Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Everyone remembers their first kiss. But what about the last?
1961. Journalist Rosamund Bailey is ready to change the world. When she meets explorer and man about town Dominic Blake, she realises she has found the love of her life. Just as happiness is in their grasp, the worst happens, and their future is snatched away.
2014. Deep in the vaults of a museum, archivist Abby Morgan stumbles upon a breathtaking find. A faded photograph of a man saying goodbye to the woman he loves. Looking for a way to escape her own heartache, Abby becomes obsessed with the story, little realising that behind the image frozen in time lies a secret altogether more extraordinary.
The Last Kiss Goodbye is Tasmina Perry's second foray into historical fiction although the first I have read as sadly The Proposal is still sitting in my ever growing TBR pile waiting to be read. Compared to Rachel Hore and Santa Montefiore (both authors whom I adore) overall this was a good read that held lots of promise but didn't quite reach the heights of either Rachel's or Santa's books. It didn't have me fully gripped except for the last number of chapters and the mystery element was all just a bit too rushed. Saying that I can see the further Tasmina ventures into this genre the more she will achieve the right balance dipping between the past and the present. One aspect was weaker than the other here and I found myself rushing through the chapters set in the 1960's to get back to the present day which is rarely the case with me in this genre. Normally I am dying to uncover the secrets of the past and see how they all link with what is ongoing in the future but that wasn't always the case here. Fans of this author may be well used to her earlier dare I say it 'bonkbuster summer beach reads' but with this new departure don't expect any of that and I'm slightly sad to leave that kind of book behind as Tasmina was an expert in that field. In time I feel she will achieve the same with this and the comparisons as mentioned above will certainly ring true but for it feels like she is still very much in exploratory mode.
The Last Kiss Goodbye has such a beautiful cover although very little of the book is set in Paris as suggested by the cover picture. In the prologue we are introduced to Dominic Blake in the early 1960's as The Cold War rages on. He is a total playboy and ladies man bedding any woman that catches his eye in the hopes they may have some sway to further his position amongst the upper echelons of society. Dominic runs Capital magazine and this allows him to be in on all the society action and develop his character as a mover and shaker. I took Dominic for what he was on the surface and didn't really scratch beneath the layers until I was required to do so. There is an awful lot more going on with Dominic than at first the reader is required to believe. More than someone who plays fast and loose there is his explorer side but also some very much surprisingly elements at play. You really must take nothing at face value as everyone has secrets and betrayal at their core. In this case Tasmina very much led me up the garden path and for the majority of the book I was fully prepared to say I didn't really like this storyline or some of the key players bar Abby but then as has happened to me with several books recently the last few chapters went some way in making up for all that had gone before.
Flash forward to the present day and Abby Gordon is working as an archivist at the Royal Cartography Institute in London. She is cataloguing photographs from expeditions over the years involving British explorers with the aim of putting together an exhibition. It may not be the job of her dreams but she is slowly starting to develop an interest in what she is uncovering hidden amongst the stacks of artefacts from times gone by. Abby uses this time alone searching for photos as a way of contemplating her life as her marriage has recently gone up in smoke due to the actions of her husband Nick. Years spent trying for a much longed for baby have taken their toll and one slip up can change the course of a relationship for ever. I loved Abby and although probably not meant to be she was my favourite character of all. You could see she was lost, lonely and hurting and when she stumbles across the photo of a man and woman kissing deep in the depths of the Peruvian jungle this would be the turning point for her. Both in terms of the exhibition and the direction her life should go. She needed something to take her mind off everything and this discovery provided the distraction she desperately needed as she embarked upon finding the people in the photo. For once the title does tie in with the book and in the most bitter-sweet way as Abby discovers Dominic Blake and Rosamund Bailey are the couple locked in a passionate embrace in the jungle. The last they will ever share. The photo captured a moment in time that stirred something in Abby who is devastated to discover Dominic's disappearance on this fateful expedition.
What follows is slipping back and forth between the past and the present as we see the relationship develop between Rosamund and Dominic and how they come to be together. Rosamund is a fiercely independent woman with strong opinionated views. Ones which will earn her a reputation as an ardent protester and a worthy journalist. She has her own action group and though she couldn't be more different from Dominic once they lock eyes a solid, connecting bond is formed which is only ripped apart through the most tragic of circumstances. I felt the sections featured in the past weren't that strong as could have done with more character development. There were numerous high flyers in society and government introduced men who I couldn't see what role they had to play or should I be keeping an eye out for them.
Whereas in the future focusing on Abby and her quest to uncover the truth as to Dominic's disappearance proved far more insightful and interesting. What I also loved about this was, for once in a book a character from the past was actually still alive and could help uncover the secrets. I suppose this in a slight way made up for the weaker aspect of the 1960's sections as this character was able to fill us in on a lot rather than Abby piecing together the story through her own sleuthing and connecting. So much more seemed to happen with Abby and Elliott (a journalist who can always sniff out a good story in the hopes of boosting his newspapers circulation figures) and their travels take us way beyond just a couple kissing in a photo. I did beg the question where is this really all going? One minute they discover Dominic was an explorer and then something different altogether that was very left of centre happened. At times this book was in danger of becoming predictable but the twists and turns that occur the further Abby delves did begin to make sense and weren't as far fetched as on first reading.
Described as a tale of love, loss and long buried secrets The Last Kiss Goodbye does deliver these ingredients but not always in the strongest of ways. It's not my favourite novel from this author nor the most absorbing book I have read this year but it is worth picking up to see just how much the author has changed her writing direction and how there is plenty of potential to come. There is a good storyline here if you can get past some of the chapters that to me proved supplementary to the story and for Abby alone I would say buy this book. How does it all come together? Well I can say I was more than happy with the outcome for all parties involved but you may want to pick this one up to discover for yourself just what does happen.
I'd like to thank Emma for her review of The Last Kiss Goodbye which we received from the publisher via NetGalley.