Saturday, July 12, 2008

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas

Book Description:
Four young ladies enter London society with one common goal: they must use their feminine wit and wiles to find a husband. So a daring husband-hunting scheme is born.

Annabelle Peyton, determined to save her family from disaster, decides to use her beauty and wit to tempt a suitable nobleman into making an offer of marriage. But Annabelle's most intriguing -- and persistent -- admirer, wealthy, powerful Simon Hunt, has made it clear that while he will introduce her to irresistible pleasure he will not offer marriage. Annabelle is determined to resist his unthinkable proposition ... but it is impossible in the face of such skillful seduction.

Her friends, looking to help, conspire to entice a more suitable gentleman to offer for Annabelle, for only then will she be safe from Simon -- and her own longings. But on one summer night, Annabelle succumbs to Simon's passionate embrace and tempting kisses ... and she discovers that love is the most dangerous game of all.

This is the second Lisa Kleypas book that I've read. Again the Magic was the first in this Wallflower Series by her and I loved it! Unfortunately this one wasn't as good for me. There just didn't seem to be that same excitement as in the other one.

The first part of the book took a long time to get interesting between Annabelle and Hunt. Mostly it sets the scene for Annabelle's reasons why she has to marry for money - not easy when you don't have a dowry. She first meets Simon Hunt two years earlier in the prologue and experiences this searing kiss from him in the dark and never forgets it. Two years later once she's been out already in her 4th season, and pretty much considered over the hill, he pursues her, but is it as his mistress or as his bride? Even though he's fabulously wealthy, it's nouveau money, he's a self made man, the son of a butcher and she looks down her nose at him. She is determined to marry a peer of the realm, even though she finds him disturbingly handsome and virile and - an unforgettable kisser! The main theme of this romance is old money vs. new money in the face of the industrial revolution in England in the 1840's. The aristocrats are resisting the influx of commoners with money, yet at the same time, they need the money since their fortunes are sadly depleted. This parallels with Annabelle's dilemma, will she be able to marry well, or will she become some rich man's mistress to save her family?

Annabelle comes from good blood, but her family is in dire financial straights, and her mother is forced to sleep in secret with this horrible old Lord who pays some of their debts to keep her younger brother in school and Annabelle on the marriage mart. Their only chance is if Annabelle marries well. Annabelle, a wallflower due to her lack of a dowry, becomes friends with four other wallflowers and they plan to help Annabelle catch a husband. Often, Annabelle was described as passionate and stong-willed, yet I didn't see that in her. I don't think her character was really fleshed out all that well and I don't believe she'd ever accept being a wallflower or would allow her mother to sleep with this horrible old Lord if she was as strong willed and stubborn as she is referred to! At a country house party in Hampshire (the same estate as in Again the Magic) Annabelle goes after Lord Kendall, but Simon Hunt is there too, always watching her with that sardonic, amused look on his face. He knows just what she's up to. She sort of half-heartedly goes after Lord Kendall, I wouldn't say she was all that determined, but getting bitten by a snake didn't help her cause either!

One night, purely by accident, Annabelle and Hunt have a passionate moment hiding in the music room (this is the secret of the summer night as in the title) but she vows it was a mistake and it can never happen again. She's still determined to go after Kendall, since things have gotten even more dire with her family and the evil Lord that is tormenting her and her mother is there at the country house party too! But eventually, Annabelle realizes that she can't go through with entrapping Kendall into a compromising position to marry her, and due to a series of events that same evening, she winds up becoming engaged to Hunt instead! I found the whole scenario sort of rushed and Annabelle just gave into him and accepted him too easily. It was just too pat.

The last third of the book is about their marriage and how she has to cope with the fact that she's married a commoner and is not treated the same as if she had married someone from the aristocracy. Even though Simon is fabulously wealthy, he's treated with disdain by the aristocrats. He's a rogue anyway and does nothing to ingratiate himself with their set, except maybe to help them out financially which he probably does to embarrass them. But not all of them disdain them, he's good friends with Lord Westcliff (Marcus from Again the Magic), which is why he is present at the house party in Hampshire. So, even though Annabelle and Hunt have an enjoyable and passion filled marriage, she has to face being snubbed and talked about behind her back (she has a tendency to eavesdrop).

One of the things that bothered me with this story was that it kept reminding me of Gone With the Wind, which I've read upteen times and it is one of my favorite books. Simon Hunt was just like a Rhett Butler in many ways, especially in his description! Then there is Annabelle coping with being snubbed by the aristocratic set because she married a new money commoner. This reminded me so much of when Scarlett married Rhett and began hanging out with all the carpetbaggers, yet was shunned by the respectable, Confederate families in Atlanta. The big difference with Rhett and Hunt is, Rhett actually did come from a good family in Charleston, whereas Hunt came from a decidedly middle class background, which is impossible to overcome in England. Since GWTW is one of my very favorite books, I couldn't help noticing the similarities and it bugged me... but not too much.

All in all, the book wasn't bad by any means, but I think I was spoiled with Again the Magic and expected this one to be better. I'm very much looking forward to the next in the Wallflower Series, which is about the courtship of Marcus, Lord Westcliff and his story!


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