Tag Archives: Lisa Kleypas

July 2010 Reads

1 Aug

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

Furies of Calderon is the first in the fantasy series Codex Alera and I really liked it. It tells the familiar story of an aging king without an heir and a looming war of succession, placed in a world where people bond with elemental furies. The story is told by several characters and it looks like Butcher has some interesting things in store for what’s to come. And while the characters mights be a bit too one/two-dimensional, some at least are capable of being gray (such as a woman on the “bad” side helps a woman on the “good” side). At the moment, I’m most interested in Isana, the aunt of the main protagonist Tavi. It seems she had an interesting and tragic past so I’m looking forward to finding out more.
If there’s one thing I found a bit off-putting, then it’s that Furies of Calderon is a very action-driven novel and the characters always seem to end up in a place even worse than they are at the start of a chapter, following the “what can go wrong, will go wrong” line of thought. It made for a relentless pace for much of the story and that felt a bit exhausting at times.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

YA, set in the world of multiplayer online games. For the Win looks at the economic system of these games and focuses on the lives of “gold farmers,” who work under appalling conditions to get virtual items which their employers then sell for real money. I found this premise interesting, especially because I played such a game for nearly a year until last month.
The story and the characters’ behavior in For the Win are guided by an idea/vision and “lectures” on economy interrupt the novel several times. There’s nearly no character development and because of the many POV characters, I didn’t get a very strong sense of continuity until very late in the book when all the different story lines start converging. So, interesting read in terms of idea/vision/lectures on economy but at times it felt more like a documentary than a novel. Also, I’m not exactly sure why it’s labeled YA. The premise is a big draw probably but the lectures don’t seem to fit.

This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James

I really enjoyed reading this novel. It was witty and fun and where else do you find a heroine that goads another woman into seducing the heroine’s husband? Really, I like James’s novels mostly for the interesting, non-cardboard characters and I don’t care if I would find them nice or likable in real life. So, I had fun reading this novel. But I’m not sure there is much story underneath all that sparkle.
Jemma and Elijah are married and after years of living apart, it’s time to produce an heir. Good thing they also realized in the previous books of the series that they also want to jump each others bones. So where’s the story eh problem?
Jemma realizes that she doesn’t know what Elijah likes and she thinks she’s only second (third?) best to Elijah’s governmental work and his rivalry with Villiers. Elijah thinks of Jemma as “MINE!” and his honor is very important to him. Hmm…I’m still not sure how all this translated into the coy flirtation and dancing around each other that takes up more than half of the story, especially because they agreed about the need for an heir and time is running short with Elijah illness, but it was fun to read nevertheless. The later part of the novel concerns itself with Elijah’s illness and oh, there are also some interesting developments for Villiers in the story. And that’s what happens.
So, fun to read; looking forward to reading Villiers story next.

Her Sister’s Baby by Janice Kay Johnson

This was a surprise book for two reasons. First, I didn’t know I had this book. It was a bonus book in my edition of Spencer’s Sweet Memories. Second, the story features a baby and I enjoyed reading the novel quite a lot.
The story: “Colleen will do anything for her sister Sheila, including having her baby. Sheila’s husband, Michael, wants a baby, too. When Colleen offers to be a surrogate for his wife, he’s deeply grateful. Then an accident takes Sheila’s life, and Colleen and Michael turn to each other in their sorrow only to discover an unacknowledged attraction.” (quote: Goodreads)

Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

Smooth Talking Stranger started off great but halfway through it lost the main obstacle for a relationship between Ella and Jack: Ella’s boyfriend left the field.
I say main obstacle because Ella’s insistence that she will never marry and her relationship problems didn’t seem to play too much of a role in the second half of the novel IMO. They came up from time to time then, I even believed them, but I not once had the impression that they would stand in the way of the couple’s HEA. So in my view, Ella’s boyfriend was the main obstacle and I was left with no real tension in the second part of the novel. In addition, Ella’s light bulb re how much Jack means to her comes in the way this so often does in Kleypas’s novels…
I also asked myself: 1) where did Ella get all her fabulous clothes? I thought she left with only a few to look what was the matter with her sister. 2) For two reasons I’m left with the slightly weird impression that Jack is second-best to Luke, Ella’s nephew. 3) It seems to me that Ella is a vegan only because her boyfriend is one, one who has strong views about it. From this I gather: Ella tries to please other people. A lot. And I’m left wondering: what does this say about her relationship with Jack? Jack, he who is of the tribe “MINE!”
Okay, it seems I didn’t like this novel, but that’s actually not true. I thought the way it delineated and constructed gender (roles) very interesting. Just look at that vegan business, for example. And there are things I liked: Kleypas’s contemporary voice, the beginning, Jack’s willingness to do everything for HIS woman (very nice fantasy!) Or how the novel looked at how damaging parents can be to their children. There’s good stuff but I missed something in the second half.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I read the German edition of this novel. Different from other editions I know, it doesn’t reference a character in the title. The German edition is called “Verblendung” (~ delusion). Somehow I thought I would get something along the line of La Femme Nikita (the original, not the US remake) with this novel. Not so. There is a female character, Lisbeth Salander, and she’s not your usual female character, but she’s not the main character (maybe that changes in the other books?). That honor belongs to Mikael Blomkvist, the author stand-in who is in love with brand names and himself and so naturally have all the women fall at his feet; that is jump into bed with him right away.
There are two stories in this novel. The mystery of the missing Harriet (what attracted me to the novel) is solved way before the end and it wasn’t all that difficult to get an idea why Harriet disappeared (helpful little statistics fronting each part of the story) or what happened. The last hundred or so pages are spend on solving Mikael’s problem, the one that made him lose his position at his newspaper and so enabled him take up Harriet’s case in the first place. (You go, Mikael!)
I actually enjoyed the novel in the beginning. It was a bit slow, yes, but I was willing. Then the brand names started to bother me. I swear each time a laptop was mentioned, its brand name was mentioned, too. Same with other things. I was reading that novel on my vacation at the pool (spotted three readers with the same book!) and because the brand names annoyed me, I told my boyfriend each time I encountered one. It was like a game. (Later he knew just by my huff and lowering of the book that I’d found another one.)
Anyway, besides in brand names, the story is bogged down in exposition, unnecessary details and bland characters IMO. Admittedly, Lisbeth is a cool character but she goes the way of the big boobs later in the story, thinking how she likes to have that option or something like that (Who thinks that? Is it really the cool and not-giving-a-damn Lisbeth?) And of course, Lisbeth also realizes she’s in love with Mikael (yeah Mikael!). So no, while Lisbeth is easily the most interesting thing about this novel, she didn’t save it for me.
There is a decent mystery buried underneath that all but it was hard to find. And I think I missed the social criticism completely. The abuse of women was presented too sensational and over-the-top. I couldn’t view that as criticism.

The Shy Bride by Lucy Monroe

I don’t remember much about this one. The heroine is a pianist and a recluse, the hero’s a self-made millionaire. Oh wait, that’s probably billionaire. Anyway, I thought the heroine’s anxiety attacks were done quite well and I liked Monroe’s voice. So I’m actually tempted to read the book that features the hero’s best friend.

Slave to Sensation, Visions of Heat, Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh (re-reads)

I read a review for another novel in this series and I was interested in reading it. But because I’d tried the first three novels in the Psy/Changeling series and we didn’t click, I didn’t. This set me to thinking about why I didn’t enjoy this series as much as most other readers and so I read the three novels I already had again.
I came away with a clearer grasp of why they don’t fit me completely. It’s the characters. They seem too much an illustration of their race traits to be complete individuals to me, with the conflict centered around the Psy/Changeling differences and what kind of Psy is part of the pairing. It makes characters and conflict look like part of the world building which makes the world building and the way it’s done more interesting but it also makes the characters (and story) less so for me. Yeah, I think that’s it.
So, maybe I’ll buy the next one in the series one day to see how the world building goes. After all, I liked Visions of Heat better than the first time so there is hope.

Sweet Memories by LaVyrle Spencer

I found Sweet Memories to be a nice and sweet story about a woman who’s wary of men because if they show interest, they show interest in her big rack. The novel’s a bit dated (not that I minded) and at times it felt slightly too sweet for my taste. Also, the story seemed a bit thin, concerning itself for the most part with Theresa’s anxiety and worry about her big breasts. But at the end Theresa’s made some changes to her life and seemed more grown up, so altogether I was fine and enjoyed reading it.

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Re-Read Challenge: “Where Dreams Begin” By Lisa Kleypas

2 Dec

[edit: formatting]

re-read-challenge-2009

Info:Re-Read Challenge 2009

This month:Re-Read Challenge: November!


GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: , 2000

AVAILABILITY: still available

Zachary Bronson has built an empire of wealth and power–now he needed a wife to help secure his position in society…and warm his bed in private. But not just any woman will do for a man whom all of London knows is not a gentleman. Then he unexpectedly swept Lady Holly Taylor into his arms for an unasked for–but very alluring–kiss, and suddenly he knew he had found a woman whose fierce passions matched his own.

Lady Holly Taylor was beautiful, generous, and, as a widow, destined to spend her life playing by society’s rules, even when they went against her bolder instincts. But Zachary’s kiss had aroused her, and though the shocking offer he made didn’t include marriage, she was compelled to risk everything and follow him to the place where dreams begin.

Then

Where Dreams Begin was the second novel I read by Kleypas. To say that is my favorite historical romance by Kleypas doesn’t tell you much because I only read six of her historicals. To say that it is a historical I like and admire a lot is more meaningful, I think.

(see here my first comment)

Now

I still like Where Dreams Begin a lot. The only thing that mars my enjoyment, now and back then, comes near the end of the novel. I could have done without [Spoiler; highlight to read]Holly meeting her first husband in a near-death scene[/Spoiler]. I guess it just seems too fantastical to all that goes before to me. But other than that, I like Where Dreams Begin a lot.

Where Dreams Begin is a slow-paced story despite that it begins with a kiss between the heroine, Holly, and the hero, Zachery. It takes a few months before that happens again. It’s a slow build-up but the attraction is steadily growing and palpable.

Holly is a widow just out of the three-year period of mourning her husband, George, a man who everybody saw as the epitome of a true gentleman. A man Holly loved very much. She meets Zachary at a ball. Or more precisely: at a ball Holly wants to escape, she gets kissed by a man in a dark room. It’s only later she learns his identity.

Up until then, Holly led a very sheltered life. First her family took care of her and protected her from the harsher things in life, then her husband, and after his death, his husband’s family. The kiss is different from what Holly knows and what she is like and believes about herself. But it’s the first step for what is to come: Holly will slowly turn into a woman who does no longer rely on others to make decisions for her and take care of her. She’ll change:

Her actions of the past four months had proved that she was no longer the sheltered young matron, or the virtuous, circumspect widow that family and friends had approved of. She was becoming another woman entirely. (206)

Zachary is totally different than Holly’s late husband in many (outward) things. He wasn’t born to privileges and riches, he – literally for the first years – fought his way up in society. When he wants something, he tries everything in his power to get it. He isn’t above manipulation and at first, he thinks Holly will be no difference.

But then he slowly falls in love with her. One of the things I liked best in this novel (because it created lots of tension) is that Zach knows that as soon as he gets what he wants – Holly in his bed – she’ll be gone from his life. So he does all he can do to resist. He knows Holly is not for him. Too huge are the differences between them, in their position in society and in their character.

Where Dreams Begin looks at positions in society, on what social standing relies.

The idea that a man like Zachary Bronson might be inherently equal to a man like…well, like one of the Taylors, or even her dear George…it was a provocative notion. The great majority of aristocrat’s would immediately dismiss the idea. Some men were born with blue blood, with generations of noble ancestors behind them and this made them better, finer than ordinary men. This was what Holly had always been taught. But Zachary Bronson had started in life with no advantage whatsoever, and he had made himself into a man to be reckoned with. And he was trying very hard to better himself and his family, and soften the coarseness of his own character. Was he really so inferior to the Taylors? Or to herself? (101/102)

Where Dreams Begin is IMO a carefully constructed battle between traditional notions and modern notions of a person’s worth packed into a romance. And because of that, it’s still my favorite historical romance by Kleypas and still one of my best liked and admired historical romances.

Verdict: 4,5/5

Lisa Kleypas – “Blue-Eyed Devil”

28 May

kleypas-lisa-blue-eyed-devil
GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: St. Martin’s

SERIES: Travis family, #2

WHY THIS NOVEL: I loved Sugar Daddy.


The back blurb:
“MEET THE BLUE-EYED DEVIL

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.

MEET THE HEIRESS
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.

WATCH THE SPARKS FLY. . . .
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)

Lisa Kleypas – “It Happened One Autumn”

28 Dec

kleypas-lisa-it-happened-one-autumn
GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED:

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