Every Time We Kiss by Christie Kelley
Five years ago Lady Jennette Shelby accidentally killed her fiance, John, during a fencing accident on a wet morning. John begged his friend Matthew Harris to take the blame and protect Jennette's name and Matthew agrees even though he knows this will ruin him in the eyes of the ton forever. Jennette knows this too and she feels guilty but she agrees to go on with her life, pretending to be a happy and frivolous spendthift. But when Matthew unexpectedly becomes the Duke of Blackburn it is imperitive that he make his way back into the society that has scorned him for so long. When she finally comes into her inheritance Jennette decides that she will move to Florence to give Matthew a chance and hope that the ton forgets the past. Unfortunately it quickly becomes obvious that this is not going to happen anytime soon and Matthew desperately needs a respectable and wealthy wife to pay of his father and brother's gambling debts and restore his ruined houses. He makes it clear to Jennette that she either needs to find him or a wife or marry him herself or he will reveal who really killed John.
Jennette feels immensely guilty for the way that things have turned out for Matthew and she cannot have this secret get out as she apparently made a deathbed promise to her father that she would not bring scandal to the family name. So she agrees and things immediately get off to a horrible start as the first lady becomes terrified when she finds out who he is, the second turns out to only want him because she's already pregnant, and the third one's parents berate and scream at Matthew in front of the many guests at a house party. Meanwhile Matthew is coming to realize that he really only wants Jennette and Jennette is coming to realize that it is going to be very difficult to watch Matthew doing "married people" things with another woman. Not helping the matter is that they are both immensely attracted to each other and despite trying to deny it it was impossible for the two of them to stay out of each others' beds. Just as it seems that the two of them might be able to make things work a person from Matthew's past comes to try to ruin everything and once again Jennette is wracked with guilt. It is up to Matthew to convince her that it is their future that matters- their future together.
The overwhelming emotion I felt while reading this book was frustration and I did literally spend most of the book wanting to kick at least one of the characters in the ass. I had problems with the problems surrounding John's death as over and over and over Jennette declares that everything would have blown over if she had just admitted she did it. And yet she did not. And instead of trying to rectify everything by confessing (and I'm sure she had plenty of opportunities in the five intervening years) she keeps her mouth shut and goes along with the whole pretending to be a frivolous spendthrift. And then when it comes to finding Matthew a bride she just refuses to acknowledge that no woman who meets his demands will ever agree to marry him and yet she continues to throw women at him. While her guilt was bad enough for her to gush on about on nearly every other page it was not enough for her to actually finally admit that the only real way to solve all the problems that are bugging everyone is to just admit what happened and marry Matthew. I also really could not figure out why Matthew didn't just throw in the towel and either force her to marry him or finally tell everyone what happened- it would have served her right.
The very fact that I wrote that should make it clear that I did not particularly like Jennette and Matthew was not exactly any better. The guilt and regret completely overwhelmed the entire book and, while not leading to any fun bits of minor angst that is juicy and quickly over with, lead to a complete pall of depression over the whole novel. And that was more than a little frustrating as well. I also noticed that there were quite a few references to events that had obviously happened in Kelley's previous novel about Jennette's brother, Banning, and his wife, Avis. This was really to the point where I felt like I really would have benefited quite a bit by having read this book beforehand; something I do not appreciate. I unexpectedly liked the rescue that was forced to take place at the end (because of Jennette's guilt and insecurities) because it was not a kidnap plot and was not overdrawn; it was well written, quick, and did not involve dastardly villains out to destroy someone happiness. There was a villain in this book, Matthew's ex-mistress, and I enjoyed her parts of the story very much as she was an important part of the story, she certainly was a villain, and she was a woman so it was a nice change of pace.
Rating: I really was just immensely frustrating with this book and the large number of big misunderstandings and secrets (that could have easily been resolved or prevented) really impacted this story in a negative way. But it was not completely awful- the best I can say about it.