WHY THIS NOVEL: I liked other novels by Jessica Bird.
The back blurb:
“All Alex could see was her long, thick, gorgeous hair. Pale smooth skin. Lips that were naturally tinted pink. Eyes that were green like sea grass. He stopped himself. His best friend Reese might be dead. But in Alex’s mind, Cassandra was still very much the man’s wife. she was out of bounds.
Cassandra. The forbidden woman Alex had yearned for from the first moment he’d laid eyes on her. But she’d been married to his best friend. Now she was rebuilding his family’s bed-and-breakfast … and just might, in the process,be rebuilding his anguished heart.”
From the First Kiss was published in the US back in 2006 as a Silhouette Special Edition under the title From the First and it’s part three in The Moorehouse Legacy series. I haven’t read the first two in this series, but I read the fourth one, A Man in a Million, featuring Spike and Madeline whose first meeting is told in From the First Kiss.
From the first Kiss is the story of Alex, a race boat captain, and Cassandra, wife and now widow of Alex’s best friend Reese. I assume that Alex’s and Cass’s story begun with the first entry in this series, Beauty and the Black Sheep, featuring one of Alex’s sisters. At the start of From the First Kiss, Alex is still recovering from a very serious injury to his leg which happened several months ago. Cassandra arrives for the wedding of Alex’s sister Joy (although I think she’s there because she’s friends with the sister’s husband) and so Alex and Cass meet again after Alex managed to avoid Cass for the most time of their acquaintance. He always felt guilty for being in love with her, his best friend’s wife, and now, when he blames himself for his friend’s death, this is even more so. Anyway, they meet and since Cassandra gets hired to rebuild the Moorehouse family’s bed-and-breakfast, they’re thrown in close proximity for several months.
From the First Kiss is essentially a story that consists of a long series of misunderstandings. It begins with Cass’s assumption that Alex can’t stand her because he avoided her all the time, Alex’s assumption that Cass is involved with another man and Cass’s assumption that Alex is in love with another woman based on all kinds of “evidence,” Alex assumption that he’s not good enough, … While all these misunderstandings were certainly a bit much (and silly), they didn’t annoy me enough to stop reading. Sort of: there’s a melodramatic payoff for all the silliness. When done well and I’m in the right mood – shrug – it works for me. Bird isn’t afraid to milk these misunderstandings to the max, especially Cass’s assumption that Alex is in love with another woman when the woman is actually Cass herself.
Here is what Cassandra thinks after she witnessed Alex dreaming of the woman he loves hands-on:
Who did he love? she wondered with a strange ache in her chest. What kind of woman had gotten under that hard surface to the man beneath?
Well, whoever she was, she must be extraordinary. She’d have to be. Because someone like him, someone with such high standards, would only love a woman who was flat-out amazing. (p. 43)
“Where is she, Alex? Why isn’t she here with you?”
He didn’t answer, just propped his head up with his hand.
“Alex, why were you with me? You love her, right?”
Silence stretched out and then in a deadened voice, he said, “I am obsessed. She is like no other woman.”
Cass’s chest went cold, but she pressed on. “So why aren’t you with your Miracle?”
“It can’t work between us.”
“She’s not in your life?”
“Not the way I wish she was. Not the way … I want her. It would be inappropriate.”
“How long have you__”
“Very long. I’ve loved her for years.” (p. 140/141)
Cassandra even asks him who this woman is in this conversation. And of course, she gets no answer. Alex chooses instead to hurt the woman he loves and let her believe that she’s some substitute. She then finds the answer to her question in Madeline who turns up later in the story to see how Alex is doing (she’s navigator of his racing team).
As I said above, the reason for all these misunderstandings is Alex guilt about loving his best friend’s wife and his getting all angsty over thinking he let go of his friend intentionally when he went over board during a hurricane because of that. As Alex likes to think when he’s all-out melodramatic: “I killed him.” Alex’s character development consists in realizing that he did all he could to help his friend and keep him alive and his guilt about loving Cass is made easier by discovering some not-so-nice things about his best friend. Cass character development consists in realizing that her marriage was dead and that she should have gotten a divorce instead of staying married.
There’s a lot of angst and melodrama and over-the-top actions and reactions in this story. That’s entertaining to read when I’m in the right mood and it reminded me of the things I liked about J. R. Ward’s BDB series but ultimately, From the First Kiss is too thin on story, real conflict and character development to be something more than an average novel.
Would I recommend this novel? Maybe.
Would I read this novel again? Maybe.
Grade: 3 / 5