Lisa Kleypas – “It Happened One Autumn”

28 Dec

GENRE: Romance / Historical

SERIES: “Wallflower” series, book 2

WHY THIS NOVEL: I want to read Devil in Winter

The back blurb:
“Four young ladies enter London society with one necessary goal: they must use their feminine wit and wiles to find a husband. So they band together, and a daring husband-hunting scheme is born.

Where beautiful but bold Lillian Bowman quickly learned that her independent American ways weren’t entirely ‘the thing.’ And most disapproving of all was insufferable, snobbish, and impossible Marcus, Lord Westcliff, London’s most eligible aristocrat.
When Marcus shockingly–and dangerously–swept her into his arms, Lillian was overcome with a consuming passion for a man she didn’t even like. Time stood still; it was as if no one else existed…thank goodness they weren’t caught very nearly in the act!
Marcus was a man in charge of his own emotions, a bedrock of stability. But with Lillian, every touch was exquisite torture, every kiss an enticement for more. Yet how could he consider taking a woman so blatantly unsuitable…as his bride?”

Opposites-attract stories often are fun to read, but there is also room for some more poignant moments. It Happened One Autumn delivers this, especially in the beginning, with Marcus as the straitlaced hero and Lillian as the unconventional heroine.

I liked Lillian’s and Marcus’s encounters. They have some laugh-out-loud scenes together such as when Marcus apologizes to Lillian for kissing her for example. And Lillian’s ” ‘Then I suppose this waltz will be our first and our last’ ” – oh my! Marcus’s consternation about his attraction to Lillian was fun to read and I appreciated that their clashes actually seemed much more based on their characters than is often the case with that premise. I liked Marcus so much, that I’m tempted to read the other novels in which he appears and I thought Lillian a fun and vibrant yet also vulnerable character underneath all her brashness who is just the right person to tangle Marcus’s set ways. I also liked the look at what was considered proper behavior and I liked how Marcus’s and Lillian’s first time together came about because it was unexpected. Such scenes usually end another way.

But then, while I cheered that Marcus did something unexpected when he finds Lillian in the library drunk, I still felt a bit uneasy about it because I think it’s questionable in terms of honor. And while I found Lillian’s vibrancy very engaging, coupled with some other things that struck me as not fitting for the time period, she seemed a rather too modern character. Marcus’s mother was a cardboard evil character (maybe not as much with the previous books), that Lillian wouldn’t saying anything to her sister about where she went – leading to her abduction – seemed not really believable for her character, and while the story line about the perfume led to some funny antics, it petered out compared to the importance Lillian’s ability seemed to have in the prologue. In general, I found the allusions to magic (perfume, wishing well) a bit corny in the way they were implemented into the story.

I thought the observations on proper behavior and the clash between American and English views were interesting but not extensive enough to really add a story layer on its own like the social commentary in Secrets of a Summer Night did. As a result, I felt the romantic conflict fell a bit flat. The romance depended on the humor and tension generated by Lillian’s and Marcus’s opposites-attract personalities, and while this succeeded, the romance followed other stories with a similar premise in its scenes and development and felt less “fresh” than the romance in Secrets of a Summer Night, IMO.

Since I bought this novel to get a better perspective on Devil in Winter, here’s an intriguing characterization of Sebastian form Lillian’s perspective:

St. Vincent was the most engaging man that Lillian had ever met. Beneath the layers of silken gentility, however, there was a hardness, an impenetrability, that could only have belonged to a very cold man. Or perhaps an extremely guarded one. Either way, Lillian knew intuitively that whatever kind of soul lurked inside this elegant creature, she would never find out. He was as beautiful and inscrutable as a sphinx. (231)

And of course, there’s the question of how Sebastian’s action later in this story is redeemed in Devil in Winter.

To conclude, I’m glad I read It Happened One Autumn to see more of Sebastian’s character, but despite my liking of Lillian’s and Marcus’s sparing in the first half of the novel, It Happened One Autumn didn’t convince me completely in regard to character and plot development.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Probably yes.

Grade: 3,5 / 5


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