Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Lisa Kleypas

Several months ago I bought Lisa Kleypas' Secrets of a Summer Night. I usually buy and read everything she writes immediately because Kleypas is one of my favorite authors. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of reading a review of the book which put me off a bit. I think (from the distance mists of my memory ) that the reviewer didn't like the premise of the series--that is, that a bunch of "wallflowers" would band together to try to get rich, peer-type husbands by fair means or foul. The reviewer also found the heroine unlikeable and mercenary. As a result of this review, I kept moving the book down the tbr (to be read) pile.

Then the second book of the series came out, It Happened One Autumn. Uh oh, given my prediliction for reading and viewing things in order, now we've got a problem. How can I read book two when I haven't read book one? After wrestling with the issue through the winter; I forced myself. And it was a very successful strategy I must say. I was introduced to the heroine from book one based on the view of her that heroine two has and thus, I liked her. (I probably would have liked her anyway, because I don't happen to think that mercenary is necessarily a bad thing when you are destitute and need to support your mother and brother but that's another story.)

So let me give a whole-hearted thumbs-up or five stars or whatever floats your boat to both of these books. I enjoyed them thoroughly, in fact, I stayed up late to finish It Happened One Autumn because I couldn't put it down. I can't wait for the next book in the series which, conveniently, is due out March 7th. More about that later. Kleypas has a gift for writing heroes who are larger than life and wildly, crazily in love with their heroines. They are made better by their relationship with the heroine. I adore them. Her heroines are pretty special too, spunky and interesting. They, too, are flawed but made better by love.

I found the basis of the series very poignant. The wallflowers have suffered through the humiliation of being unwanted and sneered at again and again. They are four women whose whole life is going to be a success or failure based on their ability to marry well. In 1840's England, there wasn't much else you could do as a woman. Annabelle is a beautiful but poor well-born woman who may be forced into virtual prostitution if she can't snare a peer. She's slipping further and further into poverty and no one wants to marry her because she doesn't bring a dowry. She doesn't have any choices and she has dependents; her mother and younger brother. I felt sympathy for the pressure she was under and the difficult choices she faced.

Lillian and Daisy are two beautiful American heiresses who are too nouveau-riche to marry well in New York, let alone in England. Their mother, however, is determined to snag a peer. They remind me of poor Consuelo Vanderbilt whose mother sold her to a Duke to fulfill her own ambitions. In England, Lillian and Daisy are outsiders whoe don't know the picky picky rules of behavior so they're considered uncivilized and only merit attention from bankrupt peers, and even then, only as a last resort.

The fourth wallflower is Evangeline. She's the daughter of a sewer rat who got wealthy by running a gambling den and the well-born woman who ran off with him and then died. She's got bright red hair; she's incredibly shy; she stutters; and her mother's family abuse her terribly because of her birth. They're also plotting to do away with her so they can acquire her inheritance when her ailing father dies.

How can one not expect these women to do whatever they have to in order to break out of the prison they're in? In Autumn, Lillian is kidnapped by a villain (I'm snickering as I write the word villain--it sounds so ridiculous, but he was the villain so what can I do?) In book three, Devil in Winter, Evangeline will propose marriage to the villain. How's that for a cool twist? I can't wait to see how Kleypas is going to turn Sebastian into a hero. I liked him until he became the villain, so I know he has charm potential, but he was so villainous that it will take skill to redeem him. I can't wait!!

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