Wild Kisses is set in the fictional town of Wildwood, the home town of sisters Delaney, Avery and Chloe Hart. It is the second book of the series and features Avery – a newly divorced ex-military-wife returned to the place where she grew up, to open a bakery/café and start a new life.
Also wanting to get a leg up to a new life is Trace Hutton. He’s an ex-con (there’s a story there) who is rebuilding his reputation and his contracting/carpentry business. Trace has been working on the bakery for Avery for two months when the book starts and the grand opening is not very far away.
I actually wondered for a while after I started the audiobook whether there was a mix-up when I was putting it onto my iPod. I went as far as to download the kindle sample to check the beginning was actually where it started in my ears. Because it felt to me like the book started, if not in the middle of the story, at least well after the beginning. It quickly became clear that the first book in the series, Forbidden Fling (which features the romance between Delaney and Ethan) must’ve included a bit about the developing attraction between Avery and Trace. Because it wasn’t in Wild Kisses.
I want to say that Wild Kisses can be read as a standalone romance and I ought to be able to say that. Each book in the series features a different main couple after all, but there were times when I was frustrated because Avery’s and Trace’s story is clearly not complete in this book. They get their HEA; listeners need not worry about that – but the very beginning was obviously in the earlier book. I have mixed feelings about whether to advise listeners to listen out of order (particularly as I haven’t listened to the first book) – on the one hand, if one’s sense of order is anything like mine, missing out on the beginning of the attraction (seriously, it wasn’t even recapped here) will nag like a mild toothache. On the other hand, after some initial confusion, I was able to catch up fairly well, so it’s not essential.
I initially feared that Wild Kisses would be a “big misunderstanding” book – my least favourite trope. But, to their credit, both Avery and Trace didn’t let their insecurities ruin their relationship. Each at different times during the story took the bull by the horns and started an actual conversation to clear the air. This was both refreshing and realistic. Trace is known locally as a “bad boy” and a “player” and his past prison time makes him feel he is not good enough for Avery who he sees as a “good girl”. Avery, for her part, thinks she is too inexperienced for Trace and doubts she could keep him satisfied. Each begins the novel expressing a mistrust of relationships and commitment.
However, the attraction between Avery and Trace is too powerful and it is not long before they each find that their beliefs were misguided; Trace thinks Avery is super-hot and the idea of introducing her to intimacies she did not experience with her one and only lover (her ex-husband) are a big turn-on for him. And Avery feels as if she has been in a different kind of prison (a bad marriage) and believes the way Trace is reclaiming his life and rebuilding his reputation is a badge of courage and something to be proud of. Still, Trace’s past and his reputation do have an effect on Avery’s business and they each have to work through various consequences of that to get their HEA.
Tatiana Sokolov (aka Tanya Eby) is one of my favourite narrators and is a big draw for me when choosing an audiobook. I knew I’d be in safe hands during this listen. She has a gruff, deeper, male character voice and can indicate age really well in her performances – so Avery’s aunt Phoebe, Trace’s grandmother Pearl, and Trace’s dad, George, were easy to distinguish from other cast members.
Ms. Sokolov is also really good at delivering on dramatic tension as well as the emotion and intimacy of the love scenes.
There were, however, a couple of things I noticed in Wild Kisses which weren’t ideal. In one scene, Trace’s dad was singing along with a playlist. Ms. Sokolov used George’s voice to kinda-sorta sing but it wasn’t very musical (the pitch was off) and it didn’t convey the message of the text, which was about celebrating George’s connection with the music. George has dementia and the music is part of his therapy which lifts his mood and “brings him back” (somewhat) to his family. He is portrayed as very musical and I expected he would actually be able to sing. Perhaps it is difficult to sing in tune in a character’s voice. But my sense (noting I could well be wrong) was that Ms. Sokolov wasn’t as committed to it as she could have been. I think she’d have been better off just speaking the words or going all in and really singing them instead of the hybrid.
The other thing was there were a few occasions where Ms. Sokolov finished the sentence before the text did, leaving some random words out there on their own. I expect this sort of thing is usually picked up in edits but they were missed here.
Those little issues were not deal breakers for me and they weren’t prominent enough in the listen to cause a significant reduction in my grade but I did note them. And, even with those couple of small niggles, I’d much rather listen to Ms. Sokolov narrate than quite a few others I’ve experienced lately.
Wild Kisses is a sexy contemporary which traverses some heavier issues with a relatively light touch and it certainly entertained me. Plus, there were multiple references to cake – one of my favourite things ever – and there’s no complaining about that!
Book Content: B
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Violence Rating: Fighting, reference to past domestic abuse
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Wild Kisses was provided to AudioGals by Brilliance Audio for a review.