Anna and The French Kiss
Perkins, S. (2010). Anna and The French Kiss. Dutton.
[Genre: Contemporary Romance]
I'm not a contemporary romance reader. YA contemporary romance? No thanks! But I had heard so so many good things about this one from so many different sources that eventually it somehow fell into my hands. And I am so so glad it did.
Anna is dumped in a Paris boarding school for American students for her final year of high school by her obvious-caricature of Nicholas Sparks father for reasons that aren't really that important or sensible. She has trouble adjusting, which probably isn't surprising since she's been torn away from her former life with no choice in the matter and doesn't speak a word of French. Fortunately, she's befriended by Meredith, her brings her into her group and into the life of Etienne St Clair, very cute and very taken French-English-American hybrid.
The Bad: There are some moments that are totally teenage angst (not to mention first world-problems syndrome) in a way that made me glad I've left those years behind. The stereotyping of the French way of life and English-English quirks of language in comparison to American English made me roll my eyes a few times (I don't know a single English person in real life who seriously uses the word 'pants' as an exclamation of frustration). The original cover of this one would have stopped me from reading it. To be honest it was the new cover release that shifted this one from a might read someday to a pick-up-soon for me.
The Good: The characters are realistic, and I mean properly human realistic. No stereotypical flaw added just to bring the hero or heroine down to our level. Nobody here is perfect, even the hero St Clair is a. shorter than the heroine and b. has a few obvious personality flaws. It means the book becomes not about the perfect love but the 'right' love for Anna and Etienne. Which means Perkin's is free to write a novel about young love as it really is and she does it INCREDIBLY well. Masterfully even. Every emotion is true to life, every connection is well thought out. I love how the book is written from Anna's perspective, but you can tell what Etienne is feeling because of Perkin's way of
writing him. It's funny, it's realistic, it's not to fluffy, or to grey and depressing.It made me swoon, not because I wanted to be the characters, but because it reminded me of moments with my husband and me why I love HIM, not a fictional character. Which is what great romances should do. Although the secondary characters aren't particularly deeply explored, Perkins still reminds us that there are things going on with them behind the scenes, both making the setting more realistic and (potentially) setting up future stories to tell. The romance is well paced and overall it's just fun. Light reading, but of the best best best possible type. This is the first book in MONTHS that reading it has made me want to go out and buy it, just so I can have it. And that has to be a good thing