Then Came You, by Lisa Kleypas

>> Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The same thing I said yesterday in my intro goes for this one: I read (or rather, reread) Then Came You, by Lisa Kleypas back in November, so my apologies for the review, which might turn out a bit lean.

Reckless and wild, beautiful Lily Lawson delights in shocking proper London society -- and will break any rule to flaunt her independence. And now she is determined to rescue her helpless sister from an upcoming, undesired marriage to Lord Alex Raiford, the arrogant Earl of Wolverton.

Through fair means and foul, the headstrong hellion succeeds outrageously -- but her handsome adversary is not to be outdone. A master gamesman, Lord Alex counters Lily's scorn with kindness, and parries her blistering barbs with gentle words and a soft, sensuous touch. For he has resolved to make the spirited miss pay dearly for her interference -- with her body, her soul...and her stubborn, unyielding heart.
This is a lovely story today, and I believe it probably was even more fresh and different back in 1993, when it was written. This is my second favourite Kleypas, after Suddenly You. A B+.

Lawless Lily Lawson is well-known throughout London for her wild, outrageous behaviour and her supposed affair with a cockney game-hell owner. Though she's managed to cling to the fringes of polite society, her bad reputation keeps her estranged from her family. Still, when Lily hears of her sister's upcoming marriage, she's determined not to let her make an unhappy match, especially after she meets the prospective bridegroom and judges him a rigid, arrogant cold fish.

Lord Alex Raiford, the bridegroom in question, isn't particularly taken with his future bride. She'll do just as well as any other eligible girl, as far as he's concerned, but he'll be damned if he'll let her disturbingly sexy sister alter his plans. But she does, and when Alex finds out what Lily's done, there will be hell to pay.

The reason TCY was so fresh back in the mid '90s then wasn't just because of the heroine, a "wicked" woman with a bad reputation (but who turns out to be virtuous and almost completely sexually inexperienced, of course, even though she's an unwed mother). No, the reason I was so wowed by it on my first read was because of the hero.

Yes, Alex initially behaves a bit like those alpha assholes of old: arrogant and with a huge sense of entitlement, he simply cannot bear to have his plans thwarted by the heroine, even if he's privately relieved that she did. He must punish her and humiliate her publicly. Par for the course for those bastards.

But then Alex does something novel: he falls for Lily like a ton of bricks, and then treats her kindly! Incredible! He perceives that she's hurt inside and that she has a secret that is at the root of her impetuous and reckless behaviour, and not only doesn't he bully her into submission, he supports her and trusts her and shows her he cares, hoping at some point in the future she'll love him and trust him enough to tell him. I loved, loved, loved this whole part of the book.

Also of interest here: the gamehell owner I mentioned above, the one who's supposed to be Lily's lover? That's none other than Derek Craven, hero of most people's favourite Kleypas, Dreaming of You. Derek is the best type of secondary character. Kleypas clearly did't set out to sequel-bait with him. He's simply a regular secondary character who just happened to turn out to be fascinating. Maybe someone else will know, but I suspect Kleypas didn't create him with the intention of turning him into a hero later on, and it shows.

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