Since picking up Somewhere I’ll Find You by Lisa Kleypas some ten years ago, I’ve never looked back.
Ms Kleypas has created many unforgettable, and unconventional characters who engage my emotions, strong heroes and heroines from vastly different worlds, who bravely embrace each other’s differences and go on to forge new beginnings, who seared my memory with their fierce passion and willingness to fight for and hold on to their love.
This month, I spent the weekends reading and rereading some of my favourite books of hers, and some that are new to me. Amongst her new works, I particularly enjoyed Smooth Talking Stranger, the follow-up to Blue-Eyed Devil , both contemporary romances written in first person from the heroine’s perspective.
Blue-Eyed Devil continues where Sugar Daddy left off, beginning with Liberty and Gage’s wedding, where Haven Travis, who’s in a relationship with someone her dad deem unsuitable, shared a brief, passionate interlude with Hardy Cates that left both of them shaken. Unfortunately, Haven was talked into eloping with her gold-digging boyfriend, but their marriage soon devolved into an abusive relationship until Haven finally made her escape after being severely beaten up.
Back in her hometown and attempting to recuperate, Haven decided to keep herself busy and independent with a job at her brother, Jack’s company. Right about this time, Hardy strolled back into her life, and a surprising friendship blossomed between them. Surprised at discovering a gentle side to his tough exterior, Haven was at first cautious about trusting her heart with Hardy. But when her lady boss, who was secretly eyeing Hardy as her next conquest, started playing mind games and getting verbally abusive, she found the courage to stand up to the bully. Just as she was beginning to recover from her ordeal, her ex-husband started stalking her.
The ending was of course a happy one. But what I liked about this book is the deliberate way Ms Kleypas set about to highlight the plight of abuse, with the victims coming from different levels of society, and the abuse taking not just physical form, but verbal and mental torment and erosion of confidence and esteem. The courage of the women in those situations to consciously fight back and stop being victimized was what really gratified my sense of righteous justice.
The poignant story was made all the more touching by the relationship between the two protagonists and how they dealt with the shadows to overcome the scars and wounds inflicted by abuse. It made sense that Hardy, who had witnessed his mother’s abuse under his violent father since young, should be so determined to overcome that dark past, and be the one to break through to Haven.
IMB rating: 4.5
In Smooth Talking Stranger, columnist Ella Varner was left with her unwed sister’s baby boy, whom her cousin led her to believe, belonging to Jack Travis. Deciding to confront the successful business man in his lair, Ella showed up at his office with baby Luke requesting his co-operation in taking a paternity test.
Fighting his attraction while trying to make her see reason, Jack soon had her installed in Haven’s old apartment, and before long, he became a frequent visitor in Ella’s and Luke’s lives. Meanwhile, Ella grew to love the baby and battle to give him the secure future that he would need should her sister decide that she wanted him back after her therapy sessions.
But can Ella, whose dysfunctional relationship with her mom had left her with a phobia to commitment and abandonment, handle his permanence in her life. What about her long-time boyfriend? Will he bow out as gracefully as Jack waltzed into her life? Then, there’s baby Luke … can she bear to let him go?
I couldn’t stop turning the pages to find out where their search for the baby’s father, and for the courage to commit to each other will take them. Another clear winner from Ms Kleypas, this is another contemporary romance that I really liked. The book trailer said it best: “… sometimes you have to let go of the past, to take hold of the future.”
IMB rating: 4.5
My Lisa Kleypas romance binge also included rereading three other favourites, Somewhere I’ll Find You, Secrets of a Summer Night, and The Devil in Winter. These led me to hunt down other books on her backlist at the UBS, and eventually to Someone to Watch Over Me, another old fave which has recently been reprinted with a new cover.
This is the first book in her series on Bow Street runners, and one of the first few LK books I read, so there’s some nostalgia about the book, even though it deals with a common plot angle – an amnesiac victim trying to recall and track down who wanted her dead and why. It was memorable due to the unusual background of the hero.
Because You’re Mine was a surprise find. The sequel to Somewhere, the story put pretty ingénue Lady Madeline Matthews in the path of Logan Scott, the legendary actor and theatrical director, Julia’s boss in Somewhere, who’s also a notorious womanizer. Madeline intended to get herself debauched by Logan to thwart her parents’ plans to marry her off to an aging, rich lecherous lord.
But the vibrant miss knew nothing of seduction, and kept getting the brunt of Logan’s temper. Logan, though well-known for his flamboyant and magnetic presence on stage, was an intensely private person tortured by past betrayals and Madeline’s unflappable calm and competence at managing several aspects of the theatre’s operation drew his admiration. But before they can learn to trust each with their hearts, they must trust each other with their secrets and reveal their true selves behind the mask they both wore.
I enjoyed the return to the Capitol Theatre where Julia’s story took place, and familiar characters appeared as secondary players in this story. While the forced marriage between Logan and Madeline began on the wrong foot, it ended most satisfactorily.
IMB rating: 3.5
Reading Ms Kleypas’ past and present works brought back many happy memories for me and created powerful new ones too. I think she is one of the rare authors whose self-made heroes, and spirited heroines, have garnered legions of fans, became discussion topics and held up as the epitome of what a romance hero should be. If you haven’t picked up a Kleypas book yet, you should. Her heroes are not just favourite bad boys, but really something to talk about. You can depend on Kleypas to make the period setting come alive for you, and the plot development to be every bit as diverting as the characters are engaging.