Review – The Secret Kiss of Darkness by Christina Courtenay

By | February 23, 2014

Must forbidden love end in heartbreak?

Kayla Sinclair knows she’s in big trouble when she almost bankrupts herself to buy a life-size portrait of a mysterious eighteenth century man at an auction. 

Jago Kerswell, innkeeper and smuggler, knows there is danger in those stolen moments with Lady Eliza Marcombe, but he’ll take any risk to be with her. 

Over two centuries separate Kayla and Jago, but, when Kayla’s jealous fiancé presents her with an ultimatum, and Jago and Eliza’s affair is tragically discovered, their lives become inextricably linked thanks to a gypsy’s spell. Kayla finds herself on a quest that could heal the past, but what she cannot foresee is the danger in her own future. 

Will Kayla find heartache or happiness?

Way back in February 2013, one of my very first blog reviews was a review of The Silent Touch of Shadows by Christina Courtenay.  I really loved it – the historical setting, the strong heroine, dual time narrative with both strands holding their own, a touch of the supernatural…  As I was finishing reading what I thought to be her latest, The Secret Kiss of Darkness, I realised that my timing was extraordinarily bad – her new book, The Soft Whisper of Dreams, was published for Kindle on 12th February and is a digital-only sequel to this one. Ah well – another download, and another added to the long list of “books to read soon”!

This book was every bit as entrancing as  A Silent Touch of Shadows, the book I’d previously loved – if anything, I think I loved it even more. It has the same historical/modern story lines, and both scoop you up into another world and deposit you at the end, reluctantly returning to the real world around you.

In the modern story, Kayla purchases a painting at Sotheby’s with some inherited money – in reality far more than she can afford – having been entranced by the subject, an 18th century adventurer who turns out to be Jago Kerswell.  In 1781, we pick up the story of Jago, a Devon innkeeper, the son of a gypsy girl and the lord of the manor, and his passionate affair with Lady Eliza. What follows is a rollicking good read, where the stories of Kayla and Jago alternate with perfect ease – both stories are wonderful, exciting and totally absorbing.

Christina Courtenay is a quite perfect author.  There are elements to this story that would make you perhaps think that there’s suspension of disbelief, and then there’s downright silly – but it all works wonderfully, the surreal is made totally believable, and the threads of both stories are tied together with a sureness of touch that makes you gasp in admiration. If it’s wet and miserable outside, pick this one up and you’ll not even notice it – it’s a wonderful romantic and escapist read that I’d recommend even to the most hard-hearted cynic. Well done Christina, and well done (yet again…do they ever get it wrong?) to the fine publishers Choc Lit.

Maybe my timing wasn’t so bad after all – the paperback version of The Secret Kiss of Darkness was published by Choc Lit on 7th February. Her follow-up, The Soft Whisper of Dreams, is currently available for Kindle and Kindle app users only at the excellent price of £2.48 (check before buying).

Christina Courtenay writes historical romantic fiction and romantic time slip stories, as well as contemporary young adult romance. For more information on Christina and her books, please see her excellent website.You’ll also find her on Twitter and Facebook.