Lisa Kleypas – “Blue-Eyed Devil”

28 May

GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: St. Martin’s

SERIES: Travis family, #2

WHY THIS NOVEL: I loved Sugar Daddy.

The back blurb:

His name is Hardy Cates. He’s a self-made millionaire who comes from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s made enemies in the rough-and-tumble ride to the top of Houston’s oil industry. He’s got hot blood in his veins. And vengeance on his mind.

She’s Haven Travis. Despite her family’s money, she refuses to set out on the path they’ve chosen for her. But when Haven marries a man her family disapproves of, her life is set on a new and dangerous course. Two years later, Haven comes home, determined to guard her heart. And Hardy Cates, a family enemy, is the last person she needs darkening her door or setting her soul on fire.

Filled with Lisa Kleypas’s trademark sensuality, filled with characters you love to hate and men you love to love, Blue-Eyed Devil will hold you captive in its storytelling power as the destiny of two people unfolds with every magical word.”

Blue-Eyed Devil is a story of abuse and and the way back from that. It’s the story of Haven Travis, sister of the hero in the previous book, Sugar Daddy.

Haven is a rich girl who is constantly at odds with her father, who rebels against her privileged life, and who feels guilty because she couldn’t be what her mother wanted – a nice little girl doing girly things. She feels rather unloved and unappreciated by her family. But she has a boyfriend, Nick, whom she loves and who loves her and who wants to marry her. And she does just that even though, or maybe because, her father is against it.

Haven thinks that after having to deal with parents who didn’t love her for herself, who constantly abused her emotionally all her life, she now finally has found someone who gives her what she longs for: to be loved for herself. Only, it doesn’t turn out that way. Haven’s marriage is a slow decent into the abyss of abuse – emotional and physical – and when Haven finally gets away from Nick and her marriage, she is a broken woman and utterly without confidence.

That’s the first part of the novel and the rest of the novel deals with Haven’s slow recovery from the abuse. With the help of her brothers, she picks herself up again, goes to a therapist where she learns to recognize and deal with narcissistic personalities and her boundary issues, and finds a job (with a boss from hell and narcissistic tendencies). But most of all, Haven is learning to trust and falling in love with a man again.

That man is Hardy Cates, childhood friend of the heroine and rival of the hero in Sugar Daddy. Hardy is driven by his need to prove himself, to leave his white-trailer-trash background as far behind as possible. He’s also an enemy of Haven’s family because of something he did in Sugar Daddy to the their business, proving that he is completely ruthless where business is concerned.

More about the characters

But it’s probably best to forget how Haven and Hardy were characterized in Sugar Daddy because although Blue-Eyed Devil picks up where Sugar Daddy left off – Liberty’s and Gabe’s wedding – Haven and Hardy seem like slightly different characters in Blue-Eyed Devil.

Because Blue-Eyed Devil is Haven’s story, her character is the most important element in this story. Sadly, it didn’t work for me. Yes, Haven goes to hell and ends in paradise: she goes down and then up. But uhm, at the end, except for now realizing her boundary issues and being a bit less blue-eyed about love, there’s not much change. She goes from being a rich daughter to being a rich wife. Even more, she’s still the privileged character from the beginning of the novel who says she doesn’t want to take advantage of her position, but in fact she actually does and she doesn’t even realize that she does.

Hardy is a great hero for Haven. Sure, at first he seems overwhelming and too intense for what Haven needs but in the end, he’s exactly what Haven needs to gain more confidence in herself as a woman after Nick pummeled it to death. From early on, it’s clear that Hardy’s a total goner for Haven. He does all he can think of to be close to Haven and – after he realizes Haven has serious problems, he doesn’t bail out. He’s confident, good-looking, sexy as hell. And rich.

Sadly, that also makes him rather generic. I don’t know what he saw in Haven. He was attracted and in lust with her big time, yes, but other than that? I didn’t see what makes him say:

“When I’m with you, I feel like I finally have what I need. I can relax and be happy.” (268)

How did he know it wasn’t just lust talking? How should I? Except for hot encounters, Hardy and Haven never really talk.

Recovery or rescue?

The problem is not the shape of Haven’s story arc, that it’s a recovery story; the problem is how that recovery happens. Her brothers help her with her basic needs (job, place to live), and her therapist helps her with her past, how it could happen, and works with Haven on Haven’s boundary issues with her her father and Nick. And Hardy, of course, is more than willing to help her with her emotional needs. That’s okay, I was waiting.

I was waiting for Haven to stick up for herself and actively deal with her three problem areas: her father, her boss, and her love life after her ex-husband Nick is back in the picture. Not necessarily at first but yes, I was waiting for one hell of a come-uppance for them all – a big, satisfying pay-off.

I didn’t get it. Haven’s confrontation with her father was limp at best, and her confrontation with her boss…she let herself be fired and her brother Jack deal with her boss. And Nick, stalkerish as hell – and by the way helped along by her boss who gets him the door code to Haven’s apartment (couldn’t she be prosecuted for that?) – he’s there to provide the big emotional climax in the story and…Haven gets rescued by Hardy who is of course severely wounded for his effort.

I was disappointed. In addition, when I look at Haven’s story in terms of financial and emotional security – when she has them, when she loses them and how she gains them – I’m a bit uncomfortable about the patriarchal structures.

Haven’s recovery seems mostly like she didn’t do it on her own. She was rescued by the men in her life. I think I would have been okay with that if I didn’t also have the impression that Haven was a wishy-washy character (see above): saying she wants to earn her way up at her job but taking advantage of a very luxurious apartment. Combined, this resulted in much less cheering about her way back to being a confident woman on my side than her story should deserve. It was a nice but at times also rather predictable and “bland” story then.

The second part of Blue-Eyed Devil reads like a damsel-in-distress story, making it more a rescue rather than a recovery story. But even then, who wouldn’t want to be rescued by someone like Hardy Cates?

The romance

And yet, the romance in Bluey-Eyed Devil works. Haven and Hardy share some truly heart wrenching, intense and hot moments. It wasn’t always easy to read what Haven went through in her marriage, but it gave the romance a much greater impact. It’s here that Haven sticks up for herself and shows she’s learned something:

I no longer believed in the idea of soul mates, or love at first sight. But I was beginning to believe that a very few times in your life, if you were lucky, you might meet someone who was exactly right for you. Not because he was perfect, or because you were, but because your combined flaws were arranged in a way that allowed two separate beings to hinge together. (293)

Blue-Eyed Devil is the story of a woman who wants nothing more than to be loved for herself, who’s been to hell for that, and who finally finds it in an unlikely place. So that in the end, she can say:

“I’m just as much me when I’m with you, as I am without you.” (324)

And that is a very beautiful sentence to say, IMO.

Verdict: Blue-Eyed Devil is a very readable book that left me teary-eyed quite a few times. But I really missed that Haven didn’t stick up more for herself at the end. (3,5/5)


2 Responses to “Lisa Kleypas – “Blue-Eyed Devil””

  1. nath Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 5:30 pm #

    Very good review Taja 🙂 Interesting analysis 🙂 still, I need to read Sugar Daddy first ^_^;

  2. Taja Friday, May 29, 2009 at 12:32 pm #

    Nath – thank you! I had trouble writing this, it took me one month. 🙂

    I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on Sugar Daddy!

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