SUDDENLY YOU by Lisa Kleypas
Paperback, 384 pagesPublished November 28th 2006 by Avon Books
Genre: historical romance novel, Victorian romance
Rating: 5 stars
If the ocean was made of Lisa Kleypas' historical romance novels I would gladly drown in it! The deeper I read through her backlist titles, the more startling the storylines, the more dazzling the characters, the more poignant the love stories.
Ms. Kleypas is currently and admirably expanding the scope of her story-telling in her contemporary romance series Friday Harbor (read my reviews of Rainshadow Road and Dream Lake) with the introduction of subtle and graceful touches of magic realism. But it's yet another historical romance novel (one of her earliest actually, originally published in 2001) to solidify her status as a master of her craft...her story-telling abilities are simply incomparable, her prose technically strong, her writing style always meticulous and highly-descriptive, her tales always enchanting and heart-warming.
So, through tantalizing dialogues, strong romantic and sensual focus, vivid characterization of lead couple and Victorian setting, Kleypas delivers another stunning exploration of that clash between moral settings and unbridled passion featured in many of her historical novels. She brings together two unforgettable characters, ushering them quite deftly in the midst of fateful turns, over-the-top sexual chemistry, drama, and life-changing decisions.
Proper Amanda Briars, the spinster novelist "with her quills and papers and ink-stained fingers" is a recognized figure in London literature circles. At the age of twenty-nine she is still unmarried and enjoying her independence too much to relinquish it. She has friends, a comfortable home, an interesting and profitable occupation. The truth of the matter is that she is afraid of men, always had an awkward kind of relationship with them...never really flirted with them, inspired respect and admiration maybe, but always kept them at distance. Her position in society as a respected spinster and writer represents a safe zone, where men and the disappointments they usually bring along are not allowed. As the time goes by, Amanda feels like she is missing out on something that every woman should experience at least once in a lifetime, an experience that would certainly help her with her researches and writing process. On the eve of her thirtieth birthday, Amanda decides to "hire" a lover for a one-night stand, but for a delicious twist of fate the gorgeous man that shows up at her door is not the gigolo she was expecting.
John T. Devlin ("Jack") is a notorious and high-profile figure in London's literary society, a man with a mysterious background, questionable moral ethics and ruthless business practices, but with a golden touch that helped him transform a small printing shop into the largest publishing house in the city, and quickly rise to astounding power and wealth. Cast-off son of a member of the aristocracy, he grew up between his father's rejection and the physical abuses and violent practices of the Knatchford Heath School, a place where education and upbringing had the sound of whip lashes and the taste of food deprivation. His imposing shoulders and magnificent back are the scarred map of harsh punishments, sometimes undeserved but gladly and silently taken in order to protect smaller and weaker kids. No wonder the man who's now dominating the British publishing field is as driven as ruthless: hunger, anger, and revenge are great motivators, but they starve the body as much they embitter the soul.
Physical descriptions and character development easily brought to my mind the familiar faces of Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe, starring as John Thornton and Margaret Hale in the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, another distinguished and beloved couple among historical romance fans.
After their first fortuitous and rather "steamy encounter" (mind you, Suddenly You is probably one of the most scorchingly sensual romance novels Kleypas has ever written), they shift their relationship to a mere business level. Devlin, in fact, convinces Amanda, author of standard three-volumes novels, to convert her past production into serialized editions, normally considered of less quality but more and more popular among readers, not to mention more profitable. Restraining their relationship to a mere publishing agreement will be too hard, though. The chemistry between our lead characters is too tempting and far too irresistible. Sizzling love scene after sizzling love scene, Devlin and Amanda carry their affair on a path of uninhibited passion and sensual exploration that will relentlessly lead them to a much deeper emotional attachment. But they will be both held back by personal demons and moral brakes to be able to admit and embrace their mutual feelings without going through conflicting emotions, stupid pride and heart-wrenching misunderstandings. The resolution of this steamy and poignant love story will be as heart-warming as ever. In this respect as in many others, Lisa Kleypas never fails to enchant. A remarkable milestone in the historical romance field. Highly recommended.