Review: Rainshadow Road

Review: Rainshadow RoadRainshadow Road (Friday Harbor, #2) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #2
Published by Piatkus Books on February 28th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 308
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was a fine story and parts were really good, but I thought the first half was better than the conclusion and nothing about it was really memorable.

THE STORY: Lucy Marinn discovers that her live-in boyfriend of two years has dumped her for her younger sister. Lucy asks herself why she keeps getting involved with the wrong kind of man. When she meets Sam Nolan, owner of a local vineyard, she knows she bad man streak continues. Sam is a nice man but he is upfront that he never intends to marry and any relationship with him can only be physical. The two cannot seem to avoid one another, however, as accidents, matchmaking and coincidences keep bringing them together.

OPINION: I wanted to really love this book, but I only ended up liking it and that was primarily because of the characters. In some ways this felt like a book made up of jumbled genres. Contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and paranormal just didn’t work together in this book.

I loved the characters and wish this was more like a true contemporary romance. Instead, this book has a women’s fiction feel where the story is more about Lucy’s personal growth than the romance. We don’t get enough about Sam and Lucy together. In fact, much of their story ends up taking place in the space of a couple of paragraphs noting that they spent months together as a couple.

I liked the characters and the story, but I thought the romance ended up a bit disconnected even though it had great potential.

The book also has paranormal elements that seemed to have no real purpose in the story. They were weirdly placed and didn’t really contribute to the story. They were neither fully integrated into the characters nor significant enough to the story to make their placement worth breaking the contemporary romance rules.

Parts of the book were really good. I loved the parts where the deep emotions between Lucy and Sam are allowed to be the focus, but those moments were only enough to make the overall book likable.

The book feels like an experiment that I didn’t find entirely successful.

WORTH MENTIONING: I think the blurb for this book doesn’t really describe the story in this book as it suggests that Sam and Lucy get together because of her ex’s interference. That is just not true.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RAINSHADOW ROAD is the second book in the Friday Harbor series. It can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor

Review: Christmas Eve at Friday HarborChristmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor, #1) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 26th 2010
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 221
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: A good Christmas story if a bit simplistic and lacking the emotional depth and humor of other Kleypas books. I enjoyed this book but I’ll keep it in my holiday reads rather than my keepers.

THE STORY: The last thing Mark Nolan expects is to take on raising his niece Holly, but when his sister dies in an accident, Mark realizes that no one else will do it. Even as he and his brother take on caring for Holly, Mark realizes that Holly wants and needs a woman’s presence so he thinks about getting engaged to the woman he is dating, but he can’t stop thinking about Maggie Collins. Maggie has come to Friday Harbor after the death of her husband and she plans never to love so much again because it almost destroyed her before. But the sweet Holly and her uncle are something she can’t resist.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book, but it certainly reads more like a shorter holiday novel than the complex romance I expect from Kleypas. This story started out incredibly well but just at the time that Mark and Maggie recognize their feelings for one another, the remained of the story becomes simple and easily resolved.  The truth is that there is not enough conflict between these characters or the situation in the beginning. So when the situation with Mark’s current girlfriend is resolved, there is really nothing keeping them apart and all that is required is the happy ending.

I thought the book was well written and enjoyable as a simple holiday read. The characters are well constructed and I enjoyed seeing Mark become a father to Holly. There was nothing that I didn’t like about this book, it just wasn’t a particularly deep or complex story.

WORTH MENTIONING: There was a television movie made of this book entitled CHRISTMAS WITH HOLLY.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CHRISTMAS EVE AT FRIDAY HARBOR is the first book in the Friday Harbor series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Devil in Spring

Review: Devil in SpringDevil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on February 21st 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 370
Goodreads
five-stars

“You do not want to marry me, my lord. I would be the worst wife imaginable. I’m forgetful and stubborn, and I can never sit still for more than five minutes. I’m always doing things I shouldn’t. I eavesdrop on other people, I should and run in public, and I’m a clumsy dancer. And I’ve lowered my character with a great deal of unwholesome reading material.”  Pausing to draw breath, she notice that Lord St. Vincent didn’t appear properly impressed by her list of faults. “Also, my legs are skinny. Like a stork’s.”

FINAL DECISION:  So rarely does a highly anticipated sequel live up to expectations.  While not as good as DEVIL IN WINTER, this book is a worthy successor.  Will take a place on my favorites’ shelf.

THE STORY: Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent has accidentally compromised an unusual young lady, Lady Pandora Ravenel.  Neither, however, wants to marry — Gabriel because he sees that Pandora is completely unsuitable to be the type of dignified wife he needs; Pandora because she has no intention of allowing any man to control her fate and life.  Gabriel is fascinated with Pandora and finds himself drawn to her.  Pandora finds in Gabriel a man who listens to her and respects her opinions, but the risk of becoming essentially his to control is something she doesn’t want to risk even as she falls for him.

OPINION:

“No matter how she had tried to make herself want what she should want, she knew she would never be happy in a conventional life.”

Pandora is an amazing creation.  She is neurotic, opinionated, intelligent, oh so clever and yet sweet in a unique way.  I loved just about everything about her.  She is a different kind of wallflower.  A woman who is so brilliant that she has difficulties with the social niceties that society demands. Always the odd person in the group, she has managed to forge a future for herself as a game designer. (I absolutely loved her devotion to her budding career).  Everything about her character felt fresh and new and oh so lovely, especially for all of us who feel out of step with what people expect from us.

Gabriel is a hero who is so different from his father and yet has the best qualities of both his parents. He manages to be so incredibly caring and supportive of Pandora.  She is a special person and Gabriel knows exactly how to care for her. He is kind and so so dreamy.  Sexy and definitely a man in charge, he also has the gentleness of his mother and the benefit of having grown up in a loving family. He is a man who doesn’t need to be reformed to be a wonderful man — he just is.

“Your problem,” his sister continued, “is that you’re too good at maintaining that facade of godlike perfection. You’ve always hated for anyone to see that you’re a mere mortal. But you won’t win this girl that way.” She began to dust the sand from her hands. “Show her a few of your redeeming vices, dear. She’ll like you all the better for it.”

I rarely love a book as much as I loved this one primarily because Gabriel was such a warm loving man and he made it his mission to balance out all the jagged edges of Pandora’s life. His giving nature and willingness to put his own needs and desires aside to help fulfill Pandora was so wonderful to read about.  He finds Pandora incredibly charming and she brings something to him that makes him want to protect her.  And yet, he cannot crush her by forcing her to conform and be “safe”.

“It was insane to let a creature so perfectly beautiful and artlessly spirited and vulnerable as his wife venture out into the world that could crush her with casual unconcern, and he had no choice to but allow it. For the rest of his life, he would feel a stab of dread every time she walked out the door, leaving him there with his heart wide open.”

I loved this book and if I liked it a smidgen less than the book on Gabriel’s parents it is only because the timeless trope of that book — wallflower and rake — is probably my favorite.  But this one is original and fresh and very wonderful.

“Their marriage would be a partnership, just like their waltzing…not perfect, not always graceful, but they would find their way together.”

Just incredibly lovely!

WORTH MENTIONING:  I would buy this book for the Prologue alone where Evangeline and Sebastian from DEVIL IN WINTER are most prominent.  One of my all time favorite books and the prologue shows why.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DEVIL IN SPRING is the third book in the Ravenels series.  This book is much better if read as part of the series, but a new reader should also include DEVIL IN WINTER which is from Kleypas’s Wallflowers series.  This book is a direct sequel from that book as it tells the story of the son of the DEVIL IN WINTER couple (who make appearances of their own).

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: I Will

Review: I WillI Will: A Christmas Novella by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Capital Theatre #2.5
Published by Avon Impulse on December 13th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 144
Goodreads
three-half-stars

“She was pure. He was tarnished. She was honest. He tailored the truth to fit his own purposes. She was self-disciplined. He had never restrained himself in any regard. She was calm and serene. He had never known a moment’s peace in his life. Andrew envied her, and so he had mocked her mercilessly on the few previous occasions when they had met.

“Now Caroline hated him, and he had come to ask for a favor — a favor he desperately needed.”

FINAL DECISION:  Enjoyable followup to BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE about the younger disreputable brother.  A reformed rake story, this is sweet but a little rushed as a novella.

THE STORY: Andrew, Lord Drake, dissolute rake, has been disinherited by his dying father.  In order to regain his inheritance, Andrew devises a plan to court a thoroughly respectable woman in order to demonstrate to his father that he is reforming his life.  The only woman he can imagine helping him is his friend’s older sister, the proper Miss Caroline Hargreaves.

OPINION:  This was a very enjoyable read, but I think it is better as an add on to the previous book in the series. To truly understand Andrew’s journey, I felt I needed to know what he was like in the previous book.

I did like the relationship between Andrew and Caroline (although I wish we had seen more of their developing relationship which occurs mostly offstage).  There is a long distance for Andrew to travel to be a good man.  This novella has some quite funny moments, including Caroline’s Christmas wish which might be one of my favorite moments I’ve read in a while.  Funny and a sense of justice.

I’m glad that Andrew got his redemption and it is even better that it is as a result of his own attempts at outsmarting his father.  Instead he managed to get his own comeuppance.  This book had a little flavor of DEVIL IN WINTER (a superlative book).  This novella doesn’t reach the heights of that book, but the rake who finds his schemes with an innocent woman resulting in him wanting to turn his own life around to be worthy of her is very similar here.

I enjoyed this story especially for readers who enjoyed BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This novella was previously published in the anthology WISH LIST.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  I WILL is book 2.5 of the Capital Theatre series.  It can be read as a standalone, but is better after reading book two of the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this novella 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Because You’re Mine

Review: Because You’re MineBecause You're Mine (Capital Theatre, #2) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Capital Theatre #2
Published by HarperCollins on February 8th 2005
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  The strength of this story is the compelling Logan Scott — a self made man with deep conflicts and desires.  The sweet but strong Madeline is a match for him. I loved their story.

THE STORY:  Lady Madeline Matthews is on the verge of being married off to a lecherous old peer by her father. Determined to avoid that fate, Madeline runs away to London intending to meet with the famous actor Logan Scott and become his lover. In that way, Madeline intends to make herself marriageable and thwart her parents ambitions.

OPINION:  Kleypas has a wonderful way in depicting men who are self-made.  While Logan Scott isn’t up the standards of the marvelous Derek Craven, I found Logan a compelling character.  I was fascinated by his rise from a farmer’s son to the most celebrated actor and theatre owner in London.  Such a journey has taken ambition, talent drive, discipline, determination, dedication, desire and will.  Logan’s hard focused exterior hides a man who has been deeply hurt in his life. Abused by his parents, betrayed by the woman he loved, Logan has opened himself up only on stage in his characters.

Things begin to change, however, when he meets the sweet and innocent Madeline who appears honest and open with nothing to hide.  But, of course, Madeline has much to hide. As she begins to discover the real Logan, she feels guilty about her deception. Madeline is a bright and generous woman who faced her own emotional abuse at the hands of her parents who are cold and do not understand their lively daughter.

This book is divided into two parts which makes a nice narrative break because there are truly two relationships between Madeline and Logan — before and after the revelation of Madeline’s secrets.  I loved how each of the parts worked as its own story and yet they are part of a whole journey for these characters.

Some books just hit the right spot and for me I loved the setting of the story (regency theatre), the character of Logan (and this book is really his story) — a good, forward thinking, damaged, self-made, brilliant man — and the love story between Madeline and Logan which is filled with sweetness, angst and drama.  When you fall in love with the hero, it is often easy to really like the book.

WORTH MENTIONING:  For readers of the first book in the series SOMEWHERE I’LL FIND YOU, there is a nice update on the couple.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE is the second book in the Capital Theatre series.  Although there are overlapping characters, this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Somewhere I’ll Find You

Review: Somewhere I’ll Find YouSomewhere I'll Find You (Capital Theatre, #1) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Capital Theatre #1
Published by Avon on October 1st 1996
Genres: Historical
Pages: 377
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A different type of story about child marriages, a marchioness turned actress and two people who have to learn to compromise.  Don’t read this if you are going to nitpick the story.

THE STORY:  Julia is an actress who has finally gotten a position in a respectable theater.  She is living her dream of independence. Her heart stays her own, and she has a big secret. Damon, Marquess of Savage is searching for the bride his father married him to as a child.  The heiress has fled her family. Damon is shocked to find out that the woman he has been married to for years is none other than the actress he wanted for his mistress.

OPINION: I really enjoyed this book.  Is it unrealistic? perhaps, but if you regularly read my reviews you should know that I will forgive a lot of historical inaccuracies, plot holes, grammatical errors, etc for a good story with characters that I fall in love with.  Does it seem reasonable that a aristocratic woman would abandon her family, become an actress and eventually become a duchess.  Maybe not, but this is one great story anyway.

Julia is a woman who wants to make her own independent decisions. If she was born in modern times, she would fit right in, but in her times, she is disinherited by her father and on the run from her “husband”. Is she too obsessed with her independence? Perhaps it seems so to our modern sensibilities, but in her time, when men owned their wives, is it unreasonable to be worried about losing your independence when your husband could control everything that you could do? Or when your father could marry you off when you are a little child.  I loved how Kleypas brings the opposing forces of Julia and Damon each wanting control. After both were stripped of control by their parents each wants to be in total control of their lives.

Damon has made himself into a completely responsible predictable gentleman because his father was irresponsible — resulting in Damon being offered in marriage to Julia (when both were small children) in order to save the family coffers.  The lesson Damon learned from that was that he needed to control his circumstances.  He struggles with Julia who will not submit to his control. Even worse, he ultimately realizes that she would not be the Julia he falls in love with if she did.

The story of how Julia and Damon navigate their desire for control and their trust issues was what kept me turning pages. The characters sparkled off the pages, their pain and struggle and intense attraction to one another kept me interested until the very end.

The secondary characters also were full of life. The best story is one where I could imagine all the relationships and intrigues involved and this one does a great job at that.

I only took of a star because I have read better books by Kleypas, so I know that she has pushed these boundaries even further with even better characters.  I can’t wait for the next book about Logan Scott.  He’s got some story.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I loved the epilogue which was necessary for this book to show how these two adapted to one another and continued to evolve their relationship.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SOMEWHERE I’LL FIND YOU is the first book in the Capital Theatre series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Marrying Winterborne

Review: Marrying WinterborneMarrying Winterborne (The Ravenels, #2) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on May 31st 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-stars

“I can’t be a gentleman,” he said hoarsely. “Not even for you.”

“You don’t have to be a gentleman. Only gentle.”

FINAL DECISION: Absolutely and completely adored Rhys, who might be one of my all time favorite Kleypas heroes.   I knocked down the rating a bit because I didn’t like Helen as much and became somewhat annoyed by her keeping secrets from Rhys.  Regardless, I overall enjoyed the book very much and look forward to the next in the series.

THE STORY: Rhys Winterborne is a Welsh commoner who has managed to create an business empire for himself. To complete his triumph he only needs an aristocratic wife to give him an entry into society.  Everything is going well with his engagement to Lady Helen Ravenel until their brief engagement is called off by Helen after their first kiss.  Then Rhys is surprised when Helen comes to him to plead with him to continue their engagement.  The gentle and quiet Lady Helen Ravenel seems a mismatch for the brash Rhys but something about him attracts her. She knows that she does not want to end their engagement although he overwhelms her. Helen scandalously comes to Rhys alone and is willing to do scandalous things in order to ensure their marriage.  As she falls for Rhys, however, Helen realizes that she has a secret that might destroy any chance they have together.

OPINION:  I would read this book again for no other reason that Rhys is so wonderful.  A self-made man who has the arrogance and determination required to be so, Rhys is also forwarding thinking, willing to adapt and change and take risks.  Incredibly supportive, understanding and really willing to do anything for Helen, I simply adored him.  What surprised me and endeared him to me most was his reaction once he discovered Helen’s secret.  Who could resist a man like that?

For me, the weakness of this book is Helen. She begins as a product of tradition and the stuffy aristocracy, but seems willing to break the chains in order to be with Rhys. Then he proceeds to keep secrets from him (which obviously will not be able to be kept secret) and fails to trust in him.  My annoyance with her grew as she takes bigger and bigger risks but won’t tell Rhys the truth.  (In comparison, Rhys is a saint).  It felt to me that she only revealed the truth when there was no other option rather than trusting in Rhys’ love for her.

I very much enjoyed this book and would read it again, but my reaction to Helen keeps this from being an instant classic for me.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Oh, oh I can’t wait for the next book of the series.  The preview for the next book gets 5 stars.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MARRYING WINTERBORNE is the second book of the Ravenels series.  Because the relationship between Rhys and Helen begins in the first book of the series, it is better to read that book first.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars