I picked up Suddenly You (2001) by Lisa Kleypas because I was still craving some romance after finishing Julie Anne Long’s I Kissed an Earl. It’s not that I disliked I Kissed an Earl, but I kept waiting for a comforting kind of intimacy that I never found. Apparently I have very specific needs for my romance. Thus, with my romance craving unfulfilled, I tried another one.
I mentioned in an earlier review, that I had once said, “If these two don’t kiss soon, my head may explode,” out loud while reading a particular romance. Where Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas is that particular romance. I love this book. While not a classic, it is one of the ones I will keep if/when I am released from my historical romance obsession. I have read it several times and did so again recently.
Lady Holland Taylor…
Lady Holland Taylor has just attended her first public event after three years of public and private mourning for her husband, George. They were happily married and very much in love. Holly lives with his family and her daughter, Rose, her dearest tie to George. Despite the fact that she is out in society again, Holly dresses in the colours of “half mourning” and has no interest in another marriage. She is every inch, and in all the best ways, a lady. When Holly finds herself looking for a moment alone and instead winds up kissing a stranger in the dark at a party, she is devastated and runs away.
Zachary Bronson expected one woman in the dark and swooped in to discover he was kissing another. He has recently arrived in Society and his position there is the result of his ambition and unassailable new wealth. He is too rough for his new world and the upper echelons do so revile an upstart. To give himself access to the circles he wants to do business in, make his mother and sister comfortable in that world, but mostly to try to get his hands on that woman he kissed, Zachary offers Holly a position as a kind of guide to teach his family the social graces. He pretends not to remember her when they meet again, as does Holly. For an obscene amount of money, including a generous dowry for Rose, Holly will work for Zachary for one year. His only condition is that Holly and her daughter must move in with his family.
There is no external conflict in this story, the tension revolves around the vast difference in the leads’ backgrounds. Holly and Zach are each kind, lovely people. He is brash and ambitious, she is refined and quiet. They slowly find a balance with each other and move forward as a couple. Holly was trained so well to be a certain kind of woman, so very moderate in all things, and constrained for so long that she feels bowled over by this louder new life, even as she finds Zachary incredibly attractive. (As well she should. He is as delicious as I have come to expect of all Lisa Kleypas heroes. She writes big, beautiful, sardonic men, and I say, “Brava!”.)
Where Dreams Begin has some elements that are a bit dated, it is mentioned that Zach frequents brothels, and there is magic realism/dreamy stuff that I could have done without. Romance novels are sufficiently fuzzy with regards to reality that adding another layer of narrative distance impinges on the illusion for me. Any quibbles I have are minor about an otherwise sincere, entertaining and delightful story. Lisa Kleypas is a master craftsman. She excels at every aspect of writing for the genre. Every night, I say a little prayer hoping she will re-enter the historical romance fray.
Next on my Thanksgiving holiday romance novel tour is Lisa Kleypas’ Love in the Afternoon, the fourth in the Hathaways series. I’ve read all but the first of them now, and though I’ll get around to that one, I am not in any rush. This entry into the series is the tale of the youngest Hathaway, Beatrix. Beatrix is an unusual young woman, even in comparison with her crazy siblings; one may appropriately call her a beast master, for there isn’t an animal in the world she hasn’t read about, encountered, or rescued and kept as a family pet. Most famous in this series of novels are her ferret and hedgehog, who have made numerous appearances in the series. Beatrix is much more comfortable around animals than people, and despite having many men interested in her, she has yet to settle down with someone.
Beatrix is spending an afternoon with her flighty and ironically-named friend Prudence when she discovers that Prudence is corresponding with a local war hero, Captain Christopher Phelan. She is bored with Phelan’s letters so she allows Beatrix to read one. At once, Beatrix is captivated by the man’s stories of the front lines in the Crimean war and begs Prudence to return the letter. Pru refuses, but allows Beatrix to write back and sign it on her behalf so that she keeps Phelan on the back burner should he return an eligible match. At first Beatrix, a woman who values honesty highly, balks at the deception, but eventually Phelan’s letters draw her in so much that she embraces the task. Their correspondence becomes Beatrix’s most-looked-forward-to activity, and then she realizes that she must stop before someone gets hurt; she has fallen in love with Captain Phelan, and he only thinks of her as the odd girl in the neighborhood that ‘belongs in the stables.’
Captain Phelan returns a war hero, determined to reunite with Prudence, the woman who wrote him the most wonderful letters and revealed to him the woman he wants to marry. Christopher is a damaged man, with what we would now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and finds himself uncomfortable in society. He encounters Beatrix, and unknowingly begins to befriend the woman he was corresponding with over those many months. In time, she works to repair the damage the war has wrought in the man she loves, at the same time hoping that he’ll realize the truth about the correspondence and forgive her deception.
I enjoyed this entry in the Hathaway series. I like the Wallflowers series a bit better than this one, but that is probably because Sebastian’s in those. Beatrix is a really endearing character; she is truthful, sweet and has insight into folks that few aside from her family give her credit for. She is brave and not at all the swooning weak damsel in distress type. Captain Phelan is a great hero; he’s really really really handsome but also damaged, and not to speak against my own sex, but few of us can resist a damaged man (at least in literature and TV, hopefully we work through that before allowing it into our personal life). Their courtship through letters is charming, as is their renewal of it (unknown to half the couple) in person. This is definitely an entertaining entry from Kleypas (probably my favorite Hathaway so far).
Lisa Kleypas’ It Happened One Autumn is the second of her Wallflowers series, but the last one I’ve read. In this installment, it’s Lillian Bowman’s turn to find a husband. Lillian is American and as such, not quite accepted into the British aristocrat crowd. Especially by Lord Westcliff, a stiff-upper-lip stodgy uptight type, who last saw Lillian playing rounders in her knickers. How inappropriate! The stage is set when Westcliff hosts a month-long party at his estate and feels it necessary to invite the Bowmans so he can work out a business deal with Lillian’s soap magnate father.
Westcliff hates Lillian. Lillian hates Westcliff. Both are really strong-willed individuals, but it’s obvious to everyone but the two of them that they secretly want to do bad things together. There’s not too much to say on this one that can’t be said of most romance novels, really. This isn’t to say I didn’t like the book. I quite enjoyed it actually, it’s just that it’s 2am and I read this a week ago, so I’m having problems coming up with eloquent thoughts at the moment.
I like Westcliff as a hero more than I enjoy Lillian. Really, Lillian seems pretty shrewish, and though that is a bit of a sexist term, it kind of applies. She is contrary just for contrary’s sake most of the time. I can appreciate stubbornness, but really, there is a limit. The idea I think Kleypas is going for is that two such strong wills can only work with each other, as anyone else would be too much of a pushover. It works. Their chemistry is good from the start; they don’t say ‘there’s a thin line between love and hate’ for no reason. Westcliff manages to find Lillian’s insane stubborn streak really charming and finds himself inexorably attracted to her. In fact, each time he’s near, he finds it nearly impossible not to want to rip her clothes off. I wish I had that effect on a man, though I suppose it’d have its drawbacks.
The stakes are raised when everyone’s favorite rake, SEBASTIAN, decides to do something particularly naughty and threatens the new found happiness between Lillian and Westcliff. I probably have issues, because I wasn’t that mad at him for what he did. Sebastian is the best. In fact I might reread Devil in Winter just because I need a better ending for him than the one Autumn provides.
PS – I made it to 52! Yay me. I’ve got one more in the bank that I’m too tired to write up right now, and I’m halfway to finishing another. I might hit my Goodreads goal of 55, or even more. First Cannonball Read complete, check!
When Lucy, a glass artist, is dumped by her boyfriend Kevin in favor of her younger sister Alice, she winds up meeting Sam, the local vineyard farmer. Sam’s everything Kevin isn’t: mainly not a jackass. At least, not for a while. Sam’s commitment-phobic, of course, but this doesn’t appear to bother Lucy, and they form a tenuous friendship. But then Lucy is struck by a car and left with a broken leg, and no choice but to recuperate temporarily in Sam’s home. Sam is reluctant but, ever the good guy, he takes her in. Of course, they tumble in to bed, and begin a sex without strings relationship.
Over time, though, they both start to fall for one another, until Lucy realizes that she has to leave him. Other complications arise: Kevin (the former boyfriend) appears to Lucy and declares his love for her on the eve of his wedding to her sister Alice, Lucy is offered an artist-in-residence year in New York, and Sam winds up falling asleep in Lucy’s bed, a crisis which appears to be as big as the whole Kevin-doesn’t-love-Alice thing.
Add in to all of this the fact that Lucy evidently can turn glass in to fireflies and Sam can apparently make plants perk up with a wave of his hand, and you’ve got a normal little romance novel.
I was just at the beach for a week (sigh, coming back from vacation is the WORST). Naturally the day before I left I checked out 12 books and quite a few were romances. Three of them were by Lisa Kleypas and even though they’re not all from the same series, I’m going to just put them all into one post, because the essentials don’t really vary from story to story and I would say they’re all solid 2.5- to 3-star books.
Secrets of a Summer Night:
This is the first Wallflowers book. Annabelle Peyton is a young woman with little hope of catching a suitable husband these days: she’s in her final season and approaching the ripe old age of 24 quickly. Her father’s death some years before has left her and her family fast approaching the point where Annabelle is starting to think she’ll have to marry a farmer or become a governess. She is beautiful, but her family’s trying financial situation isn’t as much a secret as she’d like so men more often than not make her a less acceptable offer: they’ll take care of her…as a mistress, but not a wife. Enter Simon Hunt, a man who isn’t a titled gentleman, but is incredibly wealthy due to business acumen. From the moment he first meets Annabelle he realizes that there isn’t anything he wants more, but he doesn’t want a wife. Simon wants a mistress and is pretty clear about his intentions. Luckily Annabelle makes the acquaintance of three other young ladies also having difficulty finding husbands and they form an alliance. These Wallflowers will help Annabelle find a husband and keep her distracted from her growing attraction to Simon.
This book was ok. I like Simon for the most part – he doesn’t care what the stuck up British society folks think of him and he says what he thinks without filter. What I didn’t like about this book (and I know, this is not that weird for the time period) is that no one seemed to really have THAT much trouble with the fact that Simon was basically treating Annabelle like a whore. I know that it was probably accurate that women of the time, being unable to make a living honestly except by being a maid or governess, often fell back on the oldest profession or agreed to be kept in return for the safety of room and board somewhere. But even when the inevitable happens here and they fall in love, neither Annabelle nor Simon really seems to remember that though he’s in love with her now, before he knew her, he was willing to treat her like property and he was OK WITH THAT. I liked seeing the beginning of the Wallflowers’ friendship, since I’d only read Evie’s story thus far. The story also goes on a bit long. Thus far this is my least favorite of Kleypas’ books.
The books I’m waiting for at the library have dried up somewhat. I’ll probably be inundated in a couple of weeks but for now I’m just waiting. So I decided to read another Lisa Kleypas novel. Then Came You (1993) is something of a prequel to Dreaming of You, which I had just finished. Lily and Alex make some small appearances in Dreaming of You, and I thought it would be fun to read their story.
Lily is one of the few women in London who can do whatever she wants. Left her aunt’s fortune, Lily is independent and vivacious. She hunts and gambles (at Derek Craven’s gambling club) with the men and flaunts most of the dictates of polite society. Alex is a powerful lord and still grieving the death of his fiance two years ago. He chooses to marry Penelope, Lily’s younger sister because she is completely different from his fiance. Penelope is in love with someone else but she is too timid and scared to refuse Alex on her own. Lily comes to her sister’s rescue and finds herself in constant conflict with Alex. Alex has to figure out what he wants and Lily has some secrets from her past that add some excitement to the story, but all ends well.
I enjoyed this one even more than the sequel–even though I can’t keep the titles straight to save my life. I enjoyed the beginning of the book the most. Lily was very funny and refreshing. Her outrageous confidence and willingness to do anything were very entertaining. The end fell back on more familiar romance territory but it was still well done. Again, if you think about it too much, the whole plot starts to sound somewhat ridiculous, but because Kleypas writes an interesting story and makes the characters so likable, it’s not something that bothered me while I was reading.
I’m not sure if I’ll make it through all of Kleypas’s voluminous selection, but I’ll definitely read around to reading a few more.
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I have been convinced by all the love shown for Lisa Kleypas that she’s worth reading. It’s also helpful that she has so many books that there’s always at least one that’s available immediately from the library when I get the urge for some romance.
Dreaming of You (1994) by Lisa Kleypas involves a man and a woman who fall in love and live happily ever after. Sara Fielding is a novelist from the country, come to London to do research on gambling halls for her next book. Although she is very proper and sheltered, she is also adventurous and open-minded. Derek Craven was a boy from the streets who pulled himself up by his bootstraps to become a fabulously wealthy, gambling establishment owner.
When Sara saves Derek when he is attacked in an alley, she begins to use his club for her research and sparks begin to fly. They must overcome obstacles: Derek’s jealous ex-lover, Derek’s inability to love, and Sara’s fiance back home, and it is all very romantic. Derek saves Sara a number of times and can’t resist himself. There is also a glimpse of another couple (Lucy and Alex) who are somewhat involved in Derek’s life. I’m mainly mentioning this because I found Lucy and Alex interesting enough to pick up their book and read it next.
Some of this plot was predictably ridiculous, but because Kleypas did pretty well with the emotions and kept the story interesting, it didn’t bother me while I was reading it. It was a good one.
Click here for the rest of my reviews on my blog.
Earlier in CBR, I read Lisa Kleypas’ second portion of her series on the Hathaway family, where I first met the character Lord Ramsey, Leo Hathaway. He definitely fit the bill of the Romance genre’s ‘rake’ character, so naturally I really liked him. This drew me to pick up Kleypas’ Married by Morning, Leo’s entry into the Hathaway series. For several years now, Catherine Marks has lived with the Hathaway family as a companion/governess-type figure to Leo’s two youngest sisters Poppy and Beatrix. As Poppy has recently married a London hotelier, Beatrix is the last remaining sister needing the companionship and instruction of Miss Marks. During this time, Leo and Catherine have had quite the stormy relationship; they cannot be in the same room without saying something cruel or spiteful, and bitter arguments always ensue. So naturally during an argument one afternoon, Leo kisses her passionately and this sets off their tumultuous courtship (which as per usual is going to be fraught with danger and mystery as well). Things happen to push the two together (an accident leaving Leo ill and in need of nursing, a conveniently overlooked legal matter that Leo must marry and produce an heir or risk losing Ramsey House) and pull them apart (Catherine has a mysterious past from which she is obviously still running).
All in all this book was good. I think that if Leo weren’t the rake I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. The second Hathaway book I had no trouble picking up not having read the first; enough was explained to me in the beginning that I understood enough about the characters involved to get into the story. With this book, however, I think it’s a little harder to come in not having read the previous entries. I haven’t read the first or third ones so I’m not sure how much Leo and Catherine’s arguments and banter really get attention. This book starts off talking about how much the two hate each other but if you hadn’t read any other entries in the series, I’m not sure that’s believable. Almost immediately Leo is picturing her naked and wanting to sleep with her so it’s not like he’s unaware that his hatred is actually just passion. Catherine can’t stop thinking about kissing him once it happens and quickly their banter turns more playful than full of animosity. This strives to be “Taming of the Shrew” or Pride & Prejudice level love/hate but really you’re given recess pigtail pulling.
Catherine’s history turns out to be sad and her hard edges soften. She holds her own against Leo for the most part and isn’t a drooping wallflower. Leo is of course charming and hot and there’s a lot of sexy time for these two. I’ve read two romances in the past week so it’s fresh in my mind: how come all these virgins are having all these orgasms? Where was that when I was younger? It’s not a big deal to me that the sex isn’t always super realistic, as it doesn’t reach 50 Shades proportions of ridiculousness and often involves unselfish lovers.
This Hathaway novel is fun and a decent read but I was hoping for a little more hate before all the love started happening. I’ll probably still read the others though. Beach trip’s coming soon so I’m gonna stock up.
Lisa Kleypas’ Devil in Winter is the third in a series of books on a group of women who call themselves ‘the Wallflowers’ in 19th-century London. Evangeline Jenner appears on the doorstep of the notorious rake Sebastian St. Vincent one night – UNCHAPERONED – and makes a request Sebastian could never have seen coming. Evangeline (“Evie”) has been ill-treated by her relations who now see her father’s impending death from consumption as an opportunity to force Evie into marrying her corpulent cousin Eustace (I think that’s his name, it’s something Chester-Molester-y like that) so they can control the fortune Evie will inherit as her father’s sole heir. Due to events discussed in another Wallflowers novel, Evie is well aware that Sebastian is desperate to marry a wealthy heiress; his father has laid waste to the family coffers. So, she makes a proposal: she will agree to a marriage of convenience with Sebastian. His family’s money problems will be solved and she’ll be protected from her father’s unscrupulous relations. She agrees to consummate the marriage once to ensure it cannot be annulled, but beyond that, she refuses to become yet another notch in Sebastian’s notorious bedpost.
I haven’t read that many romances in my life; I can count them on two hands I am sure. I mention this because I know that I don’t have much to compare it to but I found Kleypas’ third Wallflower book delightful and cast with one of the best couples I’ve read yet. Evangeline Jenner is painfully shy because of a stutter and not quite part of high society because her father runs a gambling club. Her marriage prospects are dim, as a result, and she has little self-confidence to change this. She realizes that she can be strong and makes the daring decision to align herself to the most despicable womanizer in London just to escape the violent hatred of her aunt and uncle who may or may not be planning to kill her once her inheritance arrives. As the novel continues we witness Evie growing increasingly confident in her decisions and feelings and she really starts to become anything BUT a wallflower.
Who am I kidding though, right? The absolute best part of this whole book is Sebastian. What this may or may not say about me, I don’t know. I think I’m safe in assuming that we all (at least those of us who swing that way) can’t resist a man like Sebastian. Swoon! Tall? Check. Gorgeous eyes? Check. Fantastic in bed? Check. Could care less about you? Check! Sure some/most of us do grow out of it but there is something so attractive about the man who is not good for you at all. It’s why we love Sawyer, Eric Northman, Spike, etc. Sebastian can go on this list. I don’t know what else to say except he’s the best, and I’ve always enjoyed that name.
There are some minor characters that appear who I’ve met in other of Kleypas’ work; I enjoy how she has built an entire community. The threat to the main couple does seem a little bit of a stretch, but the violence involved does speed up the process by which our favorite libertine Sebastian realizes what he truly feels for his new wife. The sex is pretty hot as well. I’ll probably pick up more Kleypas when next I’m at the library. I do have another already on the nightstand so I’m sure it’ll be my Memorial-Day-lounging-by-the-lake read. Also, thanks MrsJulien for directing me to Sebastian. I’m definitely going to look for him in her other books.