ending the book right then and there), Marshall feels that would be a disaster, so swearing Simon to secrecy, he decides that what he's going to do over the next two weeks is to let Leila really get to know him, and see how much he truly cares for her. And maybe, just maybe she'll fall in love with him too. He doesn't count on Leila's determination to discover who the ninja really is, or how she sets out to find him, and this concerns Marsh, thinking she may find someone else to fall in love with, so he initiates opportunities in which the two of them are thrown together, and Leila gets to see Marsh in his natural environment, not just as the island doctor but also as friend, neighbor, and veteranarian to the residents of Sunrise Key. She's surprised by what she discovers; he's not the cold, distant snob she's always taken him for, but very much a flesh and blood man, with a passion for what he does and a generous heart filled with affection for his neighbors, and soon she doesn't care who her ninja turns out to be, because Marhall Devlin turns out to be the man Leila can imagine spending the rest of her life with....
This book is a contemporary without all the bells and whistles, and makes up for it with an incredibly romantic love story between two stubborn people who've always been at each other's throats while being reluctantly fascinated with the other, not realizing until they are adults how wrong they've always been. I loved watching Marsh try to win Leila, and how they sit down and have actual conversations with each other, sometimes arguing but mostly getting to know the other person and liking what they are finding out. Leila sees the care and concern Marsh has for the people who live on the island, and discovers he suffered a devastating loss years ago, which explains his reserved behavior back then. Marsh sees that the woman he loves wants a family of her own, and would actually love to raise children on the island, but is afraid that leaving Manhatten means she's a failure instead of looking it as re-organizing her priorities. I liked how they related to each other, and that their arguing wasn't going to change once they fell in love. They were both strong, opinionated people with a lot of love to give.
Even now, twelve years later, I can still read this book and sigh with complete happiness. It has all the elements a strong contemporary should have, and though it may come across as a little dated, mostly in terms of the technology available at the time, the love story is classic and timeless. It also has Suz's signature "voice", and hints at the talent already bursting at the seams. So if you're a Brockmann fan and haven't yet read this one or if you're just looking for a really good contemporary romance, I highly recommend "Kiss and Tell".
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Simon's story will be released in 2009.
Rating: ***** out of *****

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  1. I just loved Marsh. You could feel his angst, as he loved Leila and didn't quite know how to tell her. Each new revelation of what a good guy he was attracted her more and more. Such a good book. *sigh*


  2. After reading your previous post on this book, I had to go order it from Chapters, it is now on its way to me and hopefully will arrive today. Thanks Stacy for your great reviews and bringing us books that otherwise might get lost in the volumes of books that come out.

  3. Lori, me too. Usually a British accent does nothing for me, but Marsh totally made me melt in how he loved Leila. I want a Marsh of my own *g*

    Cryna, I'm glad you enjoy the reviews. I try to stay with what's current, but since I'm a huge re-reader, it tends to end up on my blog. And hopefully other readers find books they never tried before and like them. I'm not a fast reader so a lot of times I'm left in the dust, but I read for enjoyment, and that's all that matters.

  4. I only read one Brockman before (sorry) and so I nearly scrolled by this post. I'm really glad I didn't! I love these kind of stories and this one sounds great. Thanks for the review.

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