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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