Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"It Happened One Autumn," by Lisa Kleypas

The Chick: Lillian Bowman - the second-oldest of Lisa Kleypas' Wallflowers. She's richer than God, not bad looking, and smart as a whip - so why is she overlooked? Because she's a crass, sass-talkin' American, that's why. She and her younger sister Daisy desparately need a noble sponser to instruct them enough in proper English manners for them to land husbands, but so far, Lillian's hellfire temper sets her apart from her British competitors.
Shady Past: She and her sister invited their Wallflower friends to play Rounders (essentially baseball) with them in the previous novel. In their undergarments. Outside. On Lord Westcliff's estate. On which they were discovered in said undergarments by Lord Westcliff.

The Dude: Despite being a dyed-in-the-wool-aristocrat with ancestry going back practically to the Middle Ages, Lord Marcus Westcliff already knows that the power of the aristocracy is dwindling so he spends most of his time shoring up his noble fortune with actual industries and investments (with the help of Simon Hunt from the previous novel). Despite his liberal policies, he has frankly misguided ideas about sex ("One doesn't need it more than once a week" - words he eventually eats) and very traditional ideas about marriage (both his sisters married Americans, so he's under pressure to produce a proper English bride to continue the family name).
Shady Past: His mean ol' daddy abused him and his mean ol' mummy's a witch.

The Plot:
Lillian: I hate you because you're arrogant and conceited!

Westcliff: I hate you because you're uncultured and chaotic! *sniffs* You smell nice. *gropes*

Lillian: Okay, you're not so bad.

Westcliff: Argh! I'm too full of angst for us to have a happy relationship! I must leave!

Lord St. Vincent, Rake-For-Hire: Hey, if you don't want her, can I have her?

Westcliff: Wha...?

St. Vincent: Too late! *steals*


St. Vincent: *RECEIVES HEARTY SERVING FROM THE ULTIMATE CAN OF PAIN* Ow...guess I'll just limp my way into the sequel, then...

Westcliff: I was wrong - let's get married.

Westcliff and Lillian: *elope*

Romantic Convention Checklist:
1 Interclass Romance
1 Unscrupulous Sexual Rival
2 Very Bad Parents
2 Very Accepting Siblings
1 Obvious Sequel Setup (St. Vincent + Evie)
1 Ether-soaked Handkerchief
1 Victorian Equivalent of a Vegas Wedding

The Word: Now, I like all the books in this charming quartet, but my favourite by far has to be It Happened One Autumn. It's probably because of all the couples in these novels, Westcliff and Lillian are the most tempestuously matched, to the point where their attractions run far ahead of their own brains. Westcliff seems so surprised and appalled to find himself suddenly making out with Lillian, that it's a terrific scene and one of my all-time favourites. Westcliff and Lillian are both very extreme characters - Lillian is almost anachronistially, violently feminist, and Westcliff is such a strict adherent to the aristocratic code that it sometimes overshades his perception of reality. Lillian hates hates HATES being dominated in any way, shape, or form, but Westcliff is so used to being obeyed that he gives her orders without realizing that's the perfect way to get her to do the exact opposite of what he's ordered. So naturally, when they get together their meetings are destructive.

The story is once again chock-full of wonderful Kleypas details of the scenery, cutlery, food, and humour. Despite the ending which smacks of Pride and Prejudice crossed with Without a Trace, the characters for the most part are fun to read about - especially St. Vincent, who after his disastrous mistake in this book gets a chance to redeem himself in the next one (The Devil in Winter). Basically, the greatness behind It Happened One Autumn lies in how Kleypas creates two vivid, very opposing characters and realistically shows how they could come to be the perfect match - which is what romances are supposed to do, aren't they? A-.


  1. Devil in Winter is my fave of the series (St. Vincent is so deliciously vain) but I did enjoy this novel also.

    I think I enjoyed your summary more though. LMAO.

  2. Vorkosigrrl11:16 AM

    ARGH. Double ARGH. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one. I really abhorred this book.

    I don't like Westcliff. It appalls me that Kleypas says Westcliff is her favorite hero. Because of his honor, no less. How honorable is it, do you think, that he (1) humiliates her (leaving her in the garden makeout scene); (2) deflowers her, a virgin under his protection (his roof), while her parents are on the premises, even, and even though she is now betrothed to his supposed best friend, WHILE SHE'S TOO DRUNK TO KNOW WHAT SHE'S DOING???? HA!

    In the next book, which I love, The Devil in Winter, Evie comments on his being "the most honorable man I know." Double HA!

    Of course, he'd just saved her husband's life, so I give the character some leeway. But honor?The guy's a total snake in ITOA. He's got other good qualities, but honor ain't one of 'em.

  3. Laura3:30 PM

    I love Westcliff! He's my favorite Kleypas hero, and I do think he is honorable.

    I HATED Devil in Winter. That hero is awful.

  4. Whoa! Lots of different opinions up in here!

    Vorkosigrrl --> I never made much of his honour, really. His biggest draw to me was he was that his alpha-male *must glomp pretty heroine* instincts just surprised the heck out of him. Honour is debatable (I let the drunk scene slide because Lillian seemed loosened-up-drunk rather than falling-down-black-out drunk, but I'll admit there could a blurry line there), but he always came across as a very controlled character - he never really considered himself that sexual a character (although, it's a Kleypas novel, so he can't be a virgin *cue eye roll*), but one sniff of Lillian and wham. I just thought him incredibly funny.

    As for the garden scene, hmmm. I sometimes dislike Lisa Kleypas novels because her heroines seem to be constantly led around by their nether regions (heroine: "I disagree with your opinion!" Hero: "Fine! I'll simply pleasure you until you agree!"), and here we have a scene where Marcus accuses Lillian of being so (and uses himself as an example). I haven't read the book in a while, but I remember it tied in again to Westcliff's dependence on absolute control - even though he loves Lillian, he distrusts the lack of control that comes through sex. Admittedly, he demonstrates this in a bizarre way but I didn't find myself troubled by it. I'm always fifty-fifty with Kleypas novels because half the time they are terribly inaccurate overdramatic wastes of paper and the other half they're so emotionally wrenching that you don't notice they're terribly inaccurate and overdramatic.

    I did not like "The Devil In Winter" as much, though - primarily because I think the author set our expectations very high but didn't fully deliver. She sets it up as "the shyest, most abused-est heroine hooks up with the rape-happy devil?" But I felt the novel dealt with obstacles far too easily, and I didn't feel the characters were challenged enough.

  5. Laura9:06 PM

    Why I didn't like Devil in Winter was the hero was awful, and by the end of the novel I didn't feel like he had changed any. I still thought he was a crude jerk and that it was too bad Evie was stuck with him.

    About Westcliff, I agree that he was a very controlled character and that his desire/whatever for Lillian took him by surprise. He seemed like a loyal person, which I liked. Basically, I just thought he was wonderful. I read that book at work and emailed my mom to tell her how good it was and how much I loved the hero. My mom doesn't even read romance novels, but I liked it so much that I had to tell her about it.

  6. Vorkosigrrl11:06 AM

    Wow. Amazing. I just don't get it -- Westcliff lurv. Ask the Pinellas County, Florida sheriff and he will tell you -- alcohol is the date rape drug of choice. Spring break. See the picture? He gets a lot of crying college girls who don't know how they ended up where they did.

    She thought she was in a dream, fer cryin' out loud.

    Now I'll admit he's a courageous, loyal, competent man. That doesn't make me like him overall, because in my mind I can't justify what he did with Lillian, even if it's because he trying to maintain control. Maybe especially because of that.

    Oh, well, as I said earlier, agree to disagree.

    As was established in Devil in Winter, St. Vincent wouldn't have hurt Lillian, even though he threatened to. I wouldn't have liked him at all if I thought he would. And he was gentle with Evie.