Tag Archives: Lisa Kleypas

The Hathaways: Mine till Midnight, Seduce Me at Sunrise, Tempt Me at Twilight, Married by Morning & Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas

For every new historical romance author discovery, such as Juliana Gray, there is a little pile of disappointment at my bedside. So while waiting for the new Julie Anne Long, I have re-read the Hathaway series by Lisa Kleypas. If Courtney Milan is the reigning romance queen, she inherited the crown from Kleypas when she abdicated the historical genre.

The five Hathaway siblings, Leo, Amelia, Win, Poppy, and Beatrix, were raised in an eccentric academic family, happy in their seclusion when a series of events changed their lives: their father died, their mother followed him, Leo’s beloved fiancée succumbed to scarlet fever, Leo and Win almost did as well, and then Leo inherited a peerage forcing a change in circumstances and location. They are still recovering from these events when the first book opens. Mine till Midnight does the heavy lifting setting up the Hathaway series and the subsequent novels allow for frequent visits with the siblings. Kleypas also brings in most of the couples from the Wallflowers series for visits although, sadly, not nearly enough Simon and Annabelle Hunt, and, apparently, Sebastian and Evie St. Vincent are incapable to speaking to each other. Anywho, I enjoy character reincorporation beyond the canny marketing it represents. Kleypas is very good at giving the cameos just enough detail to get a sense of where the couples are now.

Mine till Midnight  –  Amelia Hathaway and Cam Rohan – Very good.

Of all the romances I have read, and there have been a lot, Mine till Midnight is one of the very few which had a moment so sincerely romantic that I had to pause, fan my face, and collect myself. I just love the heroine. Amelia Hathaway is one of my all-time favourites. Sensible and stalwart, she has been holding the pieces of her family together by strength of will alone. When a charming and unusual man enters her life, giving her support and a much needed chance to unclench, if only in private, Amelia is swept off her feet before she really knows what has happened.

Mine till Midnight is a strong starting point for the series. Somewhat unfortunately, in addition to a suddenly surprisingly Machiavellian villain, it also has what seems to me an absolutely pointless ghost story subplot that crescendos towards the end. Moreover, the hero, Cam Rohan, is of Romany (gypsy) descent, as is the hero of the next book, Seduce Me at Sunrise. While I appreciated the effort to bring a person of colour (for the times) into a historical romance, I grew quickly tired of what I think of as “the Romany bullshit”: fetishized exoticism, plus “gypsy” medical knowledge that was implausible for someone who has been isolated from his own culture since he was 10 years old.

Seduce Me at Sunrise  – Win Hathaway and Merripen – Weakest of the series.

Seduce Me at Sunrise is a lot like Wuthering Heights, but with a happy ending, make of that what you will. Another Romany hero, Merripen is an intense, brooding hulk who has lived with the Hathaways for  many years. The love of his life, Win Hathaway, has been an invalid since her bout of scarlet fever. Sent to France to recover, she comes back in full health to make good on the promise of their years of mutual longing. Merripen fights valiantly and seemingly endlessly against his attraction to her. His objections to the match are twofold: first, he feels himself unworthy of Win as the result of childhood trauma; second, he is convinced that her health is too fragile for a marital relationship. Win disagrees with him on both counts and tries to convince him before surrendering to his intractability. Merripen is guilty of some major comeheregoaway. He is also almost completely humourless, and while Kleypas plays this well, there was too much sturm and drang for me.

Tempt Me at Twilight – Poppy Hathaway and Harry Rutledge – Great. Rawr.

Despite having already reviewed this book, I love the characters so much that I’m doing so here again. Tempt Me at Twilight is my favourite Hathaway novel regardless of some plotting that verges on twee. The hero, Harry Rutledge, is a spectacular creation. He’s one of those men who in real life would be very difficult and less than ideal, but in the context of a romance novel is extraordinarily appealing. An autocratic, control freak, rake, he voluntarily gives up that last bit, but it is up to Poppy Hathaway to dismantle the rest. He is a typically sardonic, self-made Kleypas hero (I love them so) with a sad backstory and unrelenting ambition.

Poppy Hathaway is the least eccentric of the Hathaways and she longs for a simple, quiet life. The family beauty, she lacks the appropriate social skills to function well within the restrictions of Society. Her governess/social guide, Catherine Marks, has helped, but Poppy has a habit of talking too much when she is nervous and displaying “unbecoming” intellect and a broad range of interests. Harry takes one look, one listen really, and decides that it is time to marry; unfortunately, Poppy already has a suitor and Harry is not above manipulating the situation to get him out of the way. This bites Harry rather ferociously in the ass; nonetheless, he and Poppy are mutually fascinated, so Harry learns to have and show emotions.

Married by Morning – Leo Hathaway and Catherine Marks – Good, not great.

There’s a lot of Harry and Poppy in Married by Morning which is an excellent start. The pairing of the leads, Leo and Cat, is one that had been teased in the previous books and the book didn’t quite manage to live up to the hype. Please keep in mind that with Kleypas that still means that Married by Morning is better than 90% of the genre. Leo is charming and Cat delightfully prickly, but there was an element that was unusual for Kleypas, but explaining will involve spoilers. Highlight the text below for details:

Sex in romance is a representation of the bond between the characters, or the potential for one should they put consummation before their emotions. Kleypas writes fantastic love scenes and her smolder is impeccable. I never thought I would say this about her, but Married by Morning gets the sex wrong.  Cat spent part of her life being trained as a courtesan, but escaped before she could be pressed into participation. Romantically inexperienced, she has been taught that her character is innately suited to the oldest profession. When Leo and Cat’s relationship becomes physical, it moves too fast. It took the standard romance trope of getting over one’s shyness swiftly and puts it on a fast track. A heroine can be willing and shy simultaneously. As Cat is particularly vulnerable in this area, there was too much too soon.

Love in the Afternoon – Beatrix Hathaway and Christopher Phelan – Very good/great.

This is a sweet and lovely story featuring one of romance’s legion of heroes suffering from PTSD. What better match for him than an eccentric young woman who has a way with wounded creatures?  Christopher and Beatrix began an epistolary romance while he was fighting in the Crimea. They fall in love, which is nice for everyone involved, except that Christopher thinks the author of his letters is a different woman. When Christopher comes home, he is confused and frustrated to find that his supposed pen pal is inane and that he is drawn to the peculiar Beatrix. While keeping the trademark Kleypas smolder, Love in the Afternoon is a story of two broken people who fit together and find a way forward. It has improved in my estimation on every re-read. The story is true to one of the most important elements for genuine romance: The main characters find each other and become more together and individually than they would have been apart.

All five Hathaway books have last-minute agita that delays the happy ending, but since they are by Lisa Kleypas, they still have tremendous entertainment value, no matter what plot elements might be rickety. More importantly, she is a master craftsman and writes, hands down, the most consistently attractive men in romance. I haven’t read her current Rainshadow Road series, but I have read just about everything else she has published. A complete summary of Lisa Kleypas’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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Where Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas

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…

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation Presents No, not this one, although I assume it’s a loving homage on the part of Ms. Kleypas.

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 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.

A complete summary of Lisa Kleypas’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

The Travis Series: Sugar Daddy and Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

Having read Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas and being desperate for more good romance to read, I went and got her other two Travis family books from the library. It’s what always happens to me with a Kleypas series. She really does have the most scrumptious men in romance. Scrumptious men and sexy smolder, those are her by-words. I adore Courtney Milan and she is the best author currently publishing historicals, but have I re-read all my favourite Kleypas novels more times than I am willing to admit.

All three books in the Travis series, Sugar Daddy, Blue-Eyed Devil, Smooth Talking Stranger, are told in the first person from the heroine’s perspective. Normally, romance has an omniscient narrator so the frame of reference flips back and forth between the two main characters. The single viewpoint means that one sees the object of affection exclusively as he presents himself to the female lead. It makes each novel her story as opposed to “theirs” and this is appropriate given that each of the heroines has a rather fraught history.

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The Travis Series: Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

“I had always gone in the other direction, toward men like Dane who made you kill your own spiders
and carry your own suitcase.That was exactly what I wanted. And yet someone like Jack Travis,
unimpeachably male, so damn sure of himself, held a secret, nearly fetishistic allure to me.

Jesus, GOD, YES! Lisa Kleypas, you just get me. You marry suitcase guy and secretly hope he will carry heavy things for you anyway, not because you can’t, but because you are lazy. You read romance novels for fetishistic allure guy.

Ella Varner is the product of a repeatedly broken home and, far worse, of a narcissistic and manipulative mother. Through time and counseling she has built a healthy life for herself. The same cannot be said for her mother or younger sister. When Ella’s sister leaves her one-week-old baby with their mother, Ella is summoned from Austin to Houston to help sort out the mess. Ella drops everything, including her long-term, vegan, environmental activist live-in boyfriend, to go and help out. This turns into a three-month sojourn while Ella’s sister receives psychological counselling.

But enough about the maguffin and on to the main event of any Lisa Kleypas romance: Jack Travis is Ella’s first candidate for the child’s father despite his protestations that he a. “always holsters his gun” and b. did not have sex with Ella’s sister. He is quickly dismissed as a possibility, but sticks around anyway because of his interest in Ella. Jack is a self-made man and the son of a billionaire. He’s tall, dark, handsome, friendly, helpful, possessive in a secretly attractive way, smart, sexy, supportive, wry, a good listener, seductive, mature, chivalrous, manly, mellifluous-voiced, physically fit, generous, emotionally available, funny, polite, mad for Ella, and willing to take on a newborn. I’ve never said this about a romance novel hero before, but this guy is too good to be true. Jack is too perfect. He’s certainly a very comforting fantasy. Who wouldn’t want Captain Perfect to show up in your life while you are in a crisis, worship the ground you walk on, and provide the moral support you need? It would have been fine if the final timeline had worked differently, or if the do-gooder boyfriend was not painted as an unsympathetic jerk, or if I could believe for one second that someone unexpectedly and without any experience taking care of a newborn baby could have the time or inclination to fall in love with anything other than the notion of a full night’s sleep.

Smooth Talking Stranger features the trademark Lisa Kleypas smolder. Her heroine is independent, self-sufficient, and kind. One certainly can’t fault Ella for falling for Jack. The problem is that the point of a romance novel is not that there is a perfect man, it’s that two people find something more in each other or fit together in a way unique to their personalities. Succumbing to the magnificence of the ultimate man misses the point.

This was my first Lisa Kleypas contemporary romance, but not my last. Please visit my complete summary of Lisa Kleypas’s catalogue for recommendations.  Start with Dreaming of You or The Devil in Winter. Both are classics of the genre.

Addendum: Having made a point of Jack being too perfect, I have reread the book because of the “nearly fetishistic allure” factor.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

The Wallflowers Series: Secrets of a Summer Night, It Happened One Autumn, The Devil in Winter, and Scandal in the Spring by Lisa Kleypas

Bow down, motherfu*kers. The Queen is in the house.

Go look at my list of books by author. Note that one author has TWENTY-THREE entries on it. Lisa Kleypas is my historical romance genre gold standard. Hers are the books I place on the “keeper shelf”, have re-read the most, and will recommend to anyone who will listen. As is my wont, I read one of her best books first and then went back and devoured everything else I could find. Her earliest work is a bit rough, but she started gathering steam with Dreaming of You (CLASSIC) and forged ahead from there. She has a few connected series, but The Wallflowers and The Hathaways are the strongest.

Kleypas specializes in rakish, sardonic, self-made men, otherwise known as my catnip.  One of the things I find particularly enjoyable is that the men have either worked their way up from virtually nothing, or are making their own way in the world despite inherited privilege.

The Wallflowers, Annabelle, Evie, Lillian, and Daisy, are four young women out in society who bond over their mutual rejection by eligible men. After spending time on the side lines of many a ballroom, they decide to work together to find suitable husbands. There is a lot of cross-pollination between the stories which means you get to visit the characters multiple times.

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Tempt Me at Twilight by Lisa Kleypas

The Dowager Julien likes to read Georgette Heyer books upon occasion, and I recently pointed out to her that doing so did not mean she lost all intellectual credibility: Just because you enjoy kissing books does not mean that you forget what The Anschluss was, or have to go back to the remedial class; however, IF IT DID, I am now so knee deep in historical romance novels that my university degree would be revoked. “My name’s Prolixity and I used to want to write a Master’s thesis on e.e. cummings and the Metaphysical poets, but now I read books with characters named Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent”.

I listed the books I’ve read so far before, but I forgot a couple. There have been rather a lot.

Come Love a Stranger – Kathleen Woodiwiss – Reformed Rake: VERY attractive reformed rake, a lot of pages of subterfuge and silliness to skip over.
The Duchess – Jude Deveraux – I skimmed this one. Deveraux is a Deverdon’t.

Really? Are you still reading after that terrible joke? I am unworthy of such beneficence.

Since last week, I have read:

The Devil in Winter – Lisa Kleypas – Reformed Rake, Self-Sacrificing Lamb – I read it Friday night. My first Kleypas, but not my last, not even my last this past weekend.
The Viscount Who Loved Me – Julia Quinn – Reformed Rake AND Bridgerton Brother #1 (Anthony) – I read it yesterday. The Bridgerton books make me giggle and smirk. A lot. Occasionally, I hoot. I am expecting to receive The Duke and I by Julia Quinn in the mail today – Reformed Rake and Bridgerton Sister #1/sibling #4 (Daphne).

I went to K-Mart and purchased Lisa Kleypas’ Tempt Me at Twilight on Saturday morning. I went specifically to buy this book. I had seen it a couple of days before, but did not like the random passage I read. Later, I was reading different random passages on Amazon and came across a paragraph so appealing that I wanted the whole book. Now, go back and look at that title. Just look at it. Could it be any cheesier? Let me answer that for you: No, it could not. Mercifully, the book does not also have a salacious cover, but it does have a ridiculous frontispiece involving soap opera people posing in pseudo-19th century dishabille and, as is always the case in these books, bearing absolutely no physical resemblance to the characters. I ripped that sucker out of the book as fast as possible. The title is embarrassing enough; I don’t need to give Mr. Julien any more ammunition than necessary.

Tempt Me at Twilight is the story of Harry Rutledge and Poppy Hathaway. She is the rich daughter of an eccentric family, but, then, aren’t we all? Poppy has been “out” in society for three years and has not found a husband despite being beautiful and well-educated. Her problem, it seems, is an unconventional family, and her inability to dissemble about her education and intelligence. I like this Lisa Kleypas person already. Harry is the American owner of a London hotel that hosts families of the ton during the London season as they look for a mate they, hopefully, feel a sincere tendre for. If you have read any Regency romance novels, all of those words will make sense to you. Furthering my appreciation for Ms. Kleypas, Harry is tall, dark, handsome, and slightly forbidding. All excellent qualities. When the men are fair-haired, I stick my fingers in my eyes and sing “la, la, la I can’t hear you”, and then I scream and hit myself in castigation… Harry is also brilliant and a self-made man which adds a nice touch. Poppy and Harry meet cute and he sees in her everything good and wonderful in the world, so he ruins her reputation (in a chaste 19th century way) to make sure they end up married, but not really together, after which highly-predictable hijinks ensue. Being a Reformed Rake and having the usual “loveless child” back story, it takes him a while, practically the whole book, amazingly enough, to be able to voice his love for her, although he is clearly besotted which he shows in nice (gentleness, love, patience) and not so nice (jealousy, being overbearing) ways. I do so adore smoldering, besotted rakes. As is often the case, and not my taste, there was some silly sub-plotting, but I guess some people enjoy a bit of intrigue in their romance novels. I’m basically ONLY about the man/woman stuff, so if they’re not interacting, I’m not interested. That’s what skipping pages is for. I do that with whatever romance novel I’m reading.

Lisa Kleypas’ writing is very good for the genre. She doesn’t have the wit of Julia Quinn, but that is not a bad thing, only different. Kleypas is a bit racier, so it’s really just a question of what you are looking for. I cared about the characters, I loved Poppy, and wanted a Harry Rutledge of my own, and I think that is all that matters. Sometimes you want to giggle and beam (Quinn), and sometimes you want a charming, misguided, besotted rake, in which case Kleypas is a good choice.

Addenda:

Prolixity really is an apt pseudonym, isn’t it? I spend almost as long writing these reviews as I do reading the books.

These women spend a lot of time with their hair down. It’s not the historical inaccuracy I object to. It’s the fact that their hair is very long and it never gets caught under anyone or in the way. My hair goes about a 1/4 to a 1/3 of the way down my back and it’s forever getting caught under things, usually other parts of me.

One of the leads, usually the man, always has a Sardonic Eyebrow of Seduction which they lift as a wry gesture. I would love to be able to do that! Wry is one of my favourite things in the whole wide world. It’s why William Powell is my secret husband. The Dowager Julien has a Baleful Eyebrow of Doom that was deployed almost exclusively as a threat when we were young. Sadly, I did not inherit her skill.

Thank you to everyone who made recommendations. Loretta Chase is next in line.

A complete summary of Lisa Kleypas’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.