A Restoration era love story inspired by the character of the Earl of Rochester, King Charles II’s court poet who was rumored to be the model for Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff. William de Veres, the handsome son of a hard-drinking cavalier was abandoned at an early age to a brutal school system and a predatory and abusive tutor. He soon discovers the escapes of poetry, literature, alcohol and sex, and the defenses of a sharp sword and lacerating wit. As a titanic struggle erupts between parliament and king, William takes up arms in the Royalist cause and pursued by Cromwell’s men finds himself seeking shelter from a sober young Puritan woman in a cottage deep in the woods.
The Civil war has cost the once high spirited Elizabeth Walters her best friend and her father, leaving her unprotected and alone. She flees an unwanted marriage, seeking safe haven, but what she finds there is something she never expected. Despite William’s gratitude and promise to aid her, Elizabeth never expects to set him again, but the Restoration of Charles II to his throne will bring her to the attention of both William and the king.
Can a promise long forgotten and a friendship forged in the past help two lonely people find each other and themselves? Can a debauched court poet and notorious libertine convince the wary Elizabeth he is capable of love? These are the questions asked by Libertine’s Kiss…”
(Booklist). Starred Review *
When William de Veres turns up at Elizabeth’s home late one night, she asks no questions, but instead takes him in, tends his wounds, and gives him one glorious night of passion. William never knew that Elizabeth’s act of charity cost her greatly. Once Cromwell’s men discover that Elizabeth gave aid to one of Charles’ cavaliers, they seize her family’s estates, thus forcing Elizabeth into an unwanted marriage in order to survive. As a widow, Elizabeth arrives in the Merry Monarch’s court hoping to convince the king to restore her lands. William, now Earl Rivers and the court’s official poet, knows he must help his old friend. He knows exactly how to repackage Elizabeth so that she can capture the king’s attention, but what this infamous libertine doesn’t expect is that he will fall in love with his new creation instead. Fueled by sizzling sensuality and sharp wit, James’ refreshingly different historical deftly re-creates the glittering, colorful court of Charles II while also delivering an unforgettable love story.
— John Charles
All About Romance Desert Isle Keeper Review
There are books I rather like and then, every once in a great while, there are books I love to the point of wanting everybody I know to go out and buy a copy. Libertine’s Kiss is one of those rare books. This angsty historical is heartrendingly beautiful, featuring beautiful language and a fantastic setting with a smart heroine and a deeply tortured, flawed hero who turns out wonderfully.
The story opens as Cromwell still holds power in England. An injured Royalist comes to a young Puritan widow’s door, and she gives him shelter even as she recognizes him as the man who killed her father during the English Civil War. Though she knows his identity right away, the injured man doesn’t recognize her. We learn early on not only of this man’s war history, but also that he was the widowed Elizabeth Walters’ beloved childhood friend, William de Veres. The two lived on neighboring properties and spent a magical summer exploring together. Sadly, William’s family sent him away to school, the two families took opposite sides during the war, and they never saw each other again until the night William showed up at Elizabeth’s door. That night, they make love in a poignantly written scene, and then William must flee the authorities.
After Cromwell’s death, Charles II is restored to the throne and William now holds an honored place in his court. Elizabeth has not fared so well. Upon learning that she sheltered a Royalist, Cromwell stripped her of her lands and she lives in poverty. Her path crosses William’s again when she goes to court to petition for return of her lands. The naive Lizzy is not at all prepared for what she finds in Charles’ court, and the courtiers mock her openly. The scene in which William comes to her rescue is one of many great scenes in the book. Having survived a miserable early life, the embittered William writes satirical poetry and several scenes in the book, including this one, show him employing it to great effect.
From this point on, we see William establishing Lizzy at court as she tries to get her lands restored to her. In addition, we also get to experience the wonderful treat of the grown-up Lizzy and William getting to know one another and falling in love all over again. It’s a beautiful, bittersweet tale and there are quite a few moments in this book that will make readers both smile and tear up – and sometimes do both of these things at once. The dialogue in this story flows beautifully, and the characters share many layers of emotion in their conversations – with snippets of William’s poetry as icing on the cake. On top of all that, Judith James can really write a good hot love scene. Not only do Lizzy and William share passionate moments, but the author writes a great deal of emotion into their lovemaking and really conveys the complexity and intensity of their emotions to the reader.
The leads in this book do not have an easy story, and the author wisely lets readers live inside their struggles rather than spoonfeeding it in emotionless infodumps. Though both hero and heroine have had difficult lives, Lizzy holds on to hope and to her belief in the ideals she and William spoke of as children. William, on the other hand, lives up to the definition of a cynic as broken-hearted idealist. He drinks too much in order to numb himself and has slept with numerous women, though he refuses to engage in serious relationships. He is open about this with Lizzy, and does not even pretend to be one of those sweet, magical rakes who immediately throws aside his wicked ways after being entranced by his first glimpse of the heroine. One would never call William harmless, but in his treatment of Lizzy, he does by the end live up to the title of hero.
In addition to having wonderful lead characters, their story unfolds inside a magical world. Judith James juggles poetry, Restoration court culture, and fairytale references with an almost perfect sense of timing, and the result is a world that springs vividly to life. Rather than simplifying the many complex historical details of the day, the author weaves their many threads into her story, letting readers see her world in its many layers of light and dark just as her characters would have. The result is a story that is sweeping and epic.
Filled with intelligent dialogue and set within a wonderfully conceived world, Libertine’s Kiss is one of those books I wish I could buy in bulk so that I can push it to everyone I know. The writing is beautiful, and the story compelling. I find myself wanting to compare it to something, but there is really nothing out there quite like this. Judith James has a unique voice, and it’s one that I hope to see in print for many years to come.
– Lynn Spencer
Romantic Times Top Pick
Reviewed By: Kathe Robin
James’ unusual love story is one of emotional impact. While set against a historical backdrop, full of tumult and betrayal, her complex characters are both emotionally ravaged yet highly sensual. Readers will find this poignant love story enthralling and unforgettable.
William de Veres and Elizabeth Walters were childhood friends separated because of their fathers’ greed. William was sent to school, then joined the military; Elizabeth was forced to marry an abusive man. Years later they encounter one another under dangerous circumstances, but neither acts as if they recognize one another.
Two years later, when Elizabeth is trying to see the king, William uses his position as the king’s bard to secure her an appointment. Once they acknowledge their feelings for each other, Elizabeth must reconcile William’s behavior in the intervening years when he was in the king’s personal service. They also must deal with the political intrigue of the court and its viciously greedy and jealous attendees. (HQN, Aug., 384 pp., $7.99)
The Good The Bad The Unread Grade A+
Have you ever read a book that affected you so deeply, when another book by the same author comes out you are afraid to read it? You’re afraid that the book couldn’t possibly come close to the previous book?
This was the case with Judith James’s Libertine’s Kiss. I was so blown away when I read Broken Wing, I was almost afraid to read Libertine’s Kiss when Sybil sent it to me. After just holding it for a number of days, though, I figured I’d better start reading. I mean, that is why she sent it; for a review.
I loved it, absolutely loved it. The book starts out with our hero, William, on the run from Cromwell’s troops when he comes across a cottage where Elizabeth saves him. After a night spent in each other’s arms, William leaves the next morning with the promise to help Elizabeth should she ever need it, though he doesn’t give her his name, so she thinks she will never be able to take him up on it.
But that act of kindness costs Elizabeth dearly as everything is taken away from her when it’s discovered she helped this friend of King Charles. And something else William doesn’t know. Elizabeth is in reality the only friend he had as a very young man when they were on opposite sides of the pending civil war. Elizabeth has loved him all these years.
Fast forward now and Cromwell’s son has given up his power, Charles is now King of England, and the Restoration is in full gear. For those who don’t know their history that well, this was a time of decadence, debauchery, and licentiousness and William is a major player. When Elizabeth comes to court to try and gain her land back, William recognizes her as the young woman who saved his life and is determined to help her gain entry into the King’s inner circle.
When you read a Judith James book, you don’t just get a romance. You get a wonderful, intriguing lesson in history. A number of times while reading this book, I took the time to look deeper into the times, the King and the Earl of Rochester, who the author based the character of William on, with a few differences since Rochester’s life ended sadly and much too soon, and this is a romance. And what a romance it is too.
Young William had such a tragic childhood that he really needed the optimism and naïveté that Elizabeth offered him. Their previous relationship is told in flashbacks as they deal with their growing love for each other as adults. William has led such a life of wantonness that he doesn’t think he can commit to a life with just Elizabeth and she demands nothing less. He does help her attract the attention of the king and the king is also attracted to Elizabeth. Add in a jealous mistress of both men and it seems there is no way these two lovers can find their way to each other.
Ms. James’ writing is lush and rich and she fully draws you into the heartache of her characters. The reader feels what her characters feel. And I can’t express how much I love the setting of this book. In a genre that feels so much the same, a love story set in Restoration England is just so damn refreshing and Ms. James makes the time come alive as much as the characters.
In some ways this is a better written book than Broken Wing. She keeps improving with each book. While I didn’t have the immediate need to right away reread Libertine’s Kiss the way I did with Broken Wing, there is no question that I will read it again and again and again. - Kristie Jenner
The Season Top Pick!
|Rating: 9 Heat Level: 5 (Scorching)
Libertine’s Kiss is a passionate story full of the real stuff of romance – the difficult decisions and sacrifices one makes for love, and the power two people can claim for themselves when they have the support of the right person.
One thing I’ve learned in my time as a reviewer is that I’m stingy with my praise. To get a 9 out of me, an author has to give me characters I can relate to – people who have problems that they face with bravery, honor and humor. The characters need a setting so vivid I feel like I’m there. The plot must avoid easy romance clichés, and the author has to use English in ways that make each sentence a pleasure to read.
Judith James’ latest novel is most definitely a 9.
William and Lizzie were childhood friends, even though their families were on opposite sides of a political divide that would lead to the English Civil War. Lizzie’s family is Puritans and supports the Parliamentarian revolt, while William’s family is Royalists. When war breaks out, William leaves to fight for the monarchy, and he follows the executed king’s son into exile.
It’s years before they meet again, this time in a semi-anonymous encounter when Lizzie saves William’s life. She recognizes him, but he doesn’t know who she is; he only knows the comfort he feels around her.
The war years have not been kind to Lizzie. She was married off to an abusive husband, and after she’s widowed, all her land is seized by Oliver Cromwell because he discovers she helped an enemy – William. At times, it’s only the fantastical stories William told her as a child that keep her going. She doesn’t see William again until the monarchy is restored and she goes to the royal court to plead for her lands back.
When he realizes who she is, he uses his influence with Charles II to have her land restored. Unfortunately, the king is a true libertine, and William knows he’s unlikely to lift a finger for a woman unless there’s something in it for him.
In William and Lizzie, Judith James has created characters with such depth that they could be real. Every significant character is funny, but William regularly had me clutching my ribs with laughter with his inappropriately timed observations. He is a poet with passionately held ideals. He’s a libertine, yes, but not because he seeks pleasure for pleasure’s sake; he had a traumatic childhood and drowns his demons in alcohol and sex.
Any romance novel heroine in less well-written novels would change him with little effort. Elizabeth instead faces his demons head-on and helps him realize that taking the more difficult paths can be more rewarding. She makes one firm rule – that he will have no other women – and helps him find ways to curb his drinking. Even when he doubts his own ability to change his self-destructive ways, Elizabeth is practical and strong enough to make me think he will be able to conquer his addictions. But only with her unflagging support.
What I enjoyed most about William and Lizzie was the maturity and honesty with which they talk to each other. They are people who clearly respect each other and show it, even when they’re furious with each other. The depth of friendship and love between them makes their love scenes scorching hot, not just because of the explicit descriptions and language (although people who like their sex to be alluded to may find themselves skipping quite a few pages).
After all they’ve been through together, William’s declaration of love for Lizzie is one of the most romantic scenes I’ve ever read. It’s the kind of statement that I wish I’d read before I got married because I would’ve gladly ripped it off and said those words to my husband on our wedding day.
Libertine’s Kiss is such an engrossing novel that I resented the time I had to waste doing other things – like sleeping, eating and working. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for any more from Judith James. ~ Katrina
BookingIt Grade: A
It is seventeenth century England and the country is in civil war. The Puritans, or those following Oliver Cromwell, have usurped the English monarchy and established a commonwealth. William, a friend and fighter of Charles II, the exiled king, was injured and found his way onto a small cottage. The woman of the house treats his wounds and he leaves the next morning. What he doesn’t know is that this woman was his childhood love.
When Elizabeth saw William on her doorstep, she couldn’t believe she had found her childhood friend. She treated him, shared an intimate night with him, and he left with a promise to help her yet he didn’t know her identity. Unfortunately, she was punished because she treated his wounds and her lands were confiscated from her.
At the end of the war, Charles II regains his throne and England sheds its Puritan ways. William attends Charles’ court and becomes well known for his satiric poetry and libertine ways. On the other hand, Elizabeth is scraping to get by. She goes to the king to request her lands back and runs into William.
Can William help her get her confiscated land? Can Elizabeth save William from his philandering ways?
What a fantastic book! William is quite the seducer yet Elizabeth can match him with wit and intelligence. Their pasts shape the characters they become, and although these pasts are different, the characters end up working well together. Elizabeth is easy to relate to and likeable. William is a lost soul even though he appears outwardly light hearted. Although William appears to save the day, the reader feels that Elizabeth is actual William’s savior.
I loved the setting of this book. Without having the uptight feel that many regency romances suffer, this era drips of romance and over-indulgence. The tremulous times make for an intriguing environment. Also, the characters are based off of known historical figures, even using their actual names at some points. A bit a research concludes the author studied the period extensively and adapted her characters to fit the traits of these historical figures. Very well done and works perfectly into the story.
I swallowed Libertine’s Kiss whole, reading the book quickly and in just a few settings. Not only is the setting and characters well done, the storytelling is terrific, telling a complete tale with few, if any, loose ends. Fans of historical romance go buy this book and add this book to your bookshelves immediately! You will not be disappointed.
Book Lovers Inc
This books is set during a period of history that I didn’t know much about, the Civil War and the Restoration. I started reading Libertine’s Kiss and I just couldn’t stop. I am now fascinated by this period and by the reign of Charles II. I think Judith James’ writing might have something to do with that *wink*. I love her style! I already loved Broken Wing (My review here) but now after reading Libertine’s Kiss she’s on my Auto-buy list!
Libertine’s Kiss (Hqn) Reader to Reader.com
Elizabeth Walters has fond memories of her childhood friend, William de Veres. He had a horrific childhood, served his King and country, and has emerged as the libertine of The Libertine’s Kiss, by Judith James. De Veres is a rogue with a sentimental streak a mile wide, known for his romantic conquests as well as his remarkable ability as a poet. Loyal to King Charles, DeVeres has spent the civil war period as a spy and highwayman, delivering military intelligence and also stealing to help fund the efforts against Cromwell. Elizabeth has barely survived the war after being widowed and left to tend her property with only a few faithful servants to help.
When de Veres and Elizabeth meet as adults, Elizabeth immediately recognizes her childhood neighbor, but de Veres does not know Elizabeth, whom he last saw as a young woman. De Veres appears at her door badly injured and in need of assistance, and Elizabeth gladly reaches out to help her old friend. William is captivated by the beautiful and capable Elizabeth, and the two spend an intimate night together before de Veres must leave to resume his work for the Crown, still not knowing Elizabeth’s true identity.
Their paths collide once again when Elizabeth makes her way to London to beg King Charles to return her properties that were seized during the war. When de Veres overhears Elizabeth giving her name to the King’s Chamberlain, he realizes that the woman who rescued him when he was hurt is one and the same as his childhood friend and first love. William vows to help Elizabeth regain her property, and the two resume their friendship as adults, now realizing that they are each with their one true love. De Veres must face the demons of his past before he can move on to a future with Elizabeth, and their future remains uncertain as old memories and new challenges collide to threaten their relationship.
Historical details, poetic quotations and fictional characters based on real individuals blend perfectly in Libertine’s Kiss. Judith James’ characters are wonderfully crafted, and William de Veres is the perfect blend of smoldering hot lover and sentimental sweetheart. William and Elizabeth’s story is compelling, sexy as can be and expertly told by Judith James. Libertine’s Kiss is everything a historical romance should be and more. Don’t miss this one!
Joyce Greenfield, ReaderToReader.com
Libertine’s Kiss is a captivating story of love lost and found. Penned with clarity and emotion, its poignancy is tangible. I was breathless with anticipation after every chapter, desperate for William and Elizabeth to finally find their way back to each other. William and Elizabeth are constant subtle presences in each other’s lives, reminding them of their childhood even when they are apart. The pain of William’s past shapes the man he becomes. Long absences, brief encounters, a marriage for Elizabeth and numerous lovers for William never dull the bond between them. It may be buried for a time, but it’s never gone. Their love is a part of them. It’s an undeniable force that becomes an unquenchable thirst. Libertine’s Kiss is a wonderful story of passion, promises made and broken, and a love that stands the test of time.
Romance Novel News
“Libertine’s Kiss” (Historical, HQN, 380 pages, $7.99), by Judith James: Friends from childhood, Puritan Elizabeth Walters, and William de Veres, a cavalier and notorious libertine are now on opposite sides of the English Civil War.
After years of separation, an injured William shows up on Elizabeth’s doorstep but he does not recognize her. She treats his wounds and they engage in an unforgettable night of passion. In the morning he leaves – without asking her name.
Because of William’s allegiance to the exiled King Charles II, Elizabeth is charged with treason for harboring and aiding a fugitive. She is stripped of her lands and left penniless.
When Charles is restored to the throne a year later, Elizabeth hopes to plead her case to the king in order to reclaim her land. William, now an Earl and royal poet, spots the mysterious woman he shared a night of passion with and discovers her identity. As a royal confidant, he vows to help Elizabeth by preparing her for her audience with the king.
William moves Elizabeth into the palace and their mysterious relationship provides fodder for the court. Even the king is intrigued by the pure and innocent Elizabeth, who monopolizes William’s attention.
Jealousy mounts when William, who usually shares his conquests with Charles, is troubled by the king’s special interest in Elizabeth. And a series of misunderstandings and manipulated events threaten their relationship.
In “Libertine’s Kiss, “Judith James delivers artful and witty prose with a heartwarming storyline. Some dark elements are introduced (Elizabeth was a victim of spousal abuse, and as a child, William was treated inappropriately by his tutor), but James is careful not to let those traumatic circumstances overwhelm the story.
Readers will not be able to resist this charming tale of childhood sweethearts who are reunited later in life to become each other’s salvation.