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Tuesday, March 10, 2009:
"The Kissing Game" by Suzanne Brockmann - review (1996)

A Florida beauty who hides her stunning good looks. A childhood friend who’s made a career of seduction. A thrilling story of mystery, secrets, and romance—as only New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Brockmann can tell it…

Sunrise Key native and aspiring private investigator Frankie Paresky has her first bona fide case—a client has hired her to find the missing heir to a priceless property. But there’s one complication: Simon Hunt, her best friend’s brother and a notorious heartbreaker, insists on being Frankie’s assistant. For Frankie, even Simon’s street-smart know-how isn’t worth the cost of dealing with his distracting good looks and overactive libido. But Simon’s on a mission to prove he’s not the man Frankie thinks he is. The truth is, he’s been dreaming about Frankie since they were teenagers, and not one woman on his endless list of conquests has managed to stop him. But he needs to work fast. Because the real Frankie—every gorgeous inch of her—isn’t under wraps anymore, and a stranger is already moving in.

Sometimes I forget I've been a fan of Suzanne Brockmann for only 13 years - it feels like it should be for much longer. I'm really loving that a lot of her older books are being re-released for newer fans to discover and enjoy.

"The Kissing Game" is the 2nd book by Suz I've ever read. It's also book #2 in the Sunrise Key trilogy, and over the weekend I bought an updated copy and re-read it in a manner of hours. Again, my heart stopped at the level of emotion and romance Suz puts in this straight-up contemporary story. I loved it as much, if not more, than the first time I ever read it. That is what a keeper is all about.

Because she's his sister Leila's best friend, Simon Hunt has known Francine "Frankie" Paresky a long time, since they were kids. She's so unlike the other women he dates, yet he'd give anything to get her into his bed. When Frankie needs assistance on a case, Simon volunteers his services, figuring this would give him the perfect opportunity to work closely with her and work on countering any arguments she has about acting on their searing attraction. He realizes he has a fight on his hands, but he's confident he can charm her out of her trenchcoat and fedora and show her how good they can be together.

Frankie has seen Simon the Casanova in action, and despite her incredible attraction to him, she has no desire to be just one of many. Besides, despite his attempts at seduction, she considers him to be a good friend, and doesn't wish to lose that connection with him, not when she's so close to his sister. But she will accept his help with an investigation she's currently working on, a case that re-visits the past and a special time in Frankie's life. Will Simon lose Frankie before he even gets the chance to let her know how much he truly cares?

My thoughts:

Sigh. Friends to lovers. How I do love this theme. There's always so much rich history between the characters, and I love watching how the relationship evolves. It's especially satisfying when the hero realizes just how much this woman means to him, moreso than all the others who have passed through his life. She stands out because she's different, though not in a bad way, but rather a way he never used to think appealed to him before. Simon tends to date flashy, bold, experienced women who spend more time on their hair and make-up than in having an actual conversation. Is it no surprise that he loses interest after just one night? He can find pleasure anywhere, but someone who challenges him, puts him in his place? Well, no other woman, save for his sister, has done that. Her ability to push him away leaves him feeling unsure of himself, and re-thinking his serial dating habits. With his history, he greatly fears that he's not just going to be the one dating his friends' sisters; he's going to end up dating their daughters as well. A rather depressing thought.

Underneath those practical clothes and realistic expectations beats the heart of a true romantic. Many years ago Frankie dated a young man who she thought was the love of her life, and when there's a chance he might come back into her life, she jumps at it, figuring that maybe it was meant to be. She's conflicted by her feelings for Simon, and tries to push him away, keeping him in the "just friends" box . But he won't let her. I love that as much as Frankie challenges Simon, he pushes her right back. And I love how we saw past the sand and the plain clothes to the real woman she was, and before he knew what hit him, she starts to mean everything to him. It's no longer about getting her into bed; it's about proving to her that she really is the only woman he wants. Forever.

Romantic? Check. Emotional? Check. Sexy? Check. I couldn't believe how my stomach filled with butterflies after reading this book, even though I knew exactly what was going to happen. Suz has such a way of writing that a simple kiss becomes the sexiest thing I've read about in ages. Mouths linger. Breath catches. Time stops. The feeling of being on this island and being warmed by the sun is so vivid that I could alnost smell the ocean, feel my toes curling in the sand. I can feel the heat and the urgency, the racing hearts and trembling hands. That's one of the amazing aspects of Suz's writing: a mere kiss can be a helluva lot more erotic than the most explicit menage' in some of the steamier books I've read in the past (excluding "The Bikini Diaries", of course. Had to be said). Watching Frankie and Simon fall in love is a real treat, one I could partake in again and again without guilt.

Rating: ***** out of *****

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  1. I too love the friends to lovers storyline. Do you have any favorites you'd recommend?

    I've bought several of these Brockmann re-releases but I haven't read any of them yet!

  2. That was a lovely review Stacy - thank you!

    I've only just discovered Suzanne Brockmann (yes, I do feel like I've had my head in the sand) and have read two of the Troubleshooters books to date (oh, and Everyday Mr Jones :) I'll have to make sure once I get through those that I look up Suzanne's contemporaries :)

  3. Oh yes. Love this one! As much as Kiss and Tell. Isn't it great that they're re-releasing all these? Sigh of happiness!

  4. Ooh, I'm gonna have to read this book. It amazes me how much I love Suz and yet haven't read every book she has (there are so many) but I'm definitely putting this at the top of my TBR list, thanks for the review girly!

    I just adore friends to lovers stories, so YAY!

  5. Hey Mollie :) Other than this one, there's also Brockmann's "Body Language", which I reviewed here somewhere. If you like historicals, Stephanie Laurens wrote a sexy one in the Cynster books, I think it was "All About Love" and Alathea (sp?) was the heroine. Or Julia Quinn's "When He Was Wicked".

    Orannia, I know how you feel. It's overwhelming, especially when you find an author who's written so many. Suz is worth it, imho.

    Lori, totally. These were the books that changed my reading preferences forever, and going back to them years later hasn't lessened their appeal one bit for me. My heart was still in my throat.

    Wena, knowing what a huge SB fan you are, I'm surprised you haven't read this one. But I know you'll love it, cuz that's how you rock.

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